Breaking into the media publishing industry without a portfolio is extremely difficult, if not impossible. However, one citizen journalism site is looking to make portfolio-building easier and more lucrative. Helium.com, is a competition-based model in which writers can post articles they’ve written, and publishers can buy them all in one spot.
"The internet has always offered this promise of connecting everyone," says Mark Ranalli, CEO of Helium.com, "Unfortunately, in practice that hasn’t happened. 70 million people blogging is just people screaming. No one is hearing anything." Coming up on its two-year anniversary this October, Helium has grown to 130,000 community members since 2006. It boasts 100,000 unique topics and over 800,000 articles are published on the site. Writers’ backgrounds range from university students trying to get first clips to stay-at-home parents looking to break into the industry.
Helium’s rating structure and payment model sets it apart from other citizen journalism sites. Using a combination of peer review (Helium writers in the same expertise) and a relative-ranking system set up by developers allowing good content to rise and bad content to sink. Publishers can also submit queries directly to Helium. The site will post the query, and in a few days there will be 6-12 responses. The end result is a publishing platform that rewards participants and builds partnerships as well, Ranalli says.
"It creates a dynamic where good writers find Helium valuable to them platform for recognition and reward that they’re looking for," Ranalli says. "Ultimately as a publishing platform, we are enabling people who do not have an established position in the industry."