Interview with Kevin Davis (Rawporter)
Rawporter is helping anyone earn from being in the right place at the right time.
Rawporter was founded by Rob Gaige, Michael Robinson and Kevin Davis. I interviewed Kevin Davis to find out more. This interview is the seventy fifth in a series of DW interviews. Big thank you to Kevin for the interview!
How would you describe Rawporter in under 50 words?
Rawporter is an army of cameras on-location and on-demand. If a media outlet, local blogger, or production house needs videos or photos, they can send an assignment to our worldwide army of Rawporters telling them how much they’ll pay for the footage.
What made you decide to start working on Rawporter?
We’ve experienced it ourselves. While at happy hour, we saw a car crash into the restaurant next door. The police shut down the street, and the only ones there to capture the event were everyday people like us. We used our iPhones to record the event, but had no way to get it to the media. We figured there had to be a better way to connect everyday people with media outlets.
What planning did you do before you started up?
We did a lot of research searching for companies that did this sort of thing, but didn’t find anyone we thought was approaching it the right way. It seemed like everyone wanted to compete with the media or create their own media company. We wanted to help the media. The business of journalism is REALLY hard, and we wanted to leave it to the professionals. We just wanted to make their job a little easier.
How did you come up with the name?
We see our footage as “raw” and unedited. It’s in-the-moment videos and photos of the actual event, which gives the audience a unique, 1st-person perspective. So, our users were reporting raw footage…Raw + reporter = Rawporter.
How much can people ‘in the right place at the right time’ earn?
It can vary widely, but typical assignments pay $5-$20. Of course if you capture the next “Miracle on the Hudson” moment, you’ll earn a lot more.
What technologies have you used to build Rawporter?
Rawporter is built on a LAMP stack, with Ruby, jQuery and utilizing Amazon’s web services to store, push and index our user’s requests and submissions efficiently.
What was technically the most challenging part of developing Rawporter?
We’re attempting to make the process easy so that anyone can participate. That means we’re doing a lot of hard work behind the scenes to make the process intuitive as possible. The biggest challenge has been keeping up with, or staying ahead of, the changes that our social media partners like Facebook and Twitter make. We want our Rawporters to be able to continue sharing through social media so getting that functionality to work right, consistently, takes a lot of work.
How do you promote Rawporter?
We’re still in our very early beta, so right now, we haven’t done any marketing. We’ve recruited beta testers through social media and word of mouth. One person tries it, likes it, and then tells someone else. Because we’ve been so focused on the blogger community, we get a lot of attention from their fans, and that’s really helped our growth.
Who is the team at Rawporter?
Kevin’s our CEO and sales expert. He’s got a background in business development, product development, and journalism. Rob’s our marketing guy with time at AOL, J&J, Nestle, and Bank of America. And Michael’s our tech expert. He’s done a variety of startup projects and consulting in data compression, indexing, and design. We also have some very talented developers who’ve been going above and beyond to help us until we can scale.
How long did it take to put together Rawporter?
It took over a year to get our business plan and baseline beta technology in place. We launched our minimum viable product publicly in November to start collecting actual user feedback so we could begin fine-tuning as fast possible. We’ve learned a ton that we will apply to future iOS iterations and should be launching our 1st Android app very soon!
Do you have any new features in the pipeline?
Yes, our newest free iOS app is now available in iTunes. Besides correcting some of the bugs from our early Beta, it will add some great features like full assignment interactivity, the ability to record several videos in quick succession and upload later, and the ability to import files from your native camera.
Do you have any plans to develop the app for Android?
Yes! We’re almost ready to release an Android App…
Do you see citizen journalism as a growing phenomenon?
Absolutely, and what’s really exciting is that it’s starting to become more and more accepted by the mainstream media. The gap has always been verification. How can the media trust what they’re seeing? With Rawporter, we automatically time, date, and location stamp the videos and photos so you know they’re valid. Combine that with the explosive growth in blogging, and we’re starting to see that ANYONE can share his or her unique take on the world.
What do you wish you’d have known 5 years ago that you know now?
We never realized how vibrant and welcoming the entrepreneur community is. The support has been amazing, and had we known that, we would have made the leap much sooner.
Has Rawporter got the feedback and growth you expected during Beta?
The growth has been much faster than we anticipated. I think we really underestimated the passion for a product like this. The feedback was about what we expected. Other startups told us that if you aren’t embarrassed by your first launch then you didn’t do it right. Trust us, there are definitely some embarrassments out there! But the good thing is that the users have been sincerely trying to help us improve, and without that feedback, we wouldn’t have made the strides we have.
Where do you see Rawporter in 5 years time?
We want to be a go-to resource for bloggers and mainstream media alike. When people need video or photo content, we’d like people to turn to us first—both here and abroad.
Who would you say is your biggest competitor?
You can’t talk about citizen journalism without mentioning CNN’s iReport. They’ve done a brilliant job of getting people engaged in the news, which is wonderful. We’re just trying to democratize that process a bit, allowing anyone, anywhere to request the videos or photos they need.
What is the biggest hurdle you have faced or are still facing?
This is brand new technology, and these are pretty big files we’re moving. Having that work while still keeping the App lightweight and easy to use is always going to be a challenge. But it’s a fun one to tackle.
What advice would you give to startup founders?
Reach out to others. We’re always amazed at the number of people who want to see us succeed. And if you aren’t throwing yourself headfirst into social media—not to promote yourself, but really participate in the dialogue—then you’re missing out on the people most passionate about what you do.
What are you most excited about at the moment?
The iOS update is going to be huge for us. With that in place and the Android to follow soon after, we can really crank up the volume on our assignments.
Can you convince the reader to start using Rawporter in under 50 words?
Well the app is free and can help you earn money for the videos and photos you are already capturing and sharing with friends and family on Facebook and Twitter. Now you can even respond to assignments and put your smartphone to work today!
Finished reading? Check out Rawporter!