Articles about "Crowdfunding"


Mariah

Fresh from Ferguson Fellowship, Beacon eyes new projects

Earlier this year, The New York Times profiled Beacon, a crowdfunding platform for journalists. The writer wondered: With all the hand-wringing in the news industry about asking readers to pay for content, would they ever sponsor a journalist?

Now, just a few months later, that question has been answered. As of this week, Beacon readers have raised $41,074 in partnership with The Huffington Post for a reporter covering the ongoing story of Michael Brown’s shooting in Ferguson, Missouri. The recipient of the funding, Mariah Stewart, has been catapulted from her job as a bra fitter at a nearby mall — she’s since put in her two weeks notice — to the front lines of a national story.

The last few months have been big for Beacon, too. Stewart’s funding represents the first time the company has ever bankrolled an entire reporter’s annual salary. And as of last month, Beacon has paid out more than $500,000 to its network of journalists. August also saw the company reach 10,000 subscribers, individuals who pay for the work they read on Beacon.

The company has also expanded a bit. In July, the startup brought aboard Catherine Hollander, a former correspondent for the National Journal, to coordinate with its growing network of writers. In June, they hired Malcolm McDonald, formerly chief architect of financial services company Markit, to help handle Beacon’s technical side. And they’re looking to add three computer engineers to their ranks.

As the company grows, it’s partnering with news organizations for increasingly ambitious projects. This summer, the company worked with Tech Dirt to raise nearly $70,000 for the online news organization’s coverage of net neutrality. It’s also in the midst of two partnerships with non-profit news organizations. This week, The Texas Tribune joined with Beacon to raise funds for its Shale Life Project, which aims to examine the impact of the shale oil boom on Texas residents. On Monday, Beacon will debut a campaign with The Colorado Independent to fund a year’s worth of political cartooning from Pulitzer Prize winner Mike Keefe — just in time for the fall elections.

The initial conversations for both of these projects preceded the much-publicized campaign to fund a Ferguson reporter, said Dan Fletcher, Beacon’s co-founder, in a phone interview. But the campaign was a good proof-of-concept. Now, Beacon uses that example when building partnerships with other news organizations.

“It becomes very easy to go to other news organizations and say, ‘look, this works, The Huffington Post did it,’” Fletcher said.

Fletcher, who was formerly the managing editor at Facebook and social media director at Bloomberg, says the company’s biggest challenge for further expansion is making news organizations and other journalists aware of the company’s services.

Beacon got some of that publicity — not all of it positive — shortly after Stewart’s funding was announced in August. The Huffington Post partnership took flak from critics saying the news organization had the means to fund it without readers. Editors at HuffPost knew they’d be taking criticism when they announced the idea, Washington bureau chief Ryan Grim said in a phone interview.

“You know, we’re big kids,” he said. “We can certainly take a few lumps for something we believe in.”

The public criticism might have actually prompted a groundswell of support for the program, Grim said. Many of the donations came in small increments, but one journalism professor kicked in $5,000. And several Huffington Post staffers contributed without telling him.

Grim said he’s open to using Beacon to crowdfund projects in the future, but would likely restrict his pitches to local projects and specific topics that people can rally around.

Maintaining relationships with news organizations like The Huffington Post are key to Beacon’s success, said David Cohn, the chief content officer at Circa, in a phone interview. The biggest obstacle for Beacon — and any niche crowdfunding startup — is that relationships built around crowdfunding projects are temporary by necessity.

Cohn should know. In 2008, he founded a crowdfunding site for journalists, Spot.us, which by February 2011 had funded over 160 journalism projects with the help of 5,000 contributors. That year, the site was acquired by American Public Media, which eventually mothballed it.

The site fell by the wayside without a champion willing to scare up new partnerships and coordinate with writers, Cohn said. And the same thing could happen to Beacon if it doesn’t tirelessly identify new crowdfunding projects.

“It’s like a shark — they have to constantly be swimming.”

Correction: A previous version of this story said Spot.us was sold to American Public Media. In fact, it was acquired. Read more

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HuffPost’s Ferguson Fellow: ‘This is huge for me’

Stewart.

