Tuesday, October 11, 2005
PROFILE: OhmyNews enlists army of 'citizen reporters'
OhmyNews enlists army of 'citizen reporters'
October 9, 2005
By VANESSA HUA
Scripps Howard News Service
The staff at OhmyNews fills only two floors of a small office building in
downtown Seoul, but it edits stories from thousands of "citizen reporters"
across South Korea.
The 150 or so stories posted on the site each day range from breaking news
about huge protests to sophisticated political analysis, from hit pieces
to tales of the daily ups and downs of people who feel ignored by
OhmyNews readers can offer instant feedback online and - if they really
like a piece - monetary tips. Readers poured nearly $30,000 into columnist
Kim Young Ok's account in increments of $10 or less in one week after he
criticized the constitutional court of South Korea last year.
"They're like street musicians or performers," Jean Min, director of the
international news division, said of the citizen reporters.
OhmyNews is much more than a soapbox, though. It is a cross between an
online news site and a sophisticated blog. Koreans flock to it. The site
gets 1.7 million to 2 million page views each day, a number that shot up
to 25 million during the December 2002 presidential election.
When reformer Roh Moo Hyun won the tight presidential race, he granted his
first domestic interview to OhmyNews - a slap to the conservative
corporate daily papers that supported his rival.
The privately held Web site has been profitable since September 2003 and
is projected to pull in $10 million this year, Min said. By contrast,
Salon.com in San Francisco pulled in $6.6 million in fiscal year 2005 and
had 1.1 million average daily page views in July, according to market
research firm comScore Media Metrix. The DailyKos, a popular liberal blog,
had 96,774 average daily page views, and conservative blog Instapundit had
32,258 in July.
The success of OhmyNews can be attributed in part to the high level of
public engagement in this heavily wired, young democracy, where less than
two decades have passed since military rule ended. Street protests are
common, and citizens are eager to speak out online.
With the motto "every citizen is a reporter," 5-year-old OhmyNews has
engaged its audience in ways that U.S. print and television news outlets,
faced with a steep decline in readers and viewers, only dream of.
The site has a cultlike following, among both writers thrilled to see
their views spread widely and readers who say they like getting an
uncensored, if uneven, version of the news.
"It is composed of so many citizens. It's more free than other journals,"
said Kim Won Joong, 24, a journalism student at Chunnam University in
Daejeon, in central South Korea. "But the opinions are scattered all
The site began an English-language edition in May, at
english.ohmynews.com, and now has its sights set overseas. Several hundred
citizen reporters have already signed up. So far, about 36 percent of
English-language edition readers are from North America, 38.5 percent from
Europe, and 16.7 percent from Asia outside South Korea.
For publicity, the company relies on stories in other media, word-of-mouth
and the efforts of its reporters, many of whom are active bloggers, Min
"Our readers don't simply sit there and read. They interrogate each
other," Min said during a slick hourlong presentation at the company's
headquarters. One of his charts called OhmyNews a "post-modern 'we media'
versus traditional 'elite media.' "
"People want to share their experience. It's more fun than simply watching
television," Min said.
(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, http://www.shns.com.)
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