Rappler: Journalism with wisdom of crowds

Philippines' social news site Rappler
Philippines’ social news site Rappler

A veteran TV journalist Maria Ressa –former CNN’s bureau chief in Manila and Jakarta– launched a social news site called Rappler in the Philippines, her home country, last year.

Rappler, which comes from the root words “rap” (to talk) + “ripple” (to make waves) lies at the centre of three overlapping circles: professional journalism, technology and crowd-sourcing or ‘the wisdom of crowds’.

In order to capture readers’ mood and emotions, this site uses a unique mood meter. Of course, reader can leave a comment, too and encouraged to share it through social network.  “We also believe in the power of emotions. Studies show that up to 80% of the way people make decisions in their lives are determined by the way they feel,” she said.

This approach is inline with a survey that suggests the Philippines is the most emotional country and that’s why the Maria’s approach is make sense.

She answered my questions regarding her new gig through email:

Maria Ressa, CEO & Executive Editor, Rappler
Maria Ressa, CEO & Executive Editor, Rappler

Tell me when you left CNN and started this gig
I left CNN in 2005 and came home to head the Philippines’ largest television station’s news operations and platforms: TV, cable, radio  & Internet.  ABS-CBN kept me busy for 6 years.  Then I went to Singapore to write a book –which really gave me a lot of the ideas for Rappler.

Wrote 10 Days, 10 Years: From Bin Laden to Facebook after I joined International Centre for Political Violence & Terrorism Research.  I returned to Manila at the end of 2011 to start Rappler.  We went public January.

Why do you think users need Rappler?
I wanted to combine what we know as traditional journalism with new technology and the wisdom of crowds or crowd-sourcing.  This combination allows journalists to go beyond just telling the stories and help solve problems.  For example, now there’s a supertyphoon that just entered the Philippines.  We’re actually preparing folks on social media to help Filipinos deal with its impact and help get help to those who need it.

Any other similar site that inspired you?
I wanted a combination of the New York Times, Huffington Post and a television station!  With its own built-in focus-group discussions.

The Philippines is unique: in 2010, ComScore named it the social media capital of the world, and Filipinos upload and download the most number of video on YouTube globally.  So I thought why not move video from television to the Internet/mobile?

Rappler Mood Meter

Where is the content coming from?
We started with 12 people, and now we have more than 50.  We create our own content, aggregate and curate.  We do video programs – every weekday, we have #RapplerNewscast, which I anchor.  We also have weekly programs: #AskMargie, #TechRap and #BreakingGlass.

We have 9 multimedia reporters, meaning they shoot, edit and write their stories using all the techniques technology now offers.  They cover their obsessions, not beats – I think that means they develop expertise faster, and they’re unique in their workflows!

What’s most popular categories in Rappler now? Politic? Business? Entertainment?
Nation!  It’s been a news-packed 2012 for the Philippines.  Business, Sports & Life & Style also take their turns in having the top stories.  Just this week, a terrorism story we broke was number 1 – with nearly all Australian news sites linking to our video.

Who invest for this company?
All of our core group – to some degree: me, Raymund Miranda and his company, Dolphin Fire, Manny Ayala and his company Hatchd.

How big your company now?
More than 50 people by the end of 2012.


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