WXXI Final Report: Harnessing the Power of User-Generated Content

The Yellr mobile app is being deployed in upstate New York to help harness the power of user-generated content for hyperlocal reporting.

After a little over a year of development, Yellr is now being used for public and community reporting in Rochester, New York, through WXXI Public Broadcasting and a number of community groups of prioritized users: young, urban, mobile minorities.

WXXI has developed yellr.net/local, and the app is currently available on the Google Playstore. The public radio station partnered on this project with the Rochester chapter of HacksHackers and the School of Communication at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

Yellr is a new citizen journalism mobile app designed to widen audience engagement, especially among younger, technologically-driven and under-represented community members.

The platform — in English and Spanish — enables broad participation from community members in sharing and posting news and other community related information and events. The project was seeded by an INNovation Fund grant funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and administered by the Institute for Nonprofit News.

Here’s how it works:

The Yellr mobile app enables people to upload free contributions or respond to assignments from news and community moderators. While people can still contribute anonymously, each post has a unique identifier that enables moderators to communicate with and verify information if required. Users are also encouraged to create their own user profile and establish a following in their area of interest.

A geo-fencing feature enables assignments and stories to be tailored specifically to different communities and regions. All contributions are captured in a moderation dashboard.

The difference between existing social media and the Yellr platform is this editorial firewall between the contributor and the audience. Nothing goes out until it’s assessed at this stage. Once stories have been moderated and edited, they can be posted to the Yellr storefront as well as published on other websites.

WXXI is actively seeking additional support for the next round of development that will focus primarily on delivery of the iOS version of the Yellr platform.

The INNovation grant is just the beginning for Yellr, as WXXI continues to work on:

  1. Outlining a seven to nine month timeline for work objectives and features.
  1. Developing several community case studies to demonstrate how the app is capturing  community oriented reporting and preparing to report back and share those examples.
  1. Recruiting another frontend developer to continue working on the project
  1. Contributing Yellr as a key tool in the long-running ‘Voice Of The Voter’ political empowerment initiative, a collaboration between WXXI Public Broadcasting and the Rochester Area Community Foundation.
  1. Discussing using a Yellr trial for a reporting project in Saudi Arabia.

During this year of development and testing, Yellr has also achieved some promotional benchmarks, including:

  • featured in the first presentation of the Rochester Institute for Technology Digital Journalism Incubator.
  • featured during one of the forums at Libre Planet 2015 held  March 21-22 at the Massachusetts Institute for Technology in Cambridge.
  • promoted through a sponsorship with the Public Radio News Directors (PRNDI) Conference in June in Salt Lake City.
  • invited to the Public Media Development and Marketing Conference (PMDMC) in July in Washington D.C., hosted by the Greater Public foundation.