Stewart.

Mariah Stewart hasn’t always been sure about her future in journalism. She remembers calling her mom in tears on her way to a feature writing class late last year, unsure if she’d be able to finish journalism school. She was having trouble finding a beat she was passionate about, and it was making her anxious.

That changed when she began reporting on the shooting of Michael Brown. Stewart, a 23-year-old freelance journalist who graduated from Lindenwood University in May, started covering Brown’s shooting days after it occurred in Ferguson, Missouri, without any financial backing because “it was news,” she said.

This week, the story suddenly turned into a yearlong assignment for Stewart after she was named the recipient of The Huffington Post’s Ferguson Fellowship. The program, a partnership with crowdfunding platform Beacon Reader, aims to crowdfund $40,000 to finance reporting on the turbulent suburb for a year.

Now, she juggles her day job — she works as a bra fitter at an area mall — and reporting on a national story that she intends to follow long after other media organizations have departed.

“They need me at my job, but they understand that this is huge for me, covering Ferguson,” Stewart said.

The balance has been difficult. During her first week covering the story, Stewart says she lost 10 pounds because she was constantly busy, had no time to visit the gym and frequently forgot to eat. She also misses stories while she’s at work and spends her breaks trying to stay updated.

Stewart began covering the story two weeks ago, when she moved in with her sister in the St. Louis suburb Florissant, about 15 minutes from Ferguson. The day after she arrived, Brown was killed. Two days later, she decided to go to Ferguson with a friend from journalism school because they knew the story was important.

On Aug. 12, she heard that Beacon Reader was looking for freelancers reporting from Ferguson, so she contacted them and received funding for a week of reporting. She began publishing stories on Beacon Reader — she’s written five since Aug. 13 — and appeared on the BBC to give her account of fleeing from police tear gas while covering a protest.

“By the time I made it to my car, I was coughing, choking, I threw up, tears were running down my face,” Stewart said.

Then, this past Tuesday, she got a call from Beacon Reader cofounders Dan Fletcher and Adrian Sanders, who offered her the fellowship. So far, $10,000 of the $40,000 goal has been raised. That number is encouraging for crowdfunding campaigns, which are characterized by spurts of donations at the beginning and end of the fundraising period, Fletcher said.

During the fellowship, Stewart will work with Huffington Post reporter Ryan Reilly to investigate how St. Louis County police purchased its military-grade equipment and report on efforts to reform the police department, according to Beacon Reader. Stewart says she also wants to see whether the unity that has brought the Ferguson community together in the wake of Brown’s shooting will last.

HuffPost has endured some sniping from journalists who say the company should finance the fellowship itself, rather than rely on reader support. Huffington Post Washington bureau chief Ryan Grim responded to the criticism on HuffPost Live Friday, saying the company couldn’t spare a reporter for a year to report on the developing situation. Asked about the criticism, Fletcher told Poynter, “I don’t think anyone has a good answer to that. And I think the snark at the Huffington Post isn’t helping the journalism industry as a whole.”

Stewart says she intends to keep her day job for now — crowdfunding isn’t paying all of her bills yet — while she continues to report and write from Ferguson. Although working two jobs is a struggle, it has its perks. Less than a year after wondering whether she could finish journalism school, she was invited back to Lindenwood University this week to speak to a class about her burgeoning career. Read more

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Will Steacy photographed The Philadelphia Inquirer’s turmoil for 3 years

Will Steacy was in his New York apartment in 2011 when he got a call from his father in Philadelphia. It was bad news. After almost three decades at The Philadelphia Inquirer, his dad was being laid off.

The call was painful. Steacy, a professional photographer, had spent the last three years chronicling financial hardship at the Inquirer for a project he called Deadline. Starting in 2009, he began capturing images that depicted the Inquirer’s struggle to survive during an era of diminished ad revenue: vacant desks, trash bins piled high with newsprint, an old typewriter being used as a bookend. Steacy took a break from the project for a month. When he came back, the first image he captured was of his dad’s old desk.

