I recently signed up for newsmodo.com, a website created to become a kind of agent to facilitate contracts between news organisations and freelancers. As a registered freelancer, I can post pitches for articles I’d like to work on using a carefully formulaic set of criteria on the newsmodo website. The ad goes up like a classified, and publications that subscribe can browse through a library of ideas, complete with a price, to see which ones they’d like to commission. Likewise, I receive a torrent of emails (up to five a day) full of specific ideas that the publications would like to commission. These have ranged anywhere between “We want to hear from you if you’re in Syria or Iraq” to “We want a story on a married couple who are also cousins (it helps if the couple is attractive)”. Actually, most briefs fall into the latter category, and you do get a bit sick of hearing about how some trash magazine wants a story about how lap band surgery saved someone’s life or “One Direction’s biggest Australian fan”.
In an age where the move online has eroded the profit margins of most big publications and therefore a lot of there jobs, forcing prospective journalists into the uncertain world of freelancing, Newsmodo is a great idea. It’s easy to see more start ups popping in to fill this apparent gap in the industry. The problem with Newsmodo, at least from a freelancer’s point of view, is that you don’t have a clue who is providing the briefs. As a result, you never quite know in what way to pitch to a brief, as the publication could be a trash gossip magazine or a respected analyst of foreign policy. For now though, it’s the only option and therefore a reasonable idea for freelancers stuck for ideas and wondering what kind of stories a publication might want.