I was intimated to iConflict from a post on the excellent unpegged blog (which by the way has some of the most compelling writing I have encountered on the challenges of independent journalism and new media adoption in the midst of violence).
iConflict promises much. Their Facebook group states:
Other unique features will exist as well, including: originally produced video newscasts that will be syndicated on itunes and youtube, online discussion and commentary on user submitted news stories, interactive data mashups on countries in conflict, applications on external social networking sites, and other innovations that will make iConflict the premiere destination for users seeking information on international conflicts.
the fanfaronade goes on to proclaim that the site will “act as a fulcrum for change by increasing global awareness on important issues“. Clearly, those behind the site talk the talk.
But where it all comes crumbling down is when you actually visit the site. For starters, it looks terrible. When you are now competing with the likes of traditional media who have sophisticated citizen journalism initiatives as well as other, well set up, respected and meaningful citizen journalism initiatives, setting up yourself in the manner that iConflict does needs serious follow through in every single aspect of the site to make it exceptionally good – from design to content.
On all counts, iConflict fails. Miserably.
The site design looks amateurish and is cluttered with ads that are larger than some of the content features. All the stories are just plain links to news wire sites – where’s the citizen journalism in that?! Ditto with the videos. The photos section does not seem to have any. There is an annoying woman who plugs the site on a video that serves no real purpose other than to drive users away. Clicking on the Hot Spots section and on Sri Lanka, which by all accounts is one of the world’s most bloody conflicts today, brings up a SINGLE story. Sudan fares a little better – it gets all of two stories.
And they expect us to take iConflict seriously? On its Facebook page, it’s said that:
iConflict is dedicated to empowering people to share information, and discuss conflicts and crises, wherever they arise.
Frankly, this seems to be a page out of some spiel for venture capital that bears no relation whatsoever to the site and the content therein.
Sadly, I have seen this before – sites that promise much but actually deliver little or nothing. Visitors come at first, attracted by the marketing spiel but areangered or disappointed at what they see and never return.
Soft launches, waiting until the content is ripe, viral marketing, letting the content promote itself, cross fertilisation of and integration with other CJ sites, true mashups (there is not a shred of evidence on iConflict of mashups of any kind) are all marketing strategies, amongst many others, that are far more sustainable and effective than the exceedingly vulgar hype that iConflict expects us to believe that is a far cry from reality.
If you’re doing something, to it right and do it well. Else, don’t do it at all. I’ll be visiting iConflict again in a few months time (if it exists) but for the moment, this site is worth visiting for one reason only.
It is a text book example of everything a serious Citizen Journalism site and initiative should not be.