Credit: Will Steacy

Steacy’s father’s desk after he was laid off. Credit: Will Steacy

“That was a hard picture to take,” Steacy said.

Now, three years later, the project is almost finished. He documented the paper’s move from its longtime home at Broad Street — fondly known as the “Tower of Truth” — to new offices in a former department store. Steacy decided not to shoot photos in the Inquirer’s new building, preferring to end his project where his father ended his career.

Credit: Will Steacy

The Inquirer newsroom at Broad Street the day after the move. Credit: Will Steacy

Although he financed the entire project himself, Steacy turned to his audience for help when it came time to publish the photos in a book. He held a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter that ended Tuesday, leaving him with slightly more than $26,000 — $16,000 more than his stated goal. He says he’ll spend the extra money on improving the book, which will be given to backers who donated $50 or more.

“I’m just so incredibly honored and humbled by the outpouring of generosity and support,” Steacy said. “Friends and family have supported me, but even more so, complete strangers.”

The five-year project has bookended several important events in Steacy’s life. In 2010, his family had just finished putting up the Christmas tree when when his father’s heart doctor called, telling them to go to the hospital right away. He needed a quadruple bypass. In October 2011, his dad was laid off, snapping a family tradition in newspapers five-generations long. The thought of stopping the project after that occurred to Stacey, but his father wanted him to continue.

Credit: Will Steacy

“Buyouts.” Credit: Will Steacy

Then, In July 2013, Steacy and his girlfriend were heading back from a wedding when they abruptly decided to get married. They found a town clerk who offered to marry them in one of two places — a nearby graveyard or outside the municipal building by a tree. They chose the tree. The birth of his son, Miles, came this May.

The book will be printed and distributed to Steacy’s Kickstarter backers in the coming months. But the project won’t be over for Steacy until he puts the book into his father’s hands.

“When they were moving out of the former newsroom, my father wasn’t there to say goodbye to it,” Steacy said. “So I took it upon myself to say goodbye for him.”

Credit: Will Steacy

Letters of the Philadelphia Inquirer’s flag are missing in the paper’s elevator lobby the night of the paper’s move from the building on Broad Street. Credit: Will Steacy

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Print magazine doubles its fundraising goal

All Digitocracy

Last week, HRDCVR, a project to create “a book-shaped magazine by and for the new everyone” more than doubled funding goals on Kickstarter, raising $67,230 from 516 backers. On Monday, Emiley Mallory wrote about the magazine and its founders, journalists Danyel Smith and Elliott Wilson, for All Digitocracy.

The magazine, with just one issue planned, will come out Nov. 28.

HRDCVR’s mission is to challenge the lack of variety in society’s narrative and to bring more diverse communities forward. HRDCVR is, in essence, an ode to the culture. It’s not solely a hip-hop magazine and it’s not just about politics either, Smith said.

Wilson is a host and a television producer who runs the popular and influential website, Rap Radar. Smith is the former editor-in-chief of VIBE and was the first black editor at Billboard. She is currently a John S. Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford University.

With more than 20 years of journalism and media experience between them, HRDCVR, Smith said, is about authentic storytelling.

In the video for the Kickstarter campaign, Smith talks about working for mainstream publications in the past “and their idea of who everybody is just doesn’t really reflect who the actual everybody is. It’s a multistream, it’s not a mainstream, and that’s who we want to serve and interrogate and celebrate with HRDCVR. That’s what we want to do.”

The magazine itself is also a celebration of print, and, it sounds like, a space to explore and play with the medium. From Kickstarter:

HRDCVR is a print publication because we believe print is still a powerful medium, and still hasn’t been pushed to its extreme. Part of this project is about developing a new aesthetic for print. A new vocabulary. We’re thinking about dry-transfer and dye-transfer. Emblems. Text as image. Sticker paper. Monumentality. Entire stories built in pull-quote. Wide-width satin ribbon bookmarks. Matte paper and glossy paper at the same damn time

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CIR raises funds for investigation into ‘neighborhood NSA’

The Center for Investigative Reporting hopes to raise $25,000 to report on surveillance by local authorities, a practice speeded by technological improvements and federal money. Subscribers get benefits on a sliding scale — from a tote bag and a tour of CIR’s newsroom if you donate $350 to email alerts when new stories go up if you pledge $5 per month.

