Red Herring is reporting that OhmyNews International, a citizen journalism site in South Korea, has received $11 million in funding from Toykyo-based Softbank.
I first learned of OhmyNews during the East Asia Journalists Forum in November 2004. There CEO Yeon Ho Oh and I were on new media panel together and spoke for bit after the session. OhmyNews was already setting the standard for citizen journalists, even paying them for stories and photos.
And it's having much better success than any citizen journalism attempts here in the U.S. Dan Gillmor, an early proponent of citizen journalism, says his site Bayosphere, is struggling due to lack of participation.
Is it because our online activity is less sophisticated? At least one person thinks so.
Anthony Lappé, executive editor of the Guerrilla News Network was quoted in the Red Herring piece saying, "the success of OhmyNews and the size of its investment speaks to the behavioral differences between Asia and the United States. ‘Asian participatory anything is just way ahead, whether it’s Japan or Korea,’ he said, emphasizing the involvement of young people. ‘The sense that I get here is it’s just so much more about MySpace and about hooking up.’ ”
I'm not so sure that Americans are less sophisticated, but I do think Koreans are years ahead of us and perhaps a bit more motivated to engage in citizen journalism. Their press is not so independent as it is in the U.S. Plus, South Korea is an incredibly technological society at all levels.