Ebyline, a content management platform, connects freelancers and publishers to create quality content. Founded in 2009 by Bill Momary and Allen Narcisse, Ebyline’s software allows publishers to find freelancers, assign stories and deliver payments through one platform. Freelancers can pitch story ideas to publishers through the service, and the site includes a content marketplace for publishers to buy and distribute content.
Momary, CEO and co-founder of Ebyline, previously had roles with the Ventura County Star and the Los Angeles Times. He shared some of his thoughts with 10,000 Words on Ebyline, the future of content and changes in the media industry.
MZ: How do you view sponsored content (vs. journalism), and what role do you think it will have in the future?
BM: We view content less as an either/or and more as a spectrum that can be divided into four parts: big “J” journalism, high-quality information, sponsored content and marketing content. The differences between these are less about the subjective quality of what is produced and more about the source and the processes used to produce that content. ‘Big “J” journalism’ is a news piece completed by someone who understands the basic principles, ethics and guidelines of reporting. ‘High-quality information’ should also be defined by the source and, to a degree, the process used in collecting the data being reported on. The trained journalist is already armed with these skills and can produce high-quality information without changing how they operate—blogs, brands, associations, media companies or any custom publisher can fall under this.
Sponsored content starts to introduce a more flexible information-gathering style that doesn’t need to adhere to rigorous journalistic processes (although it still must appeal to an audience). As such, sponsored content can be produced by a broader set of contributors— think brands, blogs, or any custom publisher.
Marketing content is the most flexible with respect to who can produce it— think advertisers, brands or any publisher who wishes to promote a good or service.
It used to be journalism and advertising, a discrete set of content types that supported one another with audience and revenue. Today, thanks in part to search and the digital economy, it’s more of an analog distribution so the differences between journalism and content are disappearing, mostly for the better.
MZ: Is Ebyline focused more on one than the other?
BM: Ebyline’s DNA is descended from the traditional newsroom of hot type and cold coffee. Both of our founders have a deep understanding of the economics of a daily press run. But Ebyline’s mission from day one has been to help sustain the production of quality content, irrespective of whether it lives on newsprint, on air or online and regardless of who the publisher is.
Our position is that journalism quality is essential to all. Now that everyone is a publisher, every publisher needs a professional, proven approach to creating content and connecting with their audience. The blending of content and journalism means that audiences are ready to consume quality content from whatever source as long they have confidence in the processes used to produce it. What traditional media companies across the country are challenged with is the economic model associated with the news operations and not the demand for professionally produced journalism. For news media, incorporating freelancers into their newsroom operations means getting a better handle on costs, being more flexible with their resources and reporters and allocating those resources quickly and easily when an editor senses demand.
For custom publishers and brands, Ebyline is the first step to establishing a presence on the content spectrum and a scalable way to produce the most effective content for their segment. Ebyline tackles assigning, pitching and payments so publishers can focus on the production of quality content and not the administration of it.
More importantly, Ebyline gives both segments a very diverse selection of journalists—hard news reporters, certainly, but also experienced book reviewers, wine reviewers, architecture critics, travel writers, personal finance gurus, opinion columnists and illustrators. Enough to run a newsroom and then some.
Here are a couple of examples of how newspapers have used Ebyline to expand coverage using a freelancer model:
Sports editors at the Herald have used Ebyline freelancers to cover Miami pro and NCAA teams when they’re away from home or to fill out staff coverage for playoffs and other big events.
Editors have used Ebyline freelancers to start a new blog covering shale gas and tracking in Pennsylvania. Freelancers contribute one-off pieces of reporting as needed by the editor but also manage the blog on a rotating week-by-week basis, letting Calkins set a budget for the site far in advance.
MZ: Ebyline is a decentralized way of connecting editors and publishers with freelancers to cover the right topics. What are the implications of decentralization on traditional news outlets? Do you think the future of journalism will be more freelancer based?
BM: It appears that news organizations are more comfortable with decentralization in general. We are seeing an increase in freelancer dependency rates across the country, an area that is being looked at as part of the variable cost structure equation at media companies. Ebyline works with its enterprise customers on finding the right mix of freelancer, staff, and user-produced content and facilitates the management of those ratios in its virtual newsroom system.
The reason for this shift isn’t purely economic but is the direct result of the surplus of quality, trained journalists in the market. The same journalists once working as staffers in newsrooms across the country are now available for hire directly as freelancers. This is the real transformation of the media landscape and one that can be a win-win for both publishers and journalists.
If a company is forced to reduce its commitment to quality journalism as a result of economic hardship, then everyone loses. However, if the media company can keep it’s top staffers employed full time while diversifying and expanding its coverage based on reader demand at a fraction of the cost, the model tips toward sustainability. For journalists, Ebyline gives freelancers an opportunity to be discovered and connected with new editors outside of their network through a click of the mouse. That is something never seen in the industry and a transformative technology.
MZ: How does Ebyline differ from other similar services?
BM: Ebyline does not produce content nor interfere with the editorial process. We believe that the best software connects people rather than interrupting human interaction and creativity. This is why Ebyline’s virtual newsroom system is so flexible and widely adopted across the content spectrum. The idea is to make quality content production seamless with a turnkey platform.
Another key difference is Ebyline’s commitment to build its foundation on freelancers with journalism experience. We believe that the skills they develop on a beat or in a fast-paced newsroom environment are quickly transferable up and down the content spectrum, while the same can’t be said for other contributor types.
Ebyline’s solution brings ‘big “j” journalism’ to the masses and publishers are taking notice. All indicators point to a renewed emphasis on the importance of quality in online content. As a result, Ebyline’s ‘doubling down’ on journalism gives editors and publishers a competitive advantage in their respective industries.
Bill Momary is the CEO and Co-Founder of Ebyline. He was recently the Vice President of Advertising at the Ventura County Star where he managed the Interactive and Print divisions. His previous experience includes the Los Angeles Times, Cars.com, Tribune Interactive & Internet Tradeline.