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Citizen Media: Fad or the Future of News

Publication Date:
February 4, 2007

Jan Schaffer

What people are saying:

“Very informative. Gives a broad perspective of the modern change in media.”
– Jason Hill

Citizen Media: Fad or the Future of News?Local news web sites offering user-generated content are securing a valuable place in the media landscape and are likely to continue as important sources of community news, according to a J-Lab research project funded by the Ford Foundation.

This report focuses specifically on micro-local community news sites that contain content generated by users. When we started this research in the spring of 2006, we were able to identify about 500 citizen media sites.  As we issue this report, we have been able to identify several hundred more and will soon catalogue them on a new web site, the Knight Citizen News Network (, supported by the Knight Foundation.

More impressive than the numbers, though, is the impact these sites are having on their communities. With limited readership and very little revenue, 73% of those who responded pronounced their sites to be a “success.” Why? Because they have watchdogged local government, provided news that couldn’t otherwise be had, nudged local media to improve, helped their community solve problems, even, to a degree, increased voter turnout and the number of candidates running for office.

This study takes an early snapshot of a very robust development. We interviewed 31 site operators in-depth, and we fielded a 60-question online survey. Not all 191 respondents could, or did, answer every question, but they poured out their hearts in open-ended responses. Their resolve to continue, often on their own dimes, was palpable.

Read the report.

Download (pdf).

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