Media Startup Newsmodo Almost Missed Its Pictures From One Of The Biggest News Stories Of The Year

A view of the stories submitted in the Newsmodo marketplace. Used with permission.

Newsmodo spotted what you might call, generously, a gap in their setup within a few days of launch.

It was late April and in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka one of the biggest news stories of the year so far was starting to unfold. The Rana Plaza garment factory had collapsed, and rescuers were pulling the first bodies from the rubble.

In the following days the scale of the tragedy began to emerge. It would eventually transpire that at the facility, where clothes were made for many top western fashion labels, more than 1000 people had been killed.

It was while the story was still in its early days and the death toll was starting to climb that Newsmodo founder Rakhal Ebeli hosted a small event in London with 17 potential clients for his new service, a platform that allows freelance journalists to sell their content to major publishers.

Newsmodo founder / director Rakhal Ebeli

Attendees included representatives some of Britain’s biggest media brands, including ITN, The Guardian, The Sun, and Trinity Mirror.

The website was on a plasma screen in the room and as they were browsing through it, up popped exclusive photos of the scenes in Dhaka from a freelance photographer who was there.

The pictures were available for any of the potential clients to buy, but Newsmodo realised that they had no system for letting buyers know about it.

That quickly got fixed, says Ebeli, who is back in Australia this week after a two-month marketing tour taking in Europe, the US and the Middle East.

Within days Newsmodo, which runs on a staff of 15 people based in Melbourne, had a 24/7 content monitoring and alerts system in place along with round-the-clock chat support for clients.

Some of the clients who were there quickly signed up and used Newsmodo to find journalists on the ground in Bangladesh to drive their coverage of the emerging tragedy over the coming weeks.

You could call it dumb luck. But sometimes, as the saying goes, you make your own – by being in the right place at the right time, with the right idea.

Since launch in late April Ebeli now claims to have up to 4000 freelance journalists signed up as contributors, and, he says, “we just ticked over the 100 mark” in terms of publishing and broadcasting clients.

They include The Guardian, The Sun, NBC, and Al-Jazeera.

It’s a promising start for the venture which is backed by Larry Kestelman, the founder of telco Dodo which was sold to M2 for a reported $200 million earlier this year.

The idea for Newsmodo was seeded when Ebeli was a TV journalist at Australia’s Network Ten. Producers and reporters knew that useful content – especially video – was being collected by freelance journalists but there was no single platform to go and find it.

“We researched for a year; we trialed and re-jigged, and trialed again. Newsrooms were obviously scaling back, but audience expectations were rising – they want newsrooms to be everywhere.

“At the other end, there were journalists who had been sacked and they were wondering what they were going to do next. And we are just connecting those two audiences.”

Here’s how it works:

  • Contributors can submit content – video, text and pictures – to the Newsmodo platform and set a price for media outlets
  • Clients – typically publishers and broadcasters – can also find relevant contributors and commission them for work at a negotiated price

The minimum price for a piece of content is $10, but, Ebeli says, “the market is stabilizing at around $40 to $50 per image”.

“For an entire written piece, some are selling for $10, but both buyers and sellers are telling us that if the price was that low, they don’t trust it.”

Newsmodo is out of the blocks strongly after a two-month global sales tour that has resulted in some big-name clients signing up and the establishment of a solid roster of contributors.

But, Ebeli says, Newsmodo is “not trying to be part of the global media structure. We’ve identified gaps in what’s needed, and what we’re trying to do is fill them.”

Visit Newsmodo here.

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