Could crowdfunding save journalism?

Emily Woods / November 21, 2013 04:25 PM

With media organisations 'cutting costs', long-serving journalists taking voluntary redundancies and thousands of journalism graduates vying for jobs, there is a new solution to keep the dwindling media industry afloat.

Crowdfunding began in 2009 with the launch of Kickstarter, and today there are hundreds of replicants, with many targetting more speciific audiences.

News of media redundancies is becoming commonplace, but can online fund-sourcing save the industry?

Kickstarter put together “The Year in Journalism”, an interesting list of successful journalism campaigns that were been successfully crowdfunded in 2012.

Many of the projects go well over funding targets.

One of the most-funded journalism project to date is 99% Invisible, a radio show that tells unusual stories from the frontiers of architecture, urbanism, and design.

It reached 405% of its target funding with Kickstarter. 

Kickstarter2

Image Source: Kickstarter

Worldcrunch is a global news start up, which launched the Worldcrunch Impact campaign on Kickstarter and managed to raise over $16,000.

Garrett Goodmen is in charge of Business Development and Innovation at Worldcrunch and he posted his three tips crowdfunding tips in the Huffington Post.

  1. Choose a project that has a natural fit with existing communities
  2. Build pre-launch momentum with a teaser and archive material
  3. Define rewards that are authentic and meaningful

Mr Goodman wrote:

The liberty to experiment with minimal risk and minimal up-front costs is one of the most crucial benefits of crowdfunding for journalism," Mr Goodman wrote.

For Worldcrunch, it let us gauge whether there was a significant enough appetite for taking Worldcrunch in this new direction of global solutions journalism, and secured readers and resources before we had even produced a single piece of content.

Crowdfunding cuts out the 'middle man' to directly give the audience what they want and there are websites which cater specifically to crowdfunding reporters.

Vourno bypasses media organisations and asks the public to directly fund the journalism they are interested in.

The website says:

Vourno provides journalists with the tools to raise capital for the creation and production of quality, newsworthy content and gives the public the ability to directly fund, share, watch and rate those stories.

It calls itself as the "premier cowdfunding platform and independent news network for video journalism".

 Vourno

Image source: Vourno

But the crowdfunding model is facing its share of criticism, and ABC Radio National questioned its viability.

Some sites are asking you to directly fund their start-up and operations, others allow you to chip in for specific stories reporters are wanting to cover and one in the Netherlands even allows you to subscribe to specific journalists whose work you admire.

So is this the start of a new way of paying for media? And who will act as editor and tell the reporter the story is not good enough and they need to go back to the drawing board?

Evidently it will take a lot of campaigning and support for jounalists to be able to rely on being funded in this way.

The quality of work may not be scrutinised and edited as it would at a media organisation.

But crowdfunding is a platform to "kickstart" a journalist's career, to help them push boundaries, get noticed and explore unusual topics.

For a full breakdown of journalist-specific crowdfunding websites, head to Crowdfundit.

Sources: ABC Radio National, Crikey, Huffington Post.

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