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How a hyperlocal is calling on the community for crowdfunding with Pitch-in!

November 2nd, 2011 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Hyperlocal, Online Journalism

The Port Talbot Magnet, a hyperlocal launched by a group of journalists six months ago, has been asking the community to fund stories in an bid to make the site sustainable.

One of those behind the hyperlocal, Rachel Howells, told Journalism.co.uk:

Last month we launched Pitch-In! which was our call to the community, to let them know that we are here and that we want to collaborate with them and we want them to be a part of the news service.

Pitch-in! follows crowdfunding initiatives such as Spot.us, based in the US, in asking readers and interested parties to donate money.

The Port Talbot Magnet is asking the community to meet targets to “sponsor our football results service”, “help us buy public liability insurance”, “sponsor a court reporter for a day” or contribute to the development fund or offer general support.

Howells, one of the directors of the Port Talbot Magnet, explained:

These are just a taste of what we would like to achieve. We have a long list of goals, including reporting council meetings and news, police and emergency services news, increasing our coverage of business news, sport, arts, music, entertainment, charity groups and campaigns – things we don’t have the resources for at the moment. And we are looking for local people to tell us what they would like us to cover, as well as giving journalists the opportunity to pitch in with ideas for investigations or news that they think should be covered.

A month on from launching Pitch-in! as a “call to community” and Howells said it has had “some success”, appearing to have generated around £40 in donations.

It’s a little more than we would have had if we hadn’t asked.

The Port Talbot Magnet is the result of cutbacks in South Wales and the closure of the Trinity Mirror-published Port Talbot Guardian, which shut in 2009.

A group of journalists, the majority of whom were members of the Swansea branch of the National Union of Journalists, started discussing how to “do something proactive to keep ourselves in journalism”.

Howells herself is former editor of Big Issue Cymru, who was made redundant when her job moved to Glasgow.

We could see there were changes in the industry that were particularly affecting Wales and that were affecting journalism generally.

As they were setting themselves up as a cooperative the group toyed with various ideas, settling for a news site for Port Talbot to fill the “natural vacuum” left by the closure of the local paper.

When the Port Talbot Guardian closed we just thought; here is a group of people who need local news, we are a group of journalists who want to provide it, surely there must be a way of filling the gap and creating some employment for ourselves as well.

The journalists’ joint effort developed into a local news site for the town of 35,000. Eight professional journalists are on the board of the Port Talbot Magnet, plus there are 20 “interested parties”, including academics and PRs.

The site launched in April 2011, in the same month as the Passion, a three-day play starring Michael Sheen, was performed in the local area and the hyperlocal became a community partner for the National Theatre Wales. Howells said this provided traffic and a “great test and great showcase” for the site.

Attempts to get public funding had proved unsuccessful, prompting the group to last month turn to community funding and also set up a membership scheme.

We can’t run it just as volunteers for ever, we want it to grow and develop, but we recognise that we can’t do it by ourselves.

Howells is hoping the community will answer the call, to subsidise the money generated through advertising.

Along with her role as journalist and director of the news site, Howells is also studying a funded PhD at Cardiff University, looking at what happens to a town that loses its local paper, the implications for democracy, and looking at possible sustainable business models. For obvious reasons her research is focused on Port Talbot.

Asked about her findings so far she explained it was too early to provide results from her research.

What I can tell you is that there were all these awful predictions that the number of local newspaper titles would drop significantly and that up until 2015 we were going to lose a percentage of them. This hasn’t happened at all and the number of closures has been minimal.

But underneath the surface though, when you look at the number of staff that have gone, if you look at how newspapers have merged with each other, the pagination of newspapers, there is an encroaching poverty in the newsgathering, particularly in this area.

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MediaShift: What are the effects of crowdfunding journalism?

Over on MediaShift, PhD student Tanja Aitamurto shares the first of five posts detailing some of her research findings in ‘collective intelligence’ in journalism.

Platforms such as Spot.Us and Kickstarter have shown that crowdfunding can work as a financing mechanism for journalism. We will likely see more crowdfunded stories in the future, which means it’s important [to] study how crowdfunding impacts journalism and the role and work of a journalist.

She offers five observations “on how the crowdfunded process impacts journalism from the reporter’s and donor’s point of view”.

Full post at this link…

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Next Generation Journalist: crowdfund your journalism

May 21st, 2010 | 3 Comments | Posted by in Business, Online Journalism

This series of 10 moneymaking tips for journalists began on Adam Westbrook’s blog, but continues exclusively on Journalism.co.uk.

