A regional newspaper group is launching a new online platform for the public to send in photographs at the same time as making photographers redundant.
Archant Suffolk is currently consulting on the futures of 14 members of editorial staff following the decision to drop the Ipswich Star’s Saturday edition.
It is understood that the plan involves a reduction in the photographic staff from nine to six with the picture editor’s role one of those under threat.
Meanwhile the company has launched its new iwitness24 platform designed to allow readers to share pictures and videos with its newsrooms as well as with their own friends and followers.
Some readers will even receive cash prizes if they supply a scoop picture or contribute a certain amount of content.
Double-page spreads announcing the new feature were published in Monday’s editions of all four Archant dailies – the East Anglian Daily Times, Ipswich Star, Eastern Daily Press and Norwich Evening News.
The new platform, created in partnership with community news organisation Citizenside, also has iPhone and Android apps enabling people to send content instantly via smartphones as well as by uploading them to the site.
James Foster, editorial director of Archant Norfolk, who led the project, said it was about getting news and pictures they wouldn’t otherwise get.
Said James: “Whether it’s a picture from a community group activity or a fire, we know that by engaging with our audience and telling them how much we value their contributions we can add to the richness of the material that we produce.
“It’s not about replacing existing content but about adding to our huge mix of reader content – community news exists in every newspaper. This puts it into the digital age and tells our readers our serious we are about them.
“For example, our best reader picture of 2011 was of a burning bus. By the time our staff photographer got to the scene, the fire had been put out. Both pictures are great, but the flames made it so much more dramatic and unless we invent a time travel machine, we always risk missing those pictures.”
Community editor Chris Bishop also explained in a EDP article how he had used the platform to deliver instant video footage of a whale washed up on a Norfolk beach on Christmas Eve.
Wrote Chris: “I was testing out the new iwitness24 app, so I set off to see what I could capture in the way of pictures and video. There was a story to chase, but I also wanted to know how the technology would cope.
“The footage and pictures I uploaded with it attracted thousands of views over Christmas. One of the pictures made it into the EDP as well.”
As part of the launch a dedicated room for readers has been created in the company’s Norwich headquarters and an iwitness roadshow will tour towns to show people how it works.
The platform includes a social gaming element which means that reader’s contributions are measured and tracked and when they reach certain levels, different rewards are triggered such as a substantial cash commission on a scoop picture.