Everyone is weighing in on whats wrong with the publishing business model. Several potential solutions are being proposed, but all of them require a significant cutting of content-creation costs – especially investigative journalism. And yet everyone values the journalistic fact-checking and dirt-digging that keeps business leaders, organisations and government in check.
So, why not try to solve the problem with the Web 2.0 principle of crowdsourcing… Well that’s what David Cohen at Spot.us and Global For Me are hoping. Spot.us is a non-profit organisation, which seems to be the best model for this type of venture. Global For Me on the other hand, is a subsidiary of Global Radio News, which provides reporters for multi-national partners such as the BBC, CBS, Fox and Sky.
Basically it works by members of the public providing suggestions and tips for stories. When a journalist accepts a suggestion, he creates a pitch, which is then funded by those who are interested, in a piecemeal fashion. Once written, the story is published or sold to a mainstream media outlet.
I’m impressed that a traditional content company like GRN has launched this venture, and I will be watching it closely. Looking at Spot.us’s current news stories (although it is early days), it is going to be hard to get the public to part with their cash. As for whether it is the future of journalism, I doubt it, but it certainly might play a part. I can see it working particularly well for special-interest groups and campaigners, who can rally the support to fund stories which are in their interest.
There is an interesting precedent in the music industry for this concept. Sellaband has been running for several years on a similar model. Fans can put a small amount of money towards a band they like, and when that band has raised enough to record in a professional studio, they create and produce an album. Every fan-funder is sent a copy in return for their small investment. I’m not sure the “fan” behaviour transfers from music content to news stories, and music content has a longer appeal than most news stories. However, if a few important stories emerge from Global For Me, Spot.us and the like, then the volume of funders required to pay for a constant stream of crowdfunded news might well gather.