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Founders Of News Review Site Plan To Accelerate Shift In Media From Clicks To Credibility

Editor’s Note

Shadowproof plans to participate in Credder’s Partner Program when it launches later this year. 

The ability to critically evaluate news content is an important skill, but up until now, building this muscle has been an isolating experience. A new platform called Credder seeks to create a community and develop a collective memory around journalists and media outlets that will empower news consumers.

Chase Palmieri, co-founder of Credder, said, “Back in 2016, we saw the amount of clickbait and sensationalism in online news growing as a percentage of news coverage, and we were looking at the solutions being proposed. And a lot of the times it was Google and Facebook will censor stories on our behalf or an AI for news will come and save the day.”

Palmieri, along with Jared Fesler and Austin Walter, examined other industries struggling with what they call the “producer-consumer alignment.” They determined a review platform for news would be one way to hold the news industry accountable and help consumers “find the best sources and articles on any topic.” Importantly, it would not require any censorship at all

Credder was in private beta development for the last months, and it already has 900 users and 300 journalists signed up on the platform. It opens to the public on May 27.

The way it works is a news consumer reviews an individual article. When that article has a certain number of reviews, Credder generates a rating. That rating is eventually attributed to an author’s score and the media outlet’s score.

Users see an author’s score that is an aggregate of all of the author’s article scores. They also see a media outlet’s score that is an aggregate of scores for articles published on that particular outlet.

The founders of Credder contend the public currently has “no sense of the reputation” for independent outlets or even solo bloggers, who can write a story and hit publish. They believe the platform may hugely benefit independent or alternative media organizations, who have struggled to develop online reputations.

“Before Yelp, people would go to breakfast at Denny’s or IHOP or McDonald’s because they knew what they were going to get,” Palmieri recalled. “The brand that they knew was a proxy for reputation. So, for better or worse, you knew what you were going to get when you went to IHOP. But when we had customers leaving reviews and were able to generate these online reputations for mom and pop restaurants and smaller independent restaurants, what it did is it de-risked restaurant goers’ ability or desire to go try that small breakfast place.”

Brand no longer matters as much as customer feedback, and Credder founders hope their platform will “unlock the ability for traffic to flow” into lesser known and smaller, more independent sites after the platform de-risks their reputations.

Fesler, Palmieri, and Walter all attended California State University in Chico, California. They were news junkies, and they searched for a platform that would allow them to track the credibility of sources over time. They realized no platform existed for the kind of tracking desired, and they uprooted their lives, moved in with each other, and spent the past two years developing Credder while working full-time jobs.

Over Facebook Messenger, Fesler shared, they shared content regularly, but they all felt it was difficult to find new news sources that were worth trusting because there was no way to tell if they were credible. “I took that as a sign and that there wasn’t a solution to this problem that we should push forward with trying to make a positive change in this industry.”

Most independent or alternative outlets typically find there is a value to publishing criticism of establishment or legacy media outlets. Fesler acknowledged this helps the outlets distinguish themselves from outlets with well-developed brands. “But then you also have to create with your own content your own brand.”

Credder has the potential to help freelance or individual journalists become less dependent on the reputation of outlets.

As Palmieri described, Credder will “have these public facing ratings pages for individual authors so they actually don’t necessarily need the brand that they write for, and they’re not writing articles and building trust for the brand and not capturing any of [that trust] for themselves.”

The plan for Credder additionally includes a Partner Program that will allow authors and outlets to form an “affiliate relationship.” This will launch as early as the end of July.

Fesler said the Partner Program will give publishers the ability to access “qualitative feedback” that they often lack. This will make it possible for publishers to improve the content that is produced. There will also be a tips feature that makes it possible for readers to leave a few dollars if they like a certain article without requiring them to become a member or subscriber.

Reviewers will consist of journalists and users, who are encouraged to verify their identity so they move up a “trust ladder.” Verifying one’s email address, phone number, and home address will be entirely optional, but it will help reviewers’ achieve higher weight for their article reviews on the platform.

Credder intends to build accountability into the review system by generating ratings for reviewers. No down votes will equal a 100 percent user rating. And if a user posts vitriolic or malicious reviews, ideally those reviews will be downvoted and affect the credibility of the reviewer. So, those referring to Credder for insights will typically see reviews from users who have the best reputations.

While several tools were deployed in the past couple of years to detect “fake news” or news websites which do not uphold certain journalistic standards, Palmieri argued these tools generally offer top-down approaches that will never resolve the problem.

“[They are] trying to build a solution that news consumers’ trust but without letting news consumers participate. That’s the fatal flaw,” according to Palmieri. “If you’re going to win over news consumers’ trust, they need to feel like they’re a part of the solution. They need to be able to participate with it. Otherwise, it’s just another outsourcing of our critical thinking skills, of our media literacy skills.”

Credder is all about accelerating a transition in the news industry from clicks to credibility and moving journalism away from ad-based revenue models, which have greatly hindered the work of individual authors and media outlets.

Shadowproof readers can access Credder early by visiting the website, requesting access, and using the promo code “TCNEWS.”

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."