Review: Instant Journalist

In the first of a series of reviews of journalism enterprise launches, Nicolas Kayser-Bril takes a look at
Instant Journalist.

instant JournalismNo image rotation. And that’s only one of the bugs.

  • What do they say it is? “Instant Journalist gives you the power to easily create and manage an online community of citizen journalists. If you have the desire to give people in your community a voice, whether you are an individual or a large corporation, Instant Journalist will fit your needs.” 
  • What do I say it is?A kind of sub-wordpress CMS, proprietary and full of bugs. (I counted three error messages and a lot more minor bugs in five minutes). Now, they say their admin mode is great but the demo version doesnt allow for us to test that.
  • What’s great about it?Not much. Every article has to be located on a Google map, that’s really good. On the other hand, the way it’s done here really is just 30 lines of code and doesn’t have any options (multilocation, eg, or a special way of presenting events that are recurrently at the same place, like town hall meeting)
  • What could be better?Now it looks just like any other 2.0ish project, it would need to look a whole lot more professional to be serious (hiring a graphic designer would be a start, as well as setting up a quality control process).
  • How is it going to make money?It’s not going to. Unless their admin mode is actually very easy to use, as they claim it is, and they market it very cleverly to community leaders with no sense of technology (there are a lot of those) and who have never heard of Ning (or disregard it as too trendy, not conservative enough).
  • Should I pay it any attention?Yes. Cause if this succeeds despite its inherent flaws, it means that internet awareness in general is very low (for a start, it would mean that users can’t do a search. I’ve just checked Community Server, which apparently powers real communities such as MySpace Forums and costs roughly the same as Instant Journalism.)

4 thoughts on “Review: Instant Journalist

  1. Scott Durham

    Thanks for reviewing our new product.

    We built Instant Journalist to make it easy for non-techies to launch their own news community where anyone can join up and participate in reporting on, filtering, and commenting on the news of the day.

    We’re different in many ways from existing blogging platforms. One key focus was to make it easy to manage a community where thousands of users are submitting content of varying quality. We accomplished this by adding a pervasive rating system that uses the wisdom of crowds to bring the best of the content to the top of the heap. And we supplement those automated algorithms with a variety of tools that are placed in-context to allow administrators to quickly promote the good content or moderate the bad. And you don’t have to mess with a separate administrative interface to do it – just right click anywhere you see content you want to take action on and choose the “Delete” or “Promote” option from the popup menu.

    We also wanted to make it easy for non-techies to customize the look of their site. In addition to a selection of themes to choose from, our content management system allows administrators to change the content of a page as they’re looking at it. See some text you don’t like? Just right click, choose the edit option, and you’ll see a small window pop up with the text you want to edit. Once again, you don’t have to go to a separate admin section to find the proper page and an edit it separately – just right click and do it in-context. Also, if you have an existing brand or custom design, we can work with you to re-skin the app to look exactly how you like it.

    Finally, we focused a lot of effort on making it easy for anyone to post a story with text, images, video, and documents. To achieve this we intentionally omitted features that could clutter that user experience. We’ve gotten feedback from power-users like Nicolas that they’d like more control of the formatting and appearance of their posts, so we’re actively working on adding additional tools that allow that. We’ll have a new release in the next couple of weeks that will allow users to opt-in to a more powerful posting interface.

    And one small correction to Nicolas’s review – we let anyone launch a for free on a trial basis – no credit card or other payment information is required. Just go to, choose a username and site name, and after a confirmation email you’ll be up and ready to go. This allows people to get a first-hand feeling for the tools we give to site owners.

    One of the many lessons we’ve learned in launching this product is to respect the global nature of the internet. While we were originally targeting customers in the U.S., many people around the world are very interested in bringing easy online journalism to their own communities. And many of those international users have been frustrated by our shortcomings for non-english speakers and geographies outside the U.S. For example, our mapping and neighborhood creation system currently gives a rude error message if you try to assign content to areas outside the U.S. However, we’re actively working on resolving those limitations and look forward to bringing the power of citizen journalism to the whole world.

    We really appreciate the feedback, and encourage anyone with additional thoughts, comments, or suggestions to contact us at

    Scott Durham
    President, Instivate

  2. nicolaskb


    Thanks for the comment.

    I’ve just tried the admin mode, but the same problems arise. Loooooots of bugs (the much-lauded right-click edit doesn’t work when you try to do it twice on the same item, for instance – better get it right the first time).

    More importantly, I really believe there is no plug-n-play CMS. If you’re going for the non-tech-savvy, you’ll have to do it a lot better and become simpler. Not MSWindows-simple, Google-simple. And that costs a lot.

    To build up on the right-click feature, the fact that it won’t *ever* work on the GMaps API will tarnish user experience.

    By the time the non-tech-savvy admin has learnt how to use your CMS and knows what’s a ‘CCSEdit Template’, she probably knows enough to run her own WordPress platform.

    Learning costs on the web are just too low and knowledge too widely distributed for a real market for easy-to-use, DIY CMSs to emerge.

    Best wishes, though!

  3. Pingback: Review: iNorden « Online Journalism Blog

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