In the near future, the power to have an army of iReporters like CNN or TMZ will be open to local newspapers, nonprofits, political organizations, and even corporations. Silicon Valley startup, Tackable, allows any organization to post hyper-local news assignments, which users can then search, by location, as eyewitness reports roll in.
Though still in beta, Tackable imagines a social network where users can follow a tailored set of unfolding events in a Facebook-like newsfeed. Co-founder, Luke Stangel, tells Fast Company that location “is the most logical way to organize live information.” The current options, hoping that an existing media outlet is covering an event or trying to comb through raw social network data oneself, are still imperfect. Instead, “if there’s an earthquake in China,” says Luke, “you pull the map over to Beijing and in, 15/20 seconds, what you’re seeing is photos taken from the streets of Beijing.”
Harvard University’s Nieman Journalism Labs did a thorough review of the iPhone app earlier this week. So, Tackable shared some of the more exciting possibilities with Fast Company. For instance, Greenpeace is interested in crowdsourcing eyewitness accounts of the Gulf-spill aftermath. Media attention waned soon after the oil leak was capped. Yet, a devastated community remains, as do thousands of frustrated citizens who would eagerly share their (fascinating) stories. Additionally, political organizations, such as Obama’s Organizing for America, will “absolutely” be able to exploit Tackable to broadcast their nation-wide efforts to millions of politics junkies throughout the country.
There’s even future plans for use by brands. One could imagine Bieber fanatics tracking their idol along his movie premier schedule, or Red Hot Chili Pepper fans viewing the band’s crazy backstage antics as they tour.
How will Tackable make money? Like many intrepid entrepreneurs, Luke imagines they will figure monetization out later. When asked if they could take a cut of a freelance assignments, Luke adamantly opposed any freelance payment system. The company believes that paid freelancing destroy users’ innate enjoyment of reporting. Economic psychologists describe this effect as “crowding out,” when the introduction of money inadvertently eclipses contributions that previously needed no incentive. Second, Luke believes that an incentive system will inevitably be gamed with bogus submissions. “Every single platform is hackable. If there is some kind of money to be made, someone will find a way to hack it.” Tackable would sooner not be distracted by a system they cannot control.
Tackable is currently seeking more partnerships and has ambitious plans for the future of news. Certainly, with the industry in a state of flux, anything is possible.