Spot.Us becomes part of Public Insight Network

DigiDave | American Public Media
American Public Media has acquired Spot.Us and will integrate it with its crowdsourcing platform Public Insight Network. The two operations “create a media that is more responsive and responsible to the public’s needs,” writes Spot.Us founder David Cohn on his blog.

Cohn tells me by email that at some point, journalists working on a single story could utilize both the crowdfunding and crowdsourcing parts of the operation:

Some people prefer to donate talent, others prefer to donate funds. If a single organization used both PIN/Spot (which will become easier as the two merge at a technical level) they could do create a relationship with the audience that includes both possibilities. We did one early example of this at Spot.Us. We raised funds for an Oakland Tribune reporter to cover potholes in oakland. The money went to the freelancer to do the reporting. But we also got 15 bikers together and we biked in all different directions in Oakland and created a map of the worst potholes we could find (the bikers were donating talent). The result was a well reported story funded by the community along with some insight that only the community could provide (or a single reporter who did a LOT of biking).

One thing will not change, he said: “On Spot.Us, sources cannot donate to a story. … We may put in a restriction that somebody can donate talent OR funds – but maybe not both.”

Cohn says Spot.Us wasn’t purchased; in fact, APM gets the balance of Spot.Us’ money, some of which will be used to keep Erik Sundelof, the CTO, on staff at APM. Cohn, who’s also lecturing at University of California, Berkeley, says he will be involved in a contract role, though his title hasn’t been worked out. Any money pledged for Spot.Us reporting projects will not be affected by the deal.

The news release:

American Public Media’s Public Insight Network Acquires Spot.Us

(St. Paul, Minn.) – November 29, 2011 –American Public Media announced today that it has acquired pioneering community funding website Spot.Us, and will incorporate it into the Public Insight Network (PIN) crowd-sourcing platform. The combination lays the foundation for a networked approach to sourcing and funding high-quality journalism that will help newsrooms and journalists gather the resources and insights they need to do great reporting.

Spot.Us and PIN both believe in the power of the independent voice in journalism – from both journalists and sources, making the acquisition an ideal move,” said Joaquin Alvarado, senior vice president of digital innovation at APM. “PIN believes in the important work of Spot.Us and we will explore opportunities to continue to drive the effectiveness and relevancy of the site even further in the future.”

We couldn’t be more excited about joining forces with the Public Insight Network to change the way journalism is both funded and reported,” said David Cohn, founder of Spot.Us. “Combined, we have a real opportunity to be a positive force, paving the way for journalism to be truly public from the ground up.”

Spot.Us was founded in 2008, making this November the 3-year anniversary.  Launched by David Cohn with technical help from Erik Sundelof, Spot.Us was made possible with $340,000 in seed funding from the Knight Foundation through the Knight News Challenge, an international contest to find innovative, digital ideas for delivering news and information. The Knight Foundation also supported the Public Insight Network with a grant in 2008.

Spot.Us gives the public the opportunity to fund important journalism that is then distributed by newsrooms around the country. Community members can also take surveys from site sponsors to earn credits they can use to support the story of their choice. Spot.Us has also drawn on support from individual funders, a network of advisors, designers and developers.

Founded in 2003, American Public Media’s Public Insight Network is dedicated to journalistic excellence, innovation and collaboration. PIN gives newsrooms the capacity to do smart, targeted crowd-sourcing on deadline. More than 130,000 PIN sources around the country shape news coverage at 60 partner news organizations. Sources sign up by responding to online surveys, participating in virtual and in-person forums, playing serious games and meeting PIN journalists in person. Demographic information and insights are stored in a secure, searchable database. Participating journalists query the network for knowledgeable sources, test hunches, identify trends and support production of major news projects.

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