Adam’s e-book, Next Generation Journalist: 10 New Ways to Make Money in Journalism is on sale now.

10. crowdfund your journalism

Crowdfunding has made it into my book even though, on the face of it, it is hardly entrepreneurial. It is however a method only possible thanks to the internet; and as you’ll read in the e-book, a method which actually requires some of the toughest entrepreneurial spirit.

The idea of crowdsourcing news stories, opinion and media isn’t that new. But the notion of crowdsourcing money is only beginning to come to fruition. The real pioneers on this have been in cinema: last year the producers of Age of Stupid funded the entire project with donations from the public.

The internet has made it easier too. In particular we’re seeing new platforms from which to launch your crowdfunding project. Spot.Us is one of the first, and currently helps to fund projects with networks in Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles. More recently another startup – Kickstarter – has emerged working along similar lines.

Crowdfunding your journalism…

  • has so far proved successful in print, online and cinematic projects
  • is not easy and requires strong marketing skills
  • is only possible because of the internet

But be under no illusions: crowdfunding is not an easy ride.

“You have to tell people what’s in it for them” says multimedia journalist Annabel Symington, “people want to know what their money is going to do, and saying it’s going to fund a piece of quality journalism isn’t enough.”

Along with two partners Annabel has spent the last few months using Kickstarter to raise enough money to report on the Guarani Aquifier. As with almost all of the ideas suggested in Next Generation Journalist: 10 New Ways to Make Money in 2010, crowdfunding it’s about being more than a journalist:

“Through this project I’ve become a brand designer, a social media guru, a public speaker and an event organiser. You name it, I think I’ve done it,” says Annabel.

You can find out more about the Guarani Project here, and more about the ins and outs of crowdfunding in the ebook.

And that wraps up the 10 new ways to make money in journalism in 2010. If you’ve been inspired by any of them you can find out how to make them happen inside the ebook – on a discount price until 27 May.

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DigiDave: Redefining journalism, cit-j and ‘honest communication’

November 18th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Citizen journalism, Editors' pick, Journalism

David Cohn, founder of crowd-funded news site spot.us, discusses why it isn’t necessarily journalism and newspapers that we should be saving, but ‘honest communication’:

“Journalism as a word is loaded because of the ministry it invokes. The profession that, since Watergate, has laid claim to it. That ministry is now a diaspora. Much like after the Gutenberg revolution the ministry lost its authority in interpreting the bible. Martin Luther showed us how. In reaction many journalists cling even tighter to that word,” writes Cohn.

“What we need to preserve isn’t newspapers. I’d argue it isn’t even ‘journalism’ as we understand it. What we need to save is something else. Something more fundamental. The ability for communities to be informed with honest information and then to mobilize based on that information.”

Full post at this link…

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Jon Bernstein: Where now for accountability journalism?

Clay Shirky believes the demise of most newspapers to be inevitable, not a recessionary blip but a structural certainty. The long-term, digital future is bright but the short-to-medium term outlook is bleak for our news media.

Who, he asks, is going to pick up the mantle of accountability journalism? Shirky, New York University professor and one of the most insightful voices on digital media and its impact on news journalism, paints the following picture.

The newspaper is unsustainable for two broad reasons. First, as an advertising-supported business it has overcharged and under delivered.

This was all very well when it was the only show in town but once its recruitment business got monstered by Monster and its classifieds delisted in favour of Craigslist, the party was clearly coming to an end.

Secondly, he says, the newspaper always lacked coherence.

While people remain interested in expert editorial judgement and serendipity, they are not thirsting for the ‘single omnibus publication’. The future is content unbundled, often delivered by members of the audience disseminating links via social media.

And why is this bad news for anyone except the proprietor, the publishing magnate and the benefactor?

Because, says Shirky, it leaves a vacuum where once newspapers acted as a bulwark against the excesses of commercial and political classes. In place of accountability you have ‘casual, endemic, civic corruption’.

Shirky believes new models will eventually fill that vacuum but not soon enough to replace the old, decaying model.

And where will these new forms come from? Broadly through commercially viable alternatives to the newspaper; through organisations funded by donation, endowments or taxes; and through social production, aka the crowd.

