Demotix: Democratising the News

Congratulations! This Entry has been selected as a finalist.

Demotix: Democratising the News

United Kingdom
Organization type: 
for profit
$250,000 - $500,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Demotix is where free speech activism, media diversity, and the future of news-sourcing collide. Demotix democratises the news.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

As the old news models have disintegrated, the AP and Reuters have come to dominate the global news model so entirely that they define what news is. The world’s media is poorer for that increasing uniformity, and poorer for this shrinking coverage (neither newswire has fulltime correspondents in 40% of the world's countries). Demotix seeks to engage all potential citizen journalists, and distribute their news into the local grids of mainstream news editors – all over the world. Our community, like the mainstream media they serve, is global.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Demotix provides citizen journalists all over the world with a platform to publish their work and a distribution network to make it count; Demotix provides mainstream media with a truly alternative global news wire. Demotix licenses its contributors’ work to the mainstream media for a fee, which it divides 50/50 with the contributor. News takes time and money to cover properly – we do not believe journalism should be the preserve of those who can afford to report for free. Our solution is already in the hands of 5,000 citizen journalists in c.190 territories around the world via our web, FTP and email upload systems. And our distribution network comprises direct sales into every UK, most US and many EU newspapers, a reseller network in 47 countries around the world, and a global distribution partnership with Corbis Images – the 2nd largest visual media provider in the world. Demotix citizen journalists have seen their work on the front pages of the New York Times, Boston Globe, Guardian, have had their work featured on CNN, al-Jazeera, NBC and the BBC, and have sold their images from Canada, through Kathmandu, to Canberra.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

June 2009: In the build-up to the Iranian elections, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad expelled almost all foreign journalists from the country, and arrested or detained those who remained. When the results were fraudulently called in his favour, and hundreds of thousands of Iranians took to the streets to protest, there was nobody to cover the turmoil. Demotix, with its two dozen local Iranian contributors on the ground in Tehran and elsewhere, with 24/7 support out of London, and using a network of anonymous email accounts and twitter, led reporting from the frontline, and told our Iranian contributors’ stories all over the world.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Our peers and competitors are the user-generated platforms of mainstream media companies – BBC’s ‘Have Your Say’, CNN’s ‘I-Report’, etc… They work best within their own limited demographic audiences, nor do they compensate their contributors for the work they do.
About You
About You
About Your Organization
Organization Name


Organization Country


Country where this project is creating social impact
How long has your organization been operating?

1‐5 years

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Select the stage that best applies to your solution

Scaling (the next step will be growing impact on a regional or even global scale)

How long have you been in operation?

Operating for 1‐5 years

Social Impact
FOUNDING STORY: We want to hear about your “Aha!” moment. Share the story of where and when the founder(s) saw this solution’s potential to change the world.

By 2007, I had spent nearly ten years working on Middle East politics across all media platforms (TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, books and web) – watching coverage shrink, news outlets die and journalists be laid off. (I was a correspondent in Iraq in 2003, set up an arts and politics magazine in Beirut in 2004, and have written and appeared in the UK and US press on Middle East issues since 2000).

Simultaneously, I was heavily involved in free speech activism, specifically as it related to democratisation and empowerment in the Middle East, and as a direct antidote to radicalisation. (I ran the Middle East Programme at the world’s oldest defence thinktank – - in 2005)

It dawned on me in 2007, that I could build a platform that would tie free-speech into the media model and provide a business model to sustain it: a platform that would ultimately incentivise citizens to tell their stories to the world. So Demotix – the word comes from the Greek Demos (people) and Demotic (of the people) - was born.

Specify both the depth and scale of your solution’s social impact to date

Demotix has published the work of citizen journalists in dozens of countries all over the world, telling stories the world would often have otherwise not known. We have licensed thousands of our contributors’ images and videos, generating hundreds of thousands of dollars for contributors, motivating them to get ever more immersed in the business of talking truth to power.

What is your projected impact within the next 1-5 years? Is your idea replicable? If so, how?

We currently provide a platform for c.5,000 active contributors around the world, publish 1,800-2,000 stories monthly, and showcase our contributors' work to the 1m+ visits we receive on every month.
Over the next five years, we seek to grow 10-fold. We seek to power, finally, a total alternative newswire - of the breadth and depth of an AP or Reuters, but run from the bottom up, by our contributors. We seek to democratise the way the news is sourced, and the way the news is told.

Demotix is certainly replicable - with the right commitment, community and distribution.

Winning entries present a strong plan for how they will achieve and mark growth. Identify your six-month milestone for growing your impact

1,000 mobile sign-ups in the developing world (where web is much less prevalent)

Six-Month Tasks
Task 1

Launch mobile app for iOS

Task 2

Launch mobile app for Android

Task 3

Launch mobile partnerships

Now think bigger! Identify your 12-month impact milestone

10,000 active contributors across the globe; treble sales revenue for contributors

12-Month Tasks
Task 1

Upgrade our Contributor platform (Upload, FTP, Mobile etc...) on Demotix

Task 2

Re-vamp the front end for greater impact

Task 3

Deep outreach across Latin America, South-East Asia and Africa for contributors and markets.

How many people have been impacted by your project?

1,001 - 10,000

How many people could be impacted by your project in the next three years?

More than 10,000

Explain how your company, program, service or product is structured


What barriers have hindered the success of your project to date? How do you plan to overcome these and other challenges as you grow your solution?

To be sustainable, we need to be profitable.
In the first two years of operations, Demotix suffered from limited distribution and a tiny sales team. Our deep partnership with Corbis - - which launched in March 2011 and was cemented with their investment - - in August 2011, has given us and our contributors access to 200+ salespeople around the world, as well as a network of resellers in 40+ countries.
Demotix sales have grown 10% month-on-month since March 2011. Were we not reinvesting in the company, we would already have hit break-even.

How do you see the information-technology and media sectors shifting over the next decade? How will your solution adapt to and/or drive that changing environment?

User-generated news, mobile and collaboration are the future of the tech/media intersection over the next few years. Demotix seeks to impact in all three areas.

Failure is not always an option. If your solution fails to gain traction in the next two years, what other applications of the idea could you explore?

Our solution fails only if it is unsustainable financially. If the service continued to be as valuable as we see its potential now, we might consider shifting to a non-profit basis.

Expand on your selections, explaining how you will sustain funding

Demotix recently accepted investment from Corbis -
Were Demotix not investing in technological upgrades and expanding the team, we would be at break-even already today.

Tell us about your partnerships

We have two deep partnerships - with GlobalVoices and with OpenDemocracy
All other relationships are with our contributors, or with our clients.

What type of team (staff, volunteers, etc.) will ensure that you achieve the growth milestones identified in the Social Impact section?

We need to focus our efforts in marketing our solution to the developing world.

Changemakers is a collaborative and supportive space. Please specify any community resources you would need to grow and sustain your initiative. Select all that apply

Marketing or media, Collaboration or networking.

Specify any resources you might offer to support other initiatives. Select all that apply

Marketing or media, Collaboration or networking, Innovation or ideas.

Please elaborate on any needs or offers you have mentioned above and/or suggest categories of support that aren’t specified within the list
Define your company, program, service or product in 1-2 short sentences

Demotix is a multi-award winning UGC photo and video newswire, seeking to empower freedom of speech and democratise the news.