Sharing photos, audio and video is hot. Every week, new tools are made available to make sharing videos online easier. Recently, the Flemish Radio- and Television Network (VRT) started using Drupal for 16+, an online community that allows students to share pictures, music and video. The written press touted it as the "Flemish YouTube". For details, see my older blog post on 16+.

This afternoon, I'll have a meeting with the VRT to talk about Drupal and 16+. While preparing my presentation I started wondering: why would a traditional radio- and television broadcast company like the VRT encourage people to share pictures, audio and video? Is the VRT preparing the ground and developing a platform for citizen journalism? Would the VRT dare to upset their "professional journalists" and embrace journalism practiced "by the people"? Will they open up the scope and target audience of 16+?

I don't know, but I'm going to tell them that traditional media has no choice but to move forward. I spent the last 5 years of my life developing software that enables individuals to publish and share content on the internet. Soon, amateur content providers will have very powerful tools to compete with traditional media. I'm going to tell them that we are reshaping the future of news, information and journalism, and that, if they want to avoid getting left behind, they have to position themselves at the forefront of citizen journalism, take part in it, collaborate with amateurs, and embrace new internet technologies.

Could be an interesting afternoon ...


Jeroen (not verified):

This is probably true, and I think the VRT (V/Flemish Radio & Television) already actively participates in the new-media scene. They broadcast their radio stations' programs online too, for example. You can even re-listen them if you feel like it. They also have the option to listen to them in DAB (not so much internet related, but still)

Anyway, about citizen journalism. I think you've proven yourself that, with a digital reflex camera and some feeling for "seeing" a nice shot, you can easily match traditional media if you have a way of publishing it. Granted, your pictures aren't news and you don't rush off to every car-accident happening. But there will be people crazy enough to do so.

I think the media will rely on amateur reporting more and more in the future. It's already the case if you check the flemish weather-forecasts. For a while now they've been showing amateur pictures from around Belgium to show the people watching TV how the weather has been in several different places around the country. It's easy to imagine a well marketed belgian weather forecast website, allowing amateurs to upload their present-time pictures in a simple manner, showing the current weather in different places.

You can see it in the way newspapers work nowadays... One of the biggest newspapers, GVA, used to have around 60 people working at their offices, now there's 4 or 5 left. Everything's put together digitally, the majority of the "workers" are photographers shooting pictures, writing some text to go with it and mailing it to the office. It's fairly easy to become a reporter for a journal now, just apply and send stuff in. If it's worth it, it'll get published. Easy for the paper because they only pay you for stories worth mentioning. But paper journals are a thing of the past, they know that too.
I think it won't be long before they open up their online journals to the people. Create an account, send in stories and the better your stories and pictures the higher your trust-rank with the paper, getting your stories published (and payed for) easier.

And how often do you see amateur imagery in the TV news these days, fairly often if you ask me. With 09/11 and Iraq as most prominent examples.

So, citizen journalism is hot (a couple of years now) but TV and paper journals are always lagging behind the facts a couple of hours to even a day.

Internet journalism is the way to go, and I think the VRT got it right. Easy to use interfaces, public access, common online media formats embedded in webpages... Hmm, I should've mentioned Web 2.0 somewhere.

My job is so boring :| This post would've been a whole lot shorter if it wasn't ;)


Granted, your pictures aren't news and you don't rush off to every car-accident happening. But there will be people crazy enough to do so.

People don't need to rush off in their cars and seek the news like professional reporters do. Soon, most of us will carry a camera and an internet connection in our pocket and every once in a while, we'll just happen to be at the right place at the right time. All it takes are advances in technology, and mere luck. As soon you realize that, you know that citizen journalism is unstoppable.

The one thing we'll need professional journalists for is to report events that are inaccessible to the masses (eg. a meeting between President Bush and Chinese President Hu Jintao).

bertboerland (not verified):

Dries, would love to hear how they reacted.

The struggle of the VRT is the same all over the world. In The Netherlands traditional media (including even "older" media like the printed press) has a huge problem with the rise of weblogs and media share portals vs their own profesional journalist. Some get it, some don't. Some adapt and change from "making the news" to "moderating the news" and their VAS is giving in-depth background information about news.

But all of them still do it the old fashioned way: big projects, huge budgets, old school project management. Nothing like Rasmus' saying be lazy, fail fast, fail cheap which, IMHO, is still the best way to make an adaptive agile infrastructure to enable breaking news written by the people for the people.


Turns out it was a technical meeting so we didn't get to talk much about the "future of journalism". When I explained to a room full of engineers why I think traditional media needs to adapt (as I promised I would), they were amused. One person disagreed and one person jokingly asked whether I was soliciting for a job.

What matters is that, from a technical point of view, their experience with Drupal has been a positive one, and that 16+ was said to be a success story.

bertboerland (not verified):

I once talked to a chief editor of a leading national newspaper who said "You can't make money on the internet", in 2006!

I agreed with him and said we'll be reading printed newspapers in 30 years time and would laugh about 2006 when people thought printed press would die.

He stared at me for 20 seconds and he really couldn't figure out if I was joking or not.

Steven Buytaert (not verified):

When I explained to a room full of engineers why I think traditional media needs to adapt (as I promised I would), they were amused.

I'm not suprised. You know I delt with the VRT already a few years ago around being 'innovative' around their DAB investments; use them for more than just broadcasting music, i.e. also put HTML and other data on the carousel of MBits/second that they continously broadcast. Technically they are good, w.r.t. 'vision', they lack what they sell...

Although their websites and services, as Jeroen already mentioned, are becoming better every day, they still have a big problem thinking outside of the pigeon hole.

Andre Charland (not verified):

Kind of off topic from the thread but this is exactly what we want to do for the ski community with It's interesting in a community/niche like skiing where all the writers, photographers, cinematographers are all active participants in the sport and consumers of the media around it as well. Very cool that Drupal can support this!

Wiebe (not verified):

With regard to citizen journalism and opinion, a Dutch newspaper called NRC has started an experiment on the web that seeks interaction with and amongst its readers: (Dutch language website)

I just had a look at the website. The layout looked familiar and as I checked it appeared to be built on ... Drupal!