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Feb. 23, 2010, 8:17 a.m.

Spot.us unveils changes: Donate your time, follow updates

The crowdfunded journalism site Spot.us unveiled changes to the site today based on feedback from its users and writers. Users can now easily follow updates on a reporter’s pitch and donate their time or expertise to a story, instead of just their money.

The basic premise of Spot.us stays the same: Writers post a story pitch they’d like funding to cover. Site users can make small donations (many of which add up to cover big endeavors, like a $10,000 trip to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch). The new bells and whistles enhance this core functionality.

One improvement allows users to track a story from start to finish (rather than from pitch to then just finished product). Users can easily subscribe to blog post-style updates via email or RSS, or check them on the site.

“We’ve had that feature for a little bit now, but it’s kind of been overlooked because it’s buried within the pitches,” the site’s founder David Cohn told me yesterday.

The more prominent feature could also open new forms of storytelling on the site, including the possibility of daily news, or beat coverage. Reporters are free to use the tool however they wish. “When we publish a finished story, some of them have five to 15 blog posts which are just as, if not more interesting, than the finished story. So that’s why we wanted to find a way to feature those on the front page.”

Users can also donate their time and talents. Writers had told Spot.us that sometimes they need help with mundane reporting work, like scanning documents. Many reporters want help with photos. The idea was to allow writers to “make an open call for help on specific tasks.” It’s crowdsourcing, but on an individual basis.

“Now people can come together around developing a project,” Cohn told me. “[Spot.us is] really still trying to get reporters and contributors on an equal playing field.”

Cohn and I talked about how talent could also mean access. Need a photo from New Zealand for your piece? Just ask. (Proof of concept: I once needed some photos of Alaska’s Kenai River, an improbable task for a blogger stuck in Washington, D.C. Luckily, a loyal Talking Points Memo reader gladly helped me out.)

Cohn also noted that Spot.us has created a new embedable widget that can promote an individual pitch. He hopes to one day make donations possible within the widget itself.

“Releasing this stuff, it’s the start of a new phase for development.”

POSTED     Feb. 23, 2010, 8:17 a.m.
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