If the Internet is anything it’s saturated. More information exists online than we could hope to remember in a lifetime, meaning whatever music genres, designer brands, interior design ethics or fetishes you prefer there will already be a website dedicated to that particular penchant.
Nevertheless, new launches continue every week, and whilst another URL to examine before either adding to the rather overwhelming number of bookmarks currently in the browser or writing off completely isn’t necessarily exciting, given the headlines surrounding The News Hub we’re understandably intrigued. Journalism.co.uk says the start up wants to ‘revolutionise online publishing’ and, spurious statements aside, the organisation does seem keen to try and ‘sort people out’, as it were.
So the basic idea is simple. The News Hub will accept contributions from freelancers, aspiring writers and word-smart members of the public. Work submitted will in turn be made available for anyone to read and hopefully enjoy, free of charge. Those responsible for articles that prove popular will be recompensed for their efforts, meanwhile by-lines will help them establish a regular audience on the platform. What a wonderfully rosy and sun-kissed outlook it all seems to be.
From a public relations perspective, though, TNH may not be the brave new title every agency will be queuing up to become best buds with. For one thing, as an outlet with no central news team, therefore dominated by freelancers- whether professional or amateur- finding the writers involved will be a task in itself. And the idea of posts coming from anyone and everyone doesn’t suggest the kind of quality control that will have brands falling at the website’s proverbial feet. That said, if there’s a significant uptake audience-wise companies will no doubt sing a different tune.
But then the quality, rather than quantity of content is what’s most important for Google rankings these days. And a journalistically inclined website should have always been focused on good writing, rather than reams of copy. Yet when TNH is launched it will only be able to pay the top 10% of contributors, based on their page views. And even then it’s a flat rate of $10 per ‘most read’ submission, a figure well below most on and offline freelance rates, albeit many titles in both formats now offer no money whatsoever in exchange for contributions, so the ‘Hub already has something of an edge. Nevertheless, a major obstacle will be convincing people with enough skill, talent and industry access to get involved.
In the past titles such as The Huffington Post have shown it is possible to recruit high standard freelancers despite offering nothing other than exposure for their name. And in the entertainment world there are now more outlets that don’t pay than do, which is indicative of the desire many aspiring writers have to work for websites and magazines deemed to be cool as a means of furthering their own career prospects, rather than earning a buck. In all cases where this model proves successful, mind, the overall publication (digital or print) has been coherent, consistent and well managed. The type of product everyone wants to be involved with. As such, whilst we wholeheartedly commend William Stolerman, founder and mastermind behind The News Hub for his clear desire to financially recognise those filling his corner of cyberspace with stuff people want to click on, the real test will be in whether standards can be kept high enough to allow for the kind of ongoing growth in readership and contributor interest a domain like this must have to stay profitable.