You know a business by its people, and when I encountered Christopher Hogg, I knew Digital Journal was something special.
A couple days ago I put up a Rajbait at College Startup. It was entitled 15 Successful Entrepreneurs Who Didn’t Need College and I thought it was a rock solid article. Apparently, so did the cool kids over at Digg.
But much to my dismay, a search on the title of that linkbait turned up a citizen journalists article over at Digital Journal as the top result in Google. Even to this day, College Startup’s original doesn’t show up anywhere on the front page of the Google SERPS. I visited the article, and though College Startup was mentioned, the link was not directed back to my site.
Initially, as you might guess, this disappointed me. Though I was happy that the article was noticed, I was not happy that Google had identified DJ as the source. So, I contacted Digital Journal, not expecting a response (I rarely get responses from online publishers). Much to my surprise, an extremely pleasant Christopher Hogg responded with the following message:
Thanks for the note. This was written by a citizen journalist and I’ve taken a look at the post and there is mention of College-Startup with a link at the beginning saying the list was created by you.
We take these issues very seriously, so I have updated the link to the one you provided, as we want to ensure proper attribution is there.
If you take a look at the article now, does it reference you in a way that you feel gives proper credit?
Please let me know.
Because of this great response, I knew immediately that Digital Journal was a rare breed as far as Internet sites go. So I decided to ask Chris for an interview. Here it is:
1. Tell us a little about your vision for Digital Journal. What are you trying to accomplish?
As a news hub, DigitalJournal.com aims to be an online resource for readers looking to discover the top news items of the day from a perspective that is different than that of the mainstream media’s. News published on DigitalJournal.com is a collection of breaking news, current events, Op-Ed and interesting news items written by citizen journalists.
While our approach is fact-based, as we believe all news media should be, our readers appreciate the diverse set of beliefs and mixed editorial range that only an open forum is capable of creating. Citizen journalists tie in personal anecdote, they are often in places around the world where mainstream media has no access, and the debate and conversation that comes from citizen journalist reports is engaging, lively and refreshing.
Our goal is to continue to provide a forum in which citizen journalists can be part of the news-gathering process so they can question facts, report on issues important to them and engage in a community of like-minded people. Everyone has a story. Everyone has an opinion. DigitalJournal.com is the hub in which anyone can contribute those ideas.
2. How is Digital Journal differentiating itself from other citizen journalist sites like Newsvine?
DigitalJournal.com takes a different approach than other social-bookmarking, or user-generated sites, in that, our goal is to produce and host content rather than link to it.
The Web has fantastic sites such as Digg or Newsvine that provide news-hungry readers with links to content on other websites, but the goal with DigitalJournal.com is to create a community and a website at which readers can come to read, debate and discuss news. While linking to outside facts or resources does play a vital role in collecting and reporting information on DigitalJournal.com, our primary goal is to minimize the clicks needed to get quality reading and news coverage.
3. What sort of person are you looking for to participate at Digital Journal? What’s your target audience?
The best part of a social news community like DigitalJournal.com is that anyone can be part of it. We do have a screening process in place whereby aspiring citizen journalists and bloggers must submit a sample of writing that must be approved, but the fantastic thing about DigitalJournal.com is that you do not need to be a professional writer or accredited journalist –- you just have to show a passion for writing and news. Our membership is comprised of everyone from 14 to 70 years old, and that diversity is what makes conversation, debate and reporting news interesting, as it appeals to a wide demographic and the opinions are an incredible mix-bag of unpredictability.
4. Why would a person want to write for your publication? What incentives do you provide?
DigitalJournal.com has a system in place whereby all citizen journalists are paid for their contributions. We take a portion of all advertising revenue generated on the site and split it up among all users. While we don’t disclose the exact mechanics of our formula, we do pay users based on how much exposure and activity their articles receive. The more a citizen journalist contributes, the more he or she can earn.
The most amazing thing we find, is that so many people flock to DigitalJournal.com because of the financial incentive. However, we find most people stay for the community, debate and alternative approach to news. That is a very unique aspect of DigitalJournal.com and something for which we are very proud and humbled.
5. How do you determine which sites get featured on the front page?
DigitalJournal.com is entirely by the people, for the people. All articles that appear on the site have a ‘Vote It Up’ button at the bottom. Readers are encouraged to vote for articles they find newsworthy and our entire site, including our front page is generated by what people want to read.
6. Can you tell us a little about your plans to monetize Digital Journal?
Like all media organizations, DigitalJournal.com is financed by advertising revenue.
7. What’s been your biggest challenge in launching and running Digital Journal?
Digital Journal began as an online publication in the late 1990s and evolved into a very successful printed publication in 2001. We focused solely on technology and digital lifestyle and distributed a glossy magazine coast-to-coast across North America for five years. However, as reading habits and interests changed, we went back to our Web roots in 2006 and expanded our focus from technology to include all beats and we opened DigitalJournal.com to citizen journalists and bloggers.
Over the last year we have evolved and grown a lot. Given that citizen journalism is still such a young field, we have focused a lot of our energy on creating a credible venue and we are constantly working to prove that the mainstream media is not the only source of information.
Habits have changed a lot over the last little while, as well, and a lot of people have shown they gravitate toward an open forum like ours that encourages the questioning of facts and pursuit of truth.
All of our work has focused on creating a viable business from a segment of the population that is too often talked at, rather than included.
8. Who do you see as your main competitors at the moment?
Citizen journalism is a very unique field because most people in this business are supportive of competition and growth of this nascent news concept.
There are sites such as Newsvine or NowPublic that offer a citizen approach to media and news, and while they would literally be classed as competition to DigitalJournal.com, we see them more as informal partners in a rapidly growing industry. We’re supporters and advocates of anyone who helps further the cause of citizen media.
9. I noticed that you have a TV domain. Tell us a little about your goals with video media.
Digital Journal TV was a natural evolution for our company, as we have a great deal of history in all forms of media. As I mentioned, we used to run a printed publication devoted entirely to technology so we wanted to continue that coverage through Digital Journal TV.
Also, we are increasingly in very high demand by TV networks, so we decided to start producing the content ourselves. We have now appeared on major TV networks hundreds of times and digitaljournal.tv is the place online where we pursue timely tech issues. DigitalJournal.com’s staff is mostly comprised of tech lovers who are also broadcast journalists, so it was a natural move.
Our goal is to continue exploring topical technology stories and bringing viewers a side they have not seen, and a side with no PR spin. Too often in technology, people in marketing over-hype a product with false promises and exaggeration. Our goal is to tell it like it is, no matter who it offends in the process.
10. What’s your favorite social media site? Digg, Stumble, Reddit, Propeller, Delicious? If you don’t have a favorite, then which one do you spend the most time using?
I am a hardcore Net junkie so pegging a favourite social media site for me is nearly impossible. I have been a Digg user for quite some time and I love the site, but I also do my best to scour off the beaten path into the blogosphere as often as possible.