Wow! I just waded through the new study about online citizen journalism by the Knight Citizen News Network at the University of Maryland (thanks to the Local Onliner for the link). They surveyed a gaggled of local news/blog sites and wrote up their findings.
Front Porch Forum is a second cousin to this type of site, but not a sibling. Some comparisons:
Overall there was little accountability built in for content contributors: 73% of all respondents said their sites didn’t require users to register; 69% said a valid e-mail was not even required before posting. Only 40% of 141 respondents said their sites required contributors to use their real names; 60% said their sites allowed either anonymous posts or the use of “screen” names.
Front Porch Forum requires first and last names, street address and email address.
Asked whether their sites edited contributions before they were posted, 40% of 149 replies said content was edited; 48% said it was not and 12% just didn’t know. Half (50% of 131 replies) said offensive or inappropriate content was filtered out before posting. Most respondents (66% of 119 replies) said their sites removed offensive or inappropriate content after it was posted; but 17% of the respondents said such content was not removed, and 17% just didn’t know.
Front Porch Forum does not edit content, but it does screen all postings, add headlines and clean up formatting.
Half the respondents reported that 26 or fewer people overall were contributing content or skills to their enterprise, although site operators say many of those are just occasional contributors.
When we analyzed our flagship neighborhood forum that covers an area of 350 households, we found that about:
-300 households subscribe (after six years)
-200 households have posted at least one message
-100 households have posted at least six messages
For the past five months we’ve been hosting 130 neighborhood forums covering the Burlington, Vermont area. More than 15% of the city’s households have joined already. I’m not sure how many of those people are contributing, but I’d guess that it’s significantly greater than on many of the surveyed sites.
Based on their own definitions of “success,” 73% of our survey respondents pronounced their sites to be successful.
Well, it’s early, but I’ll give Front Porch Forum a thumbs up on the “success” question at this point. It seems most of the sites in the survey focus on success around journalistic goals of informing and engaging the public. Our purpose is to help neighbors connect and foster community within neighborhoods. Local news from our members to their neighbors contributes to that process, but it’s not the end goal.
Does anyone get paid? Of the 78 who replied: 33% said their sites had no paid workers; 33% said only one or two workers got paid.