OhmyNews Isn't Sailing Smoothly Overseas

Posted by: Ihlwan Moon on October 24, 2006

Seoul-based Web site OhmyNews is certainly a pioneering example of citizen journalism. It demonstrated the power of the participation of ordinary people in the news-gathering process with its coverage of Korea’s 2002 presidential election. At the time, major newspapers brushed aside presidential candidate Roh Moo Hyun as a dangerous leftist, but many young citizen reporters in sympathy with him provided full coverage of his campaign and helped him clinch victory by a narrow margin.

Yet Oh Yeon Ho, who founded OhmyNews, isn’t exactly sailing smoothly in his drive to propagate this citizen journalism model across the globe. Sure, OhmyNews grabbed $11 million funding in February from Softbank to help expand internationally and develop its English language edition. Yet its Japanese-language version, the first venture in the expansion plan, has not been a hit so far, though it was launched only two months ago and is still early to draw a conclusion.

Doubts linger over the question on whether citizen journalism will be a profitable business model. Various citizen media outfits inspired by OhmyNews, including Dan Gillmor’s Bayosphere, didn’t pan out. Critics say someone would have made lots of money from citizen journalism by now – nearly seven years after OhmyNews was set up — if it were to be a profitable model. Oh himself doesn’t see fat profits from his business. “My ambition is to spread citizen journalism around the world, not to make money.”

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