“Mini Experts” In A Major Network

206566-600-0-11Ask Amra Tareen why she founded AllVoices.com, a massive exercise in global citizen journalism, and she’ll tell you it’s because she’s not a terrorist.

This is not the non sequitur it seems. Her answer derives from annoyance over a misperception she still feels. “The mainstream media is so biased,” she explained. “After 9/11, they made it sound like all Muslims are terrorists. I’m a Muslim, My kids are Muslims; we’re not terrorists. Everyone has a bias. Editors have a bias. I have a bias. So I thought the only way to fix this is to get all the voices out there.”

AllVoices.com — Tareen’s answer to closed, controlled traditional media — launched in July 2008 with the goal of including as many people as possible. If Tareen had her way, the AllVoices community would be all six billion people on earth. But within a site that aims to be global and all-inclusive in its scope and membership, a curious thing is happening. Even with free rein in topic choice, Tareen tells us that many of AllVoices’ contributors are choosing very specific beats and becoming mini experts within the larger framework of the massive site.

“Individual people are very consistent usually and the topics they like to report about are very consistent,” she said. “We’re creating a ton of little experts.”

Although AllVoices’ policy of allowing aliases rather than full names raises questions of accountability, Tareen explained that contributors “develop an identity on the site.” They have a user name and a profile page and anything they do gets aggregated onto their profile page.

“Plus, their profile on AllVoices dictates how much money they make for their contributions,” she explained.

Tying the quality of their contributions — from posts to pictures and even comments — to users’ purse strings is part of the motivation for the beatblogging that happens on AllVoices. According to Tareen, the beatbloggers generally do better than their less focused counterparts.

Pakistani user MarcusCato has been blogging with AllVoices since August 30, 2008. In that time, he’s narrowed his focus to politics and the economy, particularly in the Middle East and his content has been viewed by 350,125 users. Not too shabby for six and half months.

Halfway across the world, BorderExplorer, a 59-year-old Texas woman, is the unlikely guardian of all things US/Mexico border related.

“Although I was born in the middle [Midwest, middle-class] and am now middle-aged, I’ve moved to the U.S/Mexico border,” she wrote in her profile.

She’s only been blogging about border issues for three months and already has about 34,000 page views.

Specializing like this rather than posting anything and everything that pops into your head means more developed knowledge on a topic and a bigger, more loyal fan base to bring in the hits. Tareen admits that this degree of specialization was not expected from the outset, but considers it a uesful development both for the beatbloggers and the site as a whole.

“The more focused ads you can drive to your pages, to the site, that means you can earn a higher CPM — cost per thousand views. Because if you’re more specific, you get a higher value for advertising,” she said.

A loyal following and a little extra cash? We’ll take it.

Below, Amra explain how and why AllVoices.com is developing beatbloggers:

Click here to stream the interview. Or download the MP3.

Originally published (by me) at Beatblogging.org.


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