Tackable Gives Order to Citizen Journalism

By: Kristina Ackermann

Citizen journalism is gaining attention in today’s media landscape, but publishers are having a difficult time capitalizing on the trend. This dilemma has as much to do with an inherent distrust of untrained journalists as it does with the haphazard state of the citizenry. But there’s a new startup company in Northern California that is looking to change that.

Tackable is a mobile photojournalism platform that is slated to launch across 48 newspapers representing a combined weekday circulation of 1.16 million subscribers. The way it will work is simple: News editors looking for photos of a story in their coverage area post a photo assignment to the Tackable app. Users with Tackable installed on their smartphones can view a map of the area around them with the various photo assignments that have been posted. They can fulfill assignments by shooting photos with their phones and sending them back to the editor directly through the app. Tackable users can also send in live, breaking news photos to alert reporters to stories they may not have covered otherwise.

“What newspapers get is a stream of content from the readers, and if they like it they can print it,” said Tackable chief marketing officer Luke Stangel. “Readers are also encouraged to send in unsolicited photos to help notify reporters when something big is happening. If enough people are on the platform, you get a live map of what’s going on in your city.”

The newspapers currently signed on for the launch of the beta version are all owned by MediaNews and the Journal Register Co.; the app is being rolled out as part of JRC’s ideaLab. The Tackable team is busy introducing their product to newspaper companies as well as online news blogs, with the goal of having 150 newspapers participating when it launches in the coming months. The service will be free for news organizations.

“Our goal is to get the platform out to every newspaper in the nation,” Stangel said. “The social network is something that newspapers haven’t really owned yet, but it makes the most sense business-wise because it doesn’t cannibalize the other properties the way that online cannibalizes the print product.”

Newspapers that sign on to use Tackable get the added bonus of user demographics.

“Users can choose the level of information they want to share [with the newspapers], but at the very least you get an e-mail address,” Stangel said. “Every photo is geo-tagged with the GPS coordinates and person’s real name so you know it came from the location in the assignment.”

Tackable users will also be able to build up a portfolio of their contributions, which enables editors to distinguish regular, reliable contributors from beginners. The app also provides the foundation for time- and location-aware advertising such as smart coupons and classifieds.

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