Interview with Torsten Jacobi, CEO, Creative Weblogging

I really had a chance to have lunch with Torsten Jacobi, and followed up with an email interview. Torsten is CEO of Creative Weblogging , one of the biggest blog networks out there. The most innovative part of their model is Creative Reporter, so I focused my interview on that topic.

Creative Reporter has a fully buzzword-compliant business model: it is a Web 2.0 citizen media social software project which draws on the wisdom of crowds in the long tail at the edges of the network, drawing on wiki and blog business models. It’s even mobile-enabled (if your phone is set up to moblog.)

Or in plain English, Creative Weblogging is saving money on content creation by paying bloggers to create content for them. Of course, they’re not the only ones who are doing that or thinking of doing that: see for example Newsvine, which gives itself room in its user agreement to pay people (profiled by Stowe Boyd here). Nitron Advisors pays contributors for their unwritten content. However, alwayson-network.com, and the blogosphere in general, pay people for quality content in visibility and prestige, not direct cash.

Q: What is Creative Reporter?

Creative Reporter is a tool that integrates submissions by readers and guest reporters (citizen reporters) into the 50+ network of media blog that Creative Weblogging features. Anyone can submit a comment or brief news story, and potentially earn money for that submission.

Q: What other ‘Wisdom of Crowds’ blog submissions systems do you look to as models?

A: Creative Reporter is a unique model as a part of a blog network. It bridges the gap between readers and contributing bloggers. No other blog network allows this form of major interaction.

There are, however, solely user-made online magazines such as ohmymews.com or wikipedia. Both have reached a critical mass (at least in their home market) to provide quality journalism without journalists.

Q: First, let me get some metrics. How many submissions do you get per month?

A: We get around 250 submissions per month. We have right now nearly 650 registered Creative Reporters. Keep in mind Creative Reporter was just launched in September 2005.

Q: What percentage of submitted articles is published?

A: More than 30% of submissions get published. Each editor has its own reasons why he rejects a submission. Some reporters get 100% published; some only 10% – so there is a wide range.

Q: How much are you paying out per month?

A: Sorry, we do not disclose these numbers.

Q: How many, if any, of your major contributors have evolved into regular bloggers?

Several Reporters liked writing with us so much that they became regular

bloggers:

– Dorri Williams (http://www.wiredhome-weblog.com)

– Irene Nam (http://www.lesboutchous.com)

– Wolfgang Mueller (http://www.cio-weblog.de)

Q: What patterns, if any do you notice in the nature of the Creative Reporters’ suggestions, vs. your regular bloggers’ postings?

A: Creative Reporters surely have sometimes a hard time to adapt to a particular writing style predominant on some sites. Also Creative Reporters often focus more on original content and less on quoting news sources. Very often the posts do show a lot of insight a person possesses about a particular issue.

Q: Given that probably relatively few of your contributors are making money on their submissions, they’re much more likely to be motivated by Search Engine Optimization and ego than by the money you pay. So how do you control for quality and for manipulation of your blog? To what extent do you vet the individual contributors?

A: Payments is clearly a secondary factor for most of our contributors. We usually add two to three lines with information about each reporter after each end of the article. Each submission is reviewed and, if necessary, edited by our bloggers. This way we can control the quality of our sites easily.