Similarly to ARTICONF, HELIOS is a European project that aims to build a new paradigm for the development of decentralized social media applications. The ARTICONF project provides developers with a toolbox that facilitates the creation and operation of decentralized apps. The HELIOS project designs, implements, and validates a state-of-the-art, peer-to-peer federated social media network that addresses human communications’ dynamic nature in three dimensions: contextual, spatial, and temporal. At the same time, it provides all necessary means to ensure the highest level of trust and privacy.

A common goal of both projects is to stimulate crowd journalism by creating ecosystems that allow ordinary citizens to cooperate effectively with media groups in the collaborative production of news.

Nowadays, news coverage is a standardized activity with a well-defined workflow. Typically, a journalist working for a broadcasting company receives information from a news agency or other sources, such as the police, emergency services, municipalities, among others, that a particular event is taking place somewhere. The coverage of specific events results from an editorial decision based on that information. If the decision is favourable, the broadcasting company relocates the journalists and the equipment to the location site. Professional cameras and dedicated satellite or 4G connections typically cover the news. At the same time, specialized technicians significantly increase operational costs. Due to the increasing cost pressure, content providers are looking for innovative, low-cost, and time-saving production methods, including crowd-oriented journalism.

Nowadays, smartphones and other mobile devices are provided with more and better functionalities (namely, in the case of video and audio capture). On the other hand, Cloud-related technologies are progressively more robust. Therefore, it becomes clear that anyone can increasingly deliver content (i.e. “user-generated content”) with quality for use in the context of citizen journalism, crowd journalism or crowdsourced journalism. These new practices are relevant to the rapid dissemination of information in a live format and also to the sharing of more developed and structured information, in an “on-demand” format.

Crowd-funded journalism introduces an entirely new paradigm to a news watcher allowing consumers to directly fund and support the news and stories of their interest. In this way, several media entities are receptive to new trends, suggesting that ordinary citizens play an increasingly active media production role. Crowdfunding schemes existed even before the massive adoption of digital technologies in which the population financed shipping enterprises, or the translation of books1. The underpinning idea is that multiple small donations from many people (crowd) can fund projects that wouldn’t be funded otherwise, especially at an early stage. Remarkably,  ordinary citizens play an increasing community role in news creation, sharing it in their networks or providing content to mainstream corporate publishers and broadcasters.

At the same time, new initiatives take some of the influence of decision-making away from the journalists’ hands and place it into ordinary people’s hands. However, professional journalists agree that audience participation is one of the most important developments within digital journalism. The use case design guarantees a flexible approach to citizen-based journalism based on two different paradigms. The first is oriented towards contributions from citizens to corporate media stakeholders – and therefore more business-oriented-  and the second follows a more democratic vision of content watching, in which each user can classify the content according to different criteria. Nevertheless, the main difference relies on having content gatekeepers (e.g., media producers) or establishing more Ad hoc connections between content creators and consumers.

MOG is a Portuguese SME developing software solutions for the media industry and a partner of the ARTICONF project. SWISS TXT is a subsidiary and the centre of multimedia expertise of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation and partner of the HELIOS project.  The two companies are the main drivers of this process in the ARTICONF and HELIOS projects, so the companies joined efforts to propose a unified approach to the crowd journalism stakeholders.

MOG´s solution was developed for media capture, streaming, curation, and editing, while the one from HELIOS used a tape-based approach, in which citizens record the content in their smartphones that can be used later  by the broadcasting company. However, both projects had the intention to develop a mobile app that allows citizens to contribute relevant news from any place in the world. Therefore, after a series of initial discussions, the two projects have decided to join forces and integrate the significant functionalities from both use cases in the same app.

The first integrated prototype – which enables capturing the content for newsworthy events, storing the videos on the mobile or streaming them live to a particular media outlet or other potential viewers – is now ready (Figure 1).

In the following months we expect new and exciting news regarding the usage of the application in different types of situations and scenarios, such as cultural or sports events, engaging both professionals and amateurs in the collaborative production of news. 

This blog post was written by MOG Technologies team in March 2021.

< Thanks for reading. We are curious to hear from you. Get in touch with us and let us know what you think. >