With Examiner.com recently buying out citizen media site NowPublic for a reported $25 million, the attention turned to similar independent sites such as Allvoices. Would it now become buyout fodder for a mainstream media company, or would it suffer the fate of so many citizen journalism sites that came before it, shutting down before finding a successful business model?
To find out more, I went with videographer Charlotte Buchen to visit the Allvoices headquarters in downtown San Francisco yesterday. The office space alone mirrors the heights (and lows) that shadow the startup. Up on the 15th floor of the tony One Sansome building, Allvoices has about 10 people stuffed into a conference room, with the CEO Amra Tareen having her own office across a cubicle farm that sits largely empty due to failed startups having vacated the premises.
Allvoices received $4.5 million in funding in 2007, launched the site in 2008, and is now looking for another round of funding in a challenging climate. The site allows people around the world to submit stories, photos and video on what’s happening around them, and then uses computer algorithms and the community to filter that content and surround it with relevant stories aggregated from mainstream news sources. So a story about the recent hijacking of an Aeromexico flight includes links to a San Jose Mercury News story, other posts on Allvoices, related tweets on Twitter, and comments from the community.
The site’s traffic took off in early 2009, now averaging about 3 million unique visitors per month, according to Allvoices, with reports coming in from 167 countries (though 40% of visitors are from the U.S.). The site has an incentive program to pay contributors depending on their page views and fan loyalty, as well as a new syndication program that will compensate contributors for images or videos that are sold to media outlets.
Can the site survive and thrive in a tough economic climate for online advertising? Or will it become an adjunct for a mainstream media company? I met the Allvoices team, including charismatic CEO Amra Tareen, and the following is my video report from that meetup.
What do you think about the chances for Allvoices being profitable or bought out? Can standalone citizen media sites survive? How? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Videography and photos by Charlotte Buchen.