HOME
          
LATEST STORY
Open-mic journalism: How The Arizona Republic found success with storytelling events
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
June 20, 2012, 3:30 p.m.
Reporting & Production
Felipe Heusser's balloon cam

Knight-backed Peepol.TV aims to be a social network for live video

“A channel guide for the entire Internet,” the site would guide users to breaking news happening around them.

When student protestors took to the streets of Santiago last year, Felipe Heusser watched as the press covered the darkest side of that movement, seeming to ignore the kiss-ins and superhero costumes.

To give his fellow Chileans an unfiltered view, Heusser attached an iPhone to a balloon and sent it high above the streets, transmitting live video. Within an hour that feed had attracted 10,000 viewers, he said. “What’s even greater is we saw the mainstream media begin to embed the content we created in their own websites,” he said.

This serendipitous act of balloon journalism, along with many others, inspired the idea for Peepol.TV, a newly minted Knight News Challenge winner. Heusser will get $360,000 to build a social network for live citizen video, what one external reviewer described as “a channel guide for the entire Internet” — tagged, mapped, and searchable. Heusser’s co-founder is developer Jeff Warren, whose Public Laboratory has pioneered balloon and kite mapping. Independent designer Chris Rogers is also joining the project.

The team plans to build a smartphone app that ties in to the Peepol.TV network. Warren said they want to consider all the needs of a typical user; for example, if you’re an Occupy Wall Street protestor, you’ll want to be able to download an archive of the video if a cop seizes your device. You’ll want an app that launches fast and sips on battery juice for reliability in the field.

“An open-source, nonprofit-backed project, as opposed to a company doing this for profit exclusively — we’re thinking about these use cases that aren’t necessarily the No. 1 business decision,” Warren said.

Peepol.TV mockup

After Heusser’s balloon idea first took off, so to speak, public interest waned. The aerial pictures were pretty but not very informational, “basically a bunch of dots of people several meters below,” Heusser said. So he and his colleagues at Ciudadano Inteligente, a Chilean NGO he founded, started working the ground, interviewing protestors on camera while simultaneously managing the bunches of balloons overhead. Heusser — like nearly all of this year’s Knight News Challenge winners — is not a journalist by training, but he had developed a sophisticated little newsgathering operation on the fly.

“We’ve been talking about it like an anchorperson,” Warren said. “There’s people out in the field shooting film, and then there’s an anchor person weaving together a story and presenting it to an audience, switching between videos.” The Peepol.TV team wants to write software that can let anchors create television-style broadcasts. They want to add Instagram-style filters to the video and music via SoundCloud’s APIs.

Heusser sees Peepol.TV being used in sporting events, concerts, traffic, or any place where lots of people are gathered for a common purpose. He wants to “democratize access to live content,” making it easy for someone to find out what’s happening nearby or to start shooting on a moment’s notice when news breaks. The problem with video streaming today, the reason so few people do it, he said, is “they don’t have the certainty that someone will see it.” People tweet, he said, because they know people will read that tweet. That’s why he thinks it’s important that Peepol.TV has social features like profiles, followers, and notifications. People need to know they have an audience.

It’s an ambitious undertaking that will be challenged, in part, by the limitations and variations of consumer hardware. Heusser said he would like to launch a product in a year. An early prototype of the software is live now, but there isn’t much to look at yet.

POSTED     June 20, 2012, 3:30 p.m.
SEE MORE ON Reporting & Production
SHARE THIS STORY
   
Show comments  
Show tags
 
Join the 15,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
Open-mic journalism: How The Arizona Republic found success with storytelling events
The four-year-old program has helped boost the newspaper’s events business and helped strengthen relationships with the community through nights of storytelling.
Newsonomics: Buying Yelp — and making it the next core of the local news and information business
The pricetag would be high, but it might be worth it to reassemble one part of the old newspaper bundle — tying together local news and local services.
Crossing the streams: Why competing publications are deciding to team up on podcasts
Low financial risk and a desire for word-of-mouth sharing have led news sites to collaborate, sharing audience and infrastructure.
What to read next
953
tweets
The State of the News Media 2015: Newspapers ↓, smartphones ↑
The annual omnibus report from Pew outlines a story of continued trends more than radical change.
561The Upshot uses geolocation to push readers deeper into data
The New York Times story changes its text depending on where you’re reading it: “It’s a fine line between a smarter default and being creepy.”
422Knight Foundation invests $1 million in creator-driven podcast collective Radiotopia
The money will help PRX’s collective of public media-minded shows develop sustainable business models and expand with new shows and producers.
These stories are our most popular on Twitter over the past 30 days.
See all our most recent pieces ➚
Encyclo is our encyclopedia of the future of news, chronicling the key players in journalism’s evolution.
Here are a few of the entries you’ll find in Encyclo.   Get the full Encyclo ➚
The Christian Science Monitor
Drudge Report
Texas Tribune
National Journal
Demand Media
Lens
Flipboard
Spot.Us
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Corporation for Public Broadcasting
The New York Times
Amazon