Free European Tool Enables Independent Journalists from Yemen to Brazil

European Journalism Centre

“Gee, wouldn’t it be nice if small media organisations had access to the same tools as the big boys?”

With that inspiration, Newscoop was born. A content management system, or CMS, that tries to take into consideration the uniqueness of a newsroom, it wants to make web publishing easy and cost-effective. Newscoop is also open source, meaning anyone can download the code and adjust it to fit their needs.

The team at Sourcefabric, the company that designed the system, says it believes Newscoop can not only increase the efficiency of the newsroom but also boost the value of the content and open the publication up to new subscriber and advertising revenue streams.

Designed with Newsrooms in Mind

Douglas Arellanes, director of clients and services at Sourcefabric, believes 13-year-old Newscoop is still relevant today, even with the number of other free platforms now available, like WordPress, Joomla or Drupal.

“Newscoop has tools and functionality relevant to journalists and editors,” he said. “It allows news organisations to create powerful websites with features relevant to how news is made. It understands what a newsroom is and how content in a newsroom is organised.”

Features that Arellanes especially likes include the ability to make a webpage or news site look like your publication; a powerful scripting interface and a set of directives allow editors to prioritize selected information. Subscriber management, flexible publishing, multilinguality, geolocation tools and social media integration are all there as well.

“CMSs are often inflexible in their designs; you can make Newscoop look anyway you want,” he said. “Newscoop really mimics how newsrooms have worked for years – workflow, the way of doing things; it’s unique to a newsroom, so we took that fundamental tool and as a group made a much better tool.”

No IT Department? No Problem

Sourcefabric offers news organisations software to produce news online, on-air and in print. It is backed up with the expertise and support of over 30 technical officers, developers, system administrators and quality assurance engineers. It’s a non-profit organisation that grew out of the Media Development Loan Fund. Quality, independent journalism is one of the company’s core beliefs.

“All the stuff is free, if you have the technical skills you can download and install it yourself,” Arellanes said. “Alternatively, we offer Hosted Newscoop for small organizations that don’t have IT staff to take care of their website – it’s more affordable that hiring IT infrastructure.”

As Newscoop is open source, Sourcefabric doesn’t know exactly how many media organisations are using it, but already this year it has been downloaded more than 8,000 times.

In the Wild

The European Journalism Centre spoke with two organisations using Newscoop to get an idea of how it functions in the real world.

The Yemen Times is the most widely read English-language newspaper in the Republic of Yemen. It publishes content ranging from politics to society, as well as local, regional, and international news. The Times uses Newscoop to improve interdepartmental communication via the web and to improve the security and stability for their content platform, as well as archive photos. Nadia Al-Sakkaf, publisher and editor-in-chief of The Yemen Times, said his paper used to use a different CMS but ran into problems updating the website and maintaining the database.

“With Newscoop we can interlink stories and also have an automatic photo archive of the pictures,” she said. “Another great advantage is it allows the use of multi-publications in different languages and Newscoop allows us to have the upload be user-based and have the provisions controlled by the management.”

On the other side of the world, Brasil 247 is the first iPad journal in Brazil. It also has a website with more than 50 million page views per month, and articles that generate around 1,000 comments a day. Leonardo Attuch, journalist and publisher of Brasil 247, says his team fell in love with Newscoop at first glance.

“Remember that we are journalists,” he said. “Newscoop is especially easy to publish so you can have your own digital publication, without understanding too much about technology.”

At Brasil 247, Newscoop is the basis of their content in all platforms and they also use their hosting services.

The system emphasises features that media outlets need, and in keeping with Sourcefabric’s goal of promoting independent journalism in challenging media environments, ensures the program is available to all.

“Newscoop stacks up very comparably to commercial systems and we are able to do it for smaller, struggling media,” Arellanes says. “The newsroom is the same the world over, sometimes though, it can just be a more difficult place to work.”