More than two years after its founding, citizen journalism startup Scoopt  hasn’t done much to disrupt the work lives of professional photographers — sales of its photos have been modest, and its much-hyped cameraphone images still represent only five percent of Scoopt’s inventory.
But its founder, former Scottish journalist Kyle MacRae [pictured], sees dark days ahead for photojournalists who make their living from spot news — particularly at the local level.
“I wouldn’t like to be a local newspaper photographer right now,” MacRae said in an interview with Black Star Rising. “You’re competing with your own readers.”
MacRae said that Scoopt, which was acquired by Getty Images  in March, plans to add geographic metadata to images to make it easier to supply images to local newspapers in the U.S., U.K., and around the world. This, along with the distribution of images through Getty’s editorial photo site , sets the stage for dramatic changes in local news photography, MacRae said.
“Most news is local. Geographical targeting is something of real interest to us. We’re doing it now, but not in a clever technological way; we need to automate it,” MacRae said. “We have the potential to scale this quite dramatically.”
Scaling through technology is critical to building a business among local newspapers, where a publication might only be willing to pay $20 for a freelancer’s image, MacRae said.
MacRae sees better potential in local spot news relative to other opportunities in photojournalism, such as event photography. “The vast majority of editorial [photography] is events, and the effect on that is close to zero. Occasionally, a Scoopt member might get a great shot at a premier that gets used, but that’s unusual.”
Scoopt — as well as its photographers — received a huge boost from the Getty purchase. MacRae says Scoopt has been a “shortcut” into the Getty supply chain for many photographers, since its best photos compete side by side with other editorial images on the Getty site. (Most submitted images are available only on Scoopt’s site.)
Perhaps this is one reason why the great majority of Scoopt members are still lugging around digital cameras — even though Scoopt has pitched cameraphones (and the spontaneity they suggest) as being central to its business model.
In reality, cameraphones have served mostly as the brand’s PR sizzle to this point. Only five percent of Scoopt’s images are captured by phone — although MacRae says he’s seeing steady growth in phone submissions.
“Before we were acquired by Getty Images, we were very much in the proof-of-concept phase,” MacRae said. “It’s too early to know how it will all come out.”
[tags]Scoopt, citizen journalism, photojournalism, newspapers[/tags]