The media industry is "not as open" as Blasting News founder Andrea Manfredi would like it to be.
A former journalist writing for Italian media, Manfredi decided to set up a platform where people could start or grow their journalism career, or simply express themselves and get paid for it.
"Italy is not exactly the most meritocratic country in the world, but talking to people from all over the world I found out that actually [it] is a common problem," he said of the industry's penchant for hiring from within.
"It's very important to be very well connected if you want to have a great career in journalism which is something that I believe is not correct."
Blasting News launched in Italy in 2013, and started opening up the platform to other countries last year. It's now read by 14 million people worldwide, according to the latest internal figures on unique monthly users.
Anyone can submit stories to Blasting News, but there are strict filters in place to ensure the quality of the submissions.
The 'social journalism' platform uses a combination of algorithms and a human touch to decide which articles get published.
The first check is performed algorithmically, screening for plagiarism and using semantic grammar checks to make sure the copy has a logical structure.
Each story approved at this stage is then passed on to an editor, called a 'senior blaster', who reads the copy and makes the final call.
There is also a third step to determine the quality of the story once it has already been published: metrics.
Screenshot from Blasting News
Blasting News measures engagement for every single story, and if most people click on an article but don't spend much time on the page, the piece will then be unpublished as Manfredi doesn't want to encourage clickbait.
If analytics show a mix of behaviours, the story will remain on the site but it will be removed from any related recommendations sections.
"The idea is that if you mix human professionals and technology you can make sure to have great quality content without using the traditional business model," he said.
Each writer, or 'blaster', is paid up to 150 euros for a story, and this fee can change depending on engagement figures, the site's measure of success.
Manfredi told Journalism.co.uk he wants the platform to become a home for professional journalists and provide a sustainable income. As the site's advertising revenue grows, he said he's getting closer to achieving this goal.
Its growth since launch means Manfredi has been able to add a new category of users: the 'certified blasters'.
Certified blasters are professional journalists with a "minimum payment which is much higher" than uncertified writers, who are tasked with reporting original news stories that haven't been published anywhere else.Our product in the end is news, the same thing that has been done for centuries. The way we are innovating is to do things differentlyAndrea Manfredi, Blasting News
He added that all new site openings in different countries are now done by certified blasters.
Each country-specific site also has a community manager based at the organisation's office in Switzerland.
Blasting News is not the only platform working with open journalism as a business model.
The News Hub is also set up to take submissions from writers, publishing stories in categories from politics to sport, and each section also has its own community managers.
But unlike Blasting News, the News Hub only pays the most successful of its writers.
Blasting News is more about innovating the "process" of journalism rather than the product, Manfredi told Journalism.co.uk.
"Our product in the end is news, it's information. This is the same thing that has been done for centuries. The way we are innovating is to do things differently," he said.
Update: This piece has been updated to clarify the payment Blasting News writers receive, which can vary depending on the quality of the piece submitted.
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