Imooty.eu, launched in August 2007, is a compendium of news stories from across Europe. By clicking on a map, readers can look at a particular country’s major and minor papers and blogs in English and local languages. Readers can also navigate by topics such as politics, science, or business, or search for a particular term across all European papers. So far, the growing list of countries covered by Imooty includes Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the U.K.
OJR spoke with Imooty co-founder Kristoffer J. Lassen via e-mail and phone to learn more. Below is an edited transcript.
OJR: What is the origin of the name “Imooty”?
Lassen: ”Imooty” is a phonetically invented term. Because the platform communicates across various European cultures, it was important to find a name that would have a neutral meaning in the various languages and secondly, to find a word that in the future could become synonymous with a common European media landscape.
OJR: Who’s behind the site and how long has it been around?
Lassen: Imooty has two founders: Blaise Bourgeois and myself, Kristoffer J. Lassen. Blaise is in charge of the design and technology infrastructure whereas I handle business and marketing matters. We’re based in Berlin.
We have focused on compiling the most important European information sources. To date we have about 400 newspapers and 600-700 blogs with more to come. The full version of Imooty’s Beta test has been online since mid-August of this year, and during this time it had about 8.000 page views.
OJR: How do Europeans generally get their news?
Lassen: The general access point is regional news. First of all, you look at the papers from the country that you’re in. There’s definitely sense of an emerging media landscape, though.
OJR: What is the market need that Imooty is trying to meet?
Lassen: The creation of the portal was based on a simple observation: As the European Union continues its development, more people migrate to and follow news and current events in different languages from nearby countries.
So far, the integration of European politics and business is not mirrored in the media landscape. The traditional mass media is shaped by national and regional agendas that also tend to report on European issues from this point of view. Apart from a few niche broadcasters and special interest publications, a general European news profile is hard to find. The Imooty platform will play an important part in satisfying the emerging demand for a common European media universe.
OJR: Do you solely pull in publicly available RSS feeds, or do you enter into agreements with publications?
Lassen: The basic service of Imooty pulls from publicly available RSS headlines. However, Imooty is currently developing a premium service with access to the archives of every significant news organization in Europe.
OJR: By working with publications?
Lassen: Yes, we work with them individually on the executive level to find out if they are interested in giving a second value for their archived content. We’ve found that 60% (mostly small- to medium-sized publications) are very enthusiastic just by looking at the platform; 20% are not so excited at first but with persuasion become open to the idea; and 20% are just not excited. Some publications, especially the larger ones, already have archived content platforms, so they don’t want to cannibalize on their existing model. That’s definitely an issue because the value of Imooty is in being a one-stop shop. Hopefully we’ll be able to achieve that at some point.
We look to enter into partnerships with publications where we distribute the content for a price – the participating publication gets most of the distribution charge and we get a referral fee for redistributing it.
OJR: Who are Imooty’s competitors? How is Imooty unique?
Lassen: Google News, in addition to Web 2.0 portals such as Netvibes are the most important ones. They give users the possibility to create their own Internet “start page” with a variety of information such as weather updates, notifications when new email or social networking updates arrive, in addition to customized news feeds from selected publications. With respect to news, the portals assume that users want to customize their own media universe.
Imooty, however, assumes that certain users will look for an unfettered and clear overview of the entire European news landscape, partly because the portal was designed with a polarized media landscape in mind. The platform gives users the opportunity to find and access extreme positions on one topic, inviting media literacy to take place.
Most existing pan-European platforms have a topical focus, such as European politics. They are not really aggregated services. We offer a side-by-side comparison between news sources on specific issues as well, but Imooty’s emphasis on maintaining each news brand’s integrity and the sorting of information sources according to specific news categories and geographic origin also improves the users ability to preview of what type of perspective each piece of information comes with.
OJR: Who is your target audience? Is it aimed primarily at European readers, or readers around the world who are interested in European news?
Lassen: The portal was initially designed to provide EU ex-patriots with a quick and convenient access to the media landscape in their home countries as well as the news coverage in their current country of residence. However, under a separate tab users may access publications for each country that issue news in English making the portal relevant for anyone interested in European current events.
Imooty has already created a following among a number of well-known news and media bloggers and is featured by journalists’ news portals such as the European Journalism Centre and the Canadian Journalism Project. The platform is also being used by several EU government agencies and foreign embassies as well as by the journalism and communications department of Freie Universität Berlin, a major German university. Several multinational companies have also expressed interest in using the service as a modern press monitoring tool and individual executives are already using Imooty in their day to day information gathering by relying on MyImooty as a source under their “Favourites” list at work.
OJR: How did you decide which blogs to feature? As an independent blogger, how can you get indexed and linked on Imooty?
Lassen: Right now blogs are added following editorial review, and suggestions for additional blogs may be submitted through the suggestion form. In the next few months, bloggers – as well as news organizations – will be able to add themselves.
OJR: So you’re opening up the platform. Will you approve blogs before they’re added?
Lassen: That’s where it’s heading. Of course we want to have some control over it – it won’t be a haven for opinions. But it’s definitely doable. We’ll have some sort of computerized safeguard.
In the long run, we’re looking to integrate different news stories and commentary. First, we’ll open access to bloggers and news organizations and eventually we’ll have a discussion forum around the different news topics.
OJR: Imooty currently provides more coverage of Western European countries than Eastern European. Could you comment on these geographic restrictions?
Lassen: The task of creating Imooty was totally overwhelming, and we simply had set down some limitations in order to get started. Determining the relevant sources and conducting initial correspondence with editors and business executives is not easy if you don’t know the language of a particular region. Accordingly, we decided to focus on the countries within the language capabilities of our existing team members. Another issue is the RSS technology that we base Imooty upon – it seems the eastern parts of Europe are not as advanced when it comes to publishing with RSS.
OJR: What countries are you working on now? Do you plan to leverage readers’ expertise in future developments?
Lassen: Right now we’re working on Poland. Hopefully the Baltic states after. When the platform opens up, we’ll be able to let the readers drive some of the development.
OJR: What’s in the future for Imooty?
Lassen: First, expand the basic service to include the entire European media landscape. Secondly, improve the platform with certain technological updates. Third, finalize the premium service and finally, secure sufficient outside investment to accomplish all of the above.
OJR: Does anyone at Imooty have a journalism background? What do sites like Imooty mean in the context of the changing nature of journalism?
Lassen: I am a correspondent for a Norwegian photography magazine here in Berlin and our publicist Tania Peitzker, from EU Public Relations, has written analytical reports and articles as a special correspondent for The Times Higher Education Supplement in London and The Wall Street Journal Europe in Brussels and Berlin.
Imooty represents the Web 2.0 answer to an ongoing dilemma facing newspapers around the world. Readers now demand concise information that directly addresses their personal “need to know” requirements in an age when people are swamped by news sources – gathered for both work and private purposes. For journalists, this means more pressure to write incisive, engaging material that satisfies the higher expectations of media consumers.
Imooty assists journalists and their employers to maintain their profile in the “surplus information” age. Quality journalism will be recognized as such because it can now be compared and contrasted to other news producers.
Imooty is also in the process of setting up a commercial sales system that will ensure well-written articles stay in demand and remain accessible. We’ll be getting users to pay for valuable research and writing produced by journalists via their unique online news platform that consistently provides optimal search results on specific news topics.