Visual news agency Verifeye Media launched a free camera app on Tuesday (8 March) to enable freelance journalists and accidental eyewitnesses to earn extra revenue.
Videos and photos shot through the app are verified at the point of creation, explained co-founder John D McHugh.
The app, called Verifeye Media Pro Camera, geolocates each submission to the newswire, and every contributor's identity is checked by the team, although they remain anonymous to buyers.
Verifeye Media licenses 'stories', sets of videos or collections of still images, to news organisations at a fixed cost of £200 per story – 50 per cent of which goes to the eyewitness or freelancer who created the content, a payment that gets processed within seven days.
"As soon as something goes on our newswire, we've already got the rights to distribute it, we've already got the rights to license it, we already know who's created it," said McHugh.
The entire process is automated, generating both a receipt for the media outlet who bought the footage and also a record for the contributor's sales report to alert them of the transaction.
Not everyone who downloads Verifeye Media Pro Camera and wants to use it to film on their smartphone needs to submit their content to the agency, he explained, but those who are interested can sign up through the website.
Image from Verifeye Media.
"As mobile journalism is embraced more by the whole news industry, people are going to want tools that work for them," said McHugh.
With the app, he does not aim to compete with Filmic Pro, a mobile journalism (mojo) staple mostly developed with filmmakers in mind. "Our app is built for mojo, and our agency is built for mojo," he explained.
The app also features an 'auto-upload' option, enabling users to file stories in situations they might otherwise find difficult to navigate.
"It's particularly advantageous if you think you're about to be arrested or you get kettled in a protest and cameras get taken off people.
"I've been arrested in more countries than I can count and it's amazing how quickly my cameras have been taken away from me and you know somebody is going through them.
"With auto-upload you can be filming something and if you're detained you know you've still got this out, even if your camera gets taken away from you or smashed in front of you. Or if your phone gets stolen, at least your story is still out."
The app has been in beta for about a year prior to its release, and while the newswire still remains in beta, it has racked up a number of clients already, mostly digital native media companies such as Mashable or BuzzFeed but also The Guardian and The Telegraph.
The majority of its current users are freelancers or photographers who already cover a particular story and want to embrace video as a new revenue stream, but McHugh also works with those who "live in a story".
"We've had some refugees in Calais set up accounts with us and film.
"[But] we categorically don't ask people to go and do things because I understand the dangers of that," added McHugh, a veteran war photographer.
While Verifeye Media does not commission freelancers at this stage, he believes the team still has a moral responsibility to support and protect its contributors.
"I do know what it's like out there, and I know how easy it is to lose your perspective, to push just a little bit harder.
"So while I don't have the right to tell someone not to go there, I most certainly do have the right to say 'we're not putting your stuff out' if I think someone's being an idiot."
Verifeye operates a traffic-light system to mark users who appear to be placing themselves in dangerous situations.
"It's about harnessing all of the experience I have in the field, bringing it into our business process, and saying 'this is a better way to do things,'" he added.