The need for a niche

There’s something genuinely touching about Michael Rosemblum’s testimony to Ken Krushel. Together they devised CitizeNews, and launched it last summer:

Then we went out to try and raise money for it. It was not easy. We were late. After Youtube and just as newspapers were starting to migrate into video. We talked to everyone in Silicon Valley. (If you’d only been here six months ago, we would have funded it).

A familiar story. So, left with a good idea and no funding, what to do?

…Ken never gave up on the idea of a new kind of video online journalism. He begged, borrowed, cajoled for content. He worked selflessly for free. He continues to do so to this day. It’s more than a labor of love. It’s driven by a deep belief on his part that television journalism can be much much better than it is; that there is enormous potential here that we are just beginning to tap into. It’s more than a business decision. It comes from someplace deep inside and an intense dedication to making the world a better, more interesting and better informed place.

But here’s the thing, or at least one of them. For Citizen News to work, it has to become both a natural destination for quality video contributions and a valuable destination for an audience looking for alternative news (from what I’ve seen, little or none of the content here would be of interest to a broadcaster so commercial syndication seems unlikely).
However, like most citizen journalism sites, its remit is far too wide. What connects Olympic protests in San Francisco with a driving on ice course in Colorado, or a circumcision clinic in the Netherlands with Romanian troops in Afghanistan? Nothing, other than all being published videos on CitizeNews this April.
Without a strong identity – ‘come here for Content X, because that’s where we excel’ – it’s hard to see why anybody would visit twice. It’s equally hard to see why anybody would contribute when they could reach a far wider audience elsewhere.
To me, it feels like Citizen News needs a niche. That would give:
~ contributors of Content X a place to share it
~ viewers interested in Content X a place to find it
~ Citizen News the differentiator it needs to attract a loyal following.
As is stands…

Our mission is to aggregate the work of talented video journalists of great diversity and distinction whose work is characterized by a powerful individual vision.

Sounds good – but it’s essentially meaningless. As is this:

CitizeNews is building a community of credentialed video journalists whose work is memorable for the quality of storytelling. We realize there are dozens and dozens of video web sites competing for your work. We are striving to differentiate ourselves from this mass of miscellaneous video by offering unique craftsmanship, the result of your sincere and sustained journalism efforts.

To a potential contributor this just begs the question: ok, so what EXACTLY is it that you want from me?
My guess is that Citizen News waited to see what it would get before defining the parameters of what it wanted. I’d argue that this is the wrong way around. The site needs to define its content requirement first – the narrower, the better, imho – and then issue a crystal-clear call to action.
Who knows, it could just end up aggregating and delivering the best possible Content X available anywhere.