OffTheBus, The Huffington Post’s citizen journalism program for campaign coverage, hasn’t posted new content in almost a month. But the company says, though it may look like the wheels have popped off the bus, it’s just taking a pit stop. “It’s giving that brief breather before the rush begins,” says HuffPost Media Group’s chief of staff, Jimmy Soni.
The lull is an opportunity for the four-year-old initiative to work out a couple of new, mobile technologies. “We’re creating a set of tools that allow citizen journalists to send things to us directly, and speed up time between when they submit something and when we look at it editorially,” Soni said.
Some of the technological changes will involve new partnerships, especially around streaming video.
Web traffic to OffTheBus “is lower compared to a similar point in 2008,” says Rhoades Alderson, HuffPo’s director of communications. But “social and community contributions have exploded,” so it isn’t an “apples to apples comparison,” says Alderson. Soni says traffic was “not a determining factor at all” in the decision to implement new technology.
The project’s early years were described by Amanda Michel for CJR in 2009, but much has changed in the media landscape since then. OffTheBus began in “a world of first generation iPhones and BlackBerry proliferation,” Soni says. Now, OffTheBus’s citizen journalism techniques are “a baked in part of the HuffPost DNA.”