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Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Will the Public Pay for Long, Detailed Stories?

Amid the Seattle Post-Intelligencer closing and the shocking talk of the Boston Globe being shuttered, I ran across an interesting approach to the public getting news: a pay-per-story kind of arrangement.

An article in Always On reports on Spot.Us, wherein (real, ordinary, joe public) people can make small donations to cover the expenses of producing a local news story. "Local" in this case being the San Francisco Bay area. The resulting investigative piece, researched and written by (real, trained, experienced) journalists, gets published on the Spot.Us site. The Center for Media Change put the project together in an attempt to fill a growing local news hole. One of the stories up for donations would focus on the deteriorating Oakland infrastructure (a troubling tale of policy and potholes, I guess).

Crowdfunding has been used for making movies and supporting indie bands, among other things.
(No, I had never heard the word "crowdfunding" before five minutes ago, although the examples and citations on the pbwiki show people have been doing this for years, including Obama in microfinancing his campaign.)

Another such experiment is under way in Minnesota, according to Media Shift, where a full-time journalist is funded to cover news in the community online. The Media Shift piece explains a lot more about how crowdfunding might function in journalism. Fascinating stuff. Seriously. I'd use an exclamation point here, but I'm not an ! kind of writer.

The Media Shift story has examples of how individuals have used crowdfunding. Writing about this reminds me that someone years ago in the Goucher MFA alum crowd hooked into an online "hub" where people could look through creative projects and decide what to donate to. She was working on a book. In return, the donors got various reports, depending on their level of support. Unfortunately, I don't know how the project turned out. I vaguely remember that a hub didn't have many writers involved, so I don't know if she attracted the kind of interest (and $) she needed. Obviously, whether this works has a lot to do with finding people interested in the story you want to tell.



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