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CNN Signs Millionth “iReporter,” But One Advertiser

Published on January 26, 2012

CNN’s iReport, its citizen journalism news community, announced this week it had passed the 1 million mark for registered contributors. iReporters contribute stories on practically any topic, including entertainment, politics, technology and health. CNN does not vet or fact check the stories, but it offers some guidelines as to what makes a good iReport, and uses the iReports selectively in its other sections.

The reports run the gamut of silly—a mother and her barely-verbal toddler mourning the cancellation of “Chuck”—to raw, like on-the-ground footage of anti-government protests in University Square in Bucharest, Rumania. That iReport includes analysis and commentary by Rumanian iReporter “mindcrusher,” a graphic designer living in Bucharest. iReports give CNN a stronger reach, and at little cost: it does not pay its iReporters, some of whom (but not all) are amateurs. CNN had little coverage of January protests in Nigeria over fuel prices, but iReporters flooded CNN with photos, videos and on the ground reports submitted by users in Nigeria.As Lila King, participation director for CNN Digital told The Poynter Institute, “It made us say, ‘Gosh, you know we really need to be paying attention to this.’ ”

CNN iReport has numerous ad offerings, including main-page and in-story ads, in formats like long-form video banners and floating ads. What it does not appear to have is advertisers. A quick check of several dozen iReports reveals one advertiser, 3m, with a flash ad promoting its privacy screen protectors for mobile devices. CNN offers detailed demographics for advertisers on its main pages, but none whatsoever for its iReport section.

CNN iReport warns, ominously, that “In the case of extreme negative user feedback/interference the CNN iReport management team reserves the right to pull creative prior to campaign delivery. Advertiser would then have the right to make good impressions with other mutually acceptable inventory.”

However strong a platform for citizen journalism CNN iReport is—and it is uniquely strong and organized versus other platforms like YouTube—it has yet to organize or maximize its ad potential. Perhaps the perception is that low-cost journalism is also low value. CNN labels its iReports NOT VETTED BY CNN, but a spokesperson told Poynter that it does vet and fact check 8% of the more than 500 uploaded stories per day.