It is the latter two where we are starting to see some interesting ideas emerge. And here are a few places – from either side of the Atlantic – you may want to look to see what the future of accountability journalism may look like:

Propublica:

An independent, non-profit newsroom, ProPublica boasts the ‘largest news staff in American journalism devoted solely to investigative reporting’. Thirty-two working journalists to be precise.

Supported entirely by philanthropy, it offers the fruit of its labour free of charge – and it either self-publishes or hands it over to large media outlets.

ProPublica also has a ‘distributed reporting’ unit, which aims to draw on the energies and expertise of the pro-am crowd. It’s headed up by Amanda Michel, formerly of Huffington Post’s OffTheBus.

Huff Po, meanwhile, has its own Investigative Fund while the Center for Investigative Reporting pre-dates ProPublica by a three decades.

Bureau of Investigative Journalism:

Coming soon, the UK’s Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ) gets to work in November and will open for business in 2010.

The model is production house, not publisher and, unlike ProPublica, it intends to sell stories into magazines and newspapers. It will be led by Iain Overton, formerly of More4 News (and an ex-colleague).

BIJ’s was created by the people at the Centre for Investigative Journalism and it will also draw on the recently launched Investigations Fund. It is able to get off the ground thanks to a £2m endowment from the David and Elaine Potter Foundation.

Spot.us:

Pioneers of ‘community funded reporting’, Spot.us has a very Web 2.0 business model.

Users of the site create news tips inspired by specific issues they are interested in that have yet to be reported. Spot.us journalists turn those tips into story pitches and small donations  (increments of $20) are sought before the investigation is undertaken. The finished piece is freely available to anyone, big or small, to republish.

Only if a news organisation wants the story on an exclusive basis must it pay, in this case at least 50 per cent of the cost of the investigation.

Help Me Investigate:

Brainchild of Paul Bradshaw, a senior lecturer in online journalism at Birmingham City University, this is another example social production.

Launched with an initial focus on Birmingham, Help Me Investigate describes itself as ‘a community of curious people, and a set of tools to help those people find each other, and get answers’.

Recently completed investigations have sought discover why a new bus company is allowed run a service on the same route and same number but at a higher price; which Birmingham streets are issued with the most parking tickets; and how much Birmingham council spends on PR.

Jon Bernstein is former multimedia editor of Channel 4 News. This is part of a series of regular columns for Journalism.co.uk. You can read his personal blog at this link.

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LA Times: Spot.Us expands to Los Angeles

Spot.us, the crowd-funded journalism venture that launched 10 months ago in San Francisco with funding from the Knight Foundation, has expanded to Southern California as its second market, the LA Times reported yesterday.

Full story at this link…

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David Cohn: Things learnt from 107 interviews

David Cohn, Spot.us founder, shares with us a list of interviews he’s done ‘either in person, over the phone or via email,’ from his time publishing content for BeatBlogging.org, Digidave.org, and NewsInnovation.com.

Full post at this link…

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TheStar.com: Alternative funding avenues for investigative journalism

February 3rd, 2009 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Editors' pick, Journalism

The Toronto Star’s John Honderich looks at five options for funding investigative stories in Canada. These are already relatively well-known examples among journalist/media commentators and bloggers, but Honderich’s post is an interesting read.

  • Government funded or subsidised journalism
  • Independent non-profit newsrooms, a la ProPublica.
  • Using private foundations, such as Philip Stern’s the Fund for Investigative Journalism
  • Participatory investigative journalism, e.g Spot.us
  • Journalism students working in tandem with investigative reporters

Full story at this link…

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Video of crowdsourced interview with Spot.us’ David Cohn

November 5th, 2008 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Online Journalism

Having been meaning to post this for a while, but here are the results of Alexandre Gamela‘s crowdsourced interview with David Cohn, founder of the community-funded news project Spot.us.

The questions were solicited through Gamela’s blog, where the videos below were originally posted (part one is here and part two is at this link).

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Spot.us celebrates first community funded news article

September 8th, 2008 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Journalism, Online Journalism

It’s all celebrations today. Spot.us is happy to announce its first community funded
news article,
written by Alexis Madrigal, ‘ Changing Locomotion in Midstream – The Full Report’.

As we’ve reported before, “Spot Us” is a project of the Center for Media Change, and funded by the Knight foundation. It uses ‘crowdfunding’ – where an individual or group takes control of news by sharing the cost – to commission freelance journalists.

The Spot.us team are also pleased that their next news examples are on the way to completion, and their their future homepage is very close to being finished.

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