Paid for by the people: Crowdfunding journalism

From Flickr user Simon Cunningham
By Kara Tabor

Have you ever given money to a pledge drive or donated to public media? What about throwing a few bucks at a Kickstarter fund or an Indiegogo campaign for an investigative project or a podcast?

Funding journalism has become a challenge as traditional advertising and business models have been disturbed by the transition to online. But with new platforms that are making it easier for audiences to give to the media they want, in some respects crowdfunding appears to be filling that gap.
This past Friday, the Public Radio Exchange network Radiotopia received $620,412 by the end of its month-long Kickstarter campaign--coming out to be 248 percent of the original $250,000 goal. What resulted is now the most-funded radio or podcast campaign the crowdfunding platform has seen yet.

Programs such as 99% Invisible, Radio Diaries and Love + Radio are included in the roster of shows meant to shake up traditional public media. The funds will be used to sustain the network's existing talent and offerings and for attracting more producers and hosts.

While platforms like Indiegogo and Kickstarter have become increasingly popular for funding media and not just apps or manufactured goods, they aren't the lone players in the journalism crowdfunding game.

Beacon, which was started by former Facebook managing editor Dan Fletcher in 2013, allows for readers connect directly to individual journalists whose work they can fund on a project-by-project basis.

Beyond funding individuals covering issues a wide swath of issues, the startup has begun to see news outlets such as the Huffington Post and Newsweek use it its platform for funding specific projects. In August, the Huffington Post launched The Ferguson Fellowship campaign to support journalist Mariah Stewart in her reporting on the situation following the death of Michael Brown.
Earlier this month Newsweek announced that it is using the platform to raise money for an investigation into sexual assault on college campuses. In the announcement article, it states that the publication has an interest in finding funding models that increase transparency, such as crowdfunding.

As someone who is entering journalism at this time, I'm highly intrigued by the increase in power that users can have by paying through these new funding platforms. Even though they have yet to become established channels for supporting media and those who create it, I'd say there looks to be hope.

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