Quality journalism is having a hard time surviving in the digital era. Now crowdfunding platform Uncoverage provides a way to enable the public to support investigative reporting.
The growth of the Internet and new information and communication technologies are compromising the future of quality journalism. A recentreport on journalism in the United States entitled ‘The State of the News Media 2013’, published by the Pew Research Centre, reveals that 30% of all working journalists have left the industry since 2000. Media channels, facing budget restrictions, are cutting down on the quantity and lowering the quality of the information they publish and are now increasingly opting to replace journalists with technology-based solutions. Forbes magazine, for example, now uses algorithms to produce content. Moreover, news channels are moving towards offering their services on the Internet, where they get paid according to the number of clicks, visits and ‘shares’ from their readers, which means that they need to provide information those customers wish to read. As a result, publishers who want to provide investigative news, which costs more to produce, have to find other means of sustainable funding than online advertising. Now Uncoverage, a new crowdfunding platform for journalists, has just launched its first funding campaign. As a result, some investigative topics might soon see the light of day, providing readers with basic information, revealing to the general public what really goes on in our society and denouncing abuses.
Giving readers access to fundamental information
Uncoverage is a platform designed to connect journalists who wish to produce news and information of public interest with people who would like to support this kind of work. Journalists with proven track records will be vetted into the platform. They will be able to upload on the site work they have already published and make a pitch for the budget they need to deliver a completed story, backed up with relevant content, such as videos and photographs. The investigative topics available for funding have not yet been finalized. They will be dealt with at regional, national, or international level in order to target a wide audience. Once a report has been filed, it will be available for everyone to read. However, ownership of the material will not pass to the platform. The primary aim of the Uncoverage funding solution is to support quality journalism and stories will remain the intellectual property of the journalist(s) who author them. The platform’s founders are also planning to establish partnerships with freelance journalists, a range of for-profit and not-for-profit companies and also with the nonpartisan, nonprofit investigative news organization the Center for Public Integrity. Unlike most crowdfunding platforms, Uncoverage has been designed to be used on a recurrent basis. It currently has a dozen participating journalists and has launched a financing campaign to cover startup costs on international crowdfunding site Indiegogo. The company’s funding goal is $55,000 and it hopes to be able to launch in the first quarter of 2014.
Crowdfunding a feasible way to support quality journalism?
Financing journalism via crowdfunding is actually not a new idea. Spot.us, a non-profit organization designed to bring citizens, journalists, and news publishers together in an online marketplace based on crowdsourcing and crowdfunding methods and principles, which was bought by American Public Media in 2011, was founded in 2008 to focus particularly on local projects. Beacon Reader, launched in September 2013 as a subscription service along the same lines as Netflix, gives users access to writers’ stories for $5 a month. The crowdfunding platform Kickstarter this year also lists a number of journalism crowdfunding projects in a dozen countries. Crowdfunding might well therefore prove an effective means of supporting the work of journalists. Last June for example, when Good magazine laid off most of its editorial team, the staff got together and launched a crowdfunding campaign to finance their own publication, entitled Tomorrow. In fact this approach to sponsoring journalism, in the spirit of the open culture of the Internet, seems to have met with a warm welcome. What Uncoverage is now specifically offering is a new way to finance a type of media content that up to now has not been covered in this way – i.e. committed investigative journalism.