A platform to empower journalists and give them the freedom to express themselves beyond the realm of censorship and dictation has been launched... Right here in Egypt. We speak to founder Mohamed Abdelmegeid to find out more about the venture designed to disrupt traditional media.
Power to the people, or rather to the journalists, a new social network promises. Often the struggles of a journalist are endless from poor funding, to censorship and the need to appease authority and of course one’s own publisher; so much gets in the way between journalist and reader. Jouture ambitiously aims to redeem the profession of journalism by giving the journalists the upper hand and “democratise stories and information surrounding current affairs by providing empowering tools and resources for journalists. We see censorship, politics, and the lack of robust monetising platform decimating the industry with no solution in the horizon. Jouture was born out of necessity for readers and journalists alike and there's no better time for disrupting the freedom of speech model,” tells us founder Mohamed Ali Abdelmegeid.
The website, which has offices in Egypt, the USA and Argentina, is also a means of communication, a network base where journalists may market their work, find funding and meet like-minded professionals. The venture has been in the works for nearly a year and a half now with the team focusing on giving journalists a boost that the more established, often more frivolous existing social networks just can't offer. “We expect journalists to use Jouture as a content creation tool, a marketing platform, and a payment gateway for their work. Still in our beta stage, we are still figuring out the monetisation model but our aim is that the journalist has 90% control; that is one of our leading value propositions,” continued Abdelmegeid.
The group already has journalists reaching out to them, as they roll our sign ups on a limited, by-request model, as they straighten out the kinks and optimise the website's utilities. Very well aware of the current and upcoming challenges, Abdelmegeid explains that “this venture has been a challenge. The company is based in Silicon Valley, our development team is based in Argentina, our growth team is based in Egypt, and our (soon-to-become) investors are based in the Middle East and Europe.” Though it's harder not being in one place, having a diverse team scattered over the world works to their benefit, with team members being able to bring variety to the table; “our team is quite varied in skills and backgrounds giving us the advantage, utilising best practices for Jouture.”
That being said, Jouture plans to be cutthroat with journalists deploying filter functions, ranking systems, and sentimental analysis for content choice, while the mapping capability is used to find where stories are coming from; especially useful when searching for news on particular events or locations. The website requires users to log in and offers videos, photos and articles with categories ranging from 'latest', 'breaking' and 'most trending'. The dynamism and cool design of the website make it easy to navigate, while writers can publish stories anonymously using the 'Incognito' - a God send to journalists working in sensitive and oppressive environment. Users can 'endorse' the articles of others, helping give validity and credibility to other journalists or publications. However, like traditional journalism, it's a double-edged sword: endorsing something can also impact your own credibility.
With a handful of journalists and publications testing the site, what has become abundantly clear in the startup's infant stages is its potential to connect publishers, journalists, photographers and reporters together, irrespective of their geographic locations. An effective method for collaboration across borders, we imagine it will also become a resource for recruiters to find specialised professionals, as well as a hub for journalists to seek freelance or one-off work. Acting as a database for contacts will surely become one of Jouture's main selling points, especially useful for international reporters looking for fixers and collaborators on the ground. The team behind the journalists' social network also hope that the site will become a place for discussion.
There's no denying that journalism in Egypt is hard, whether it is impossible act of acquiring permits or the constant battle with censorship. That being said, Egypt is not an anomaly; journalism is struggling in the most democratic of countries from problems of monetising online media, to finding outlets willing to publish controversial pieces. Jouture has picked up on all that and, as Abdelmeguid explains, the venture came out of a need for journalists to tell the truth and readers to trust them.
Check their website here.