Beacon, which is handling fundraising for the series, refers to those alerts as “subscriptions,” but CIR spokesperson Lisa Cohen tells Poynter any stories that come from this project will be available on the CIR website, and “CIR will be working with partners as the stories warrant,” Cohen writes.

“During the past year, we’ve learned a lot about the federal government’s surveillance program, but we still know very little about how local police collect and mine data,” CIR reporter Amanda Pike says in a video accompanying the pitch.

If the project gets funded, CIR says it will use the money to secure public records, travel around the country reporting and “Create community engagement events where local citizens can learn about and debate the rise of surveillance.”

Last year, ProPublica raised $24,000 to help report on internships. ProPublica Community Editor Blair Hickman told Poynter the crowdfunding was an experiment somewhat at odds with the usual methods of funding investigative journalism: “With investigative stories you don’t often know where they will lead, but most crowdfunding is looking for very definite product to deliver,” Hickman said. Read more

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Live chat replay: Will crowdfunding finance journalists?

The startup Beacon, one of the newer efforts to fund independent journalists, says it has signed up 100 journalists and several thousand subscribers.

Shane Bauer is now featured on the site, trying to attract funding so that he can cover U.S. prisons for a year. As of Tuesday night, $14,520 had been raised, 19 percent of his goal. The post says a backer has pledged to match up to $37,500. Bauer has a little more than three weeks to raise what he needs. Contributors will get access to Bauer’s stories and all the other stories on the site.

Other journalists on Beacon have told stories about climate change, GMOs, social media and countries around the world.

Could this work for you? Is this a model for supporting journalists and getting stories out? We talked with Beacon’s Adrian Sanders on Wednesday, April 2. Read the replay below.

Visit www.poynter.org/chats to find an archive of all past chats. Twitter users can ask questions using the hashtag #poynterchat for any of our live chats.

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Journalist tries to fund investigation with ‘dispatches from the trail’

Beacon | The Muckraker

Irish journalist Lyra McKee is using Beacon, a crowdfunding service for writers, to raise money to finish a book in which she investigates the last weeks of a local politician in Belfast named Robert Bradford, who was killed in 1981. Her campaign promises backers a chapter of her book every month until it’s published.

“Very few news outlets are funding investigative reporting right now,” McKee tells Poynter in an email. “I feel like investigative journalism has been driven out of the newsroom because editors want quick results. The economic turmoil of the industry means they’re answering to accountants now rather than their readers.”

Why not try for a grant? I asked. “The problem with grants is that everyone’s chasing them,” McKee replied. “This is the thing that really bugs me about our industry: everyone’s looking for the handout but very few are thinking about business models and how we’re going to make the craft sustainable.” Through crowdfunding, she writes, “I can offer people something in return.”

McKee working the phones.
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MAIN STREET MARION

Radio show seeks funding to uncover undercovered America

A few days before the government shutdown, the former co-host of “The Takeaway” launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $92,000 for an independent radio show covering the often-ignored world between the two coasts.

But because of the Washington stalemate, the fundraising campaign to produce a show that’s not about the Beltway was canceled — for now.

“Believe me, the irony is not lost,” Celeste Headlee said.

Several factors prompted the suspension of the campaign, Headlee said, including problems filing paperwork with closed government offices and the busy schedules of people helping to develop the show who are also covering the shutdown.

Really, it was just bad timing, Headlee said.

The campaign relaunches on Oct. 25, with a push to raise the money needed to independently produce the hour-long news show and podcast called “Middle Ground.” The show’s producers will be asking for less money, too — down to $59,000 with the decision to seek three months’ funding instead of six.

Headlee, who started her career in Flagstaff, Ariz., and later worked in Detroit, Mich., found stories in those two locations that national radio just never picked up. And the kinds of stories they did choose to air fit into already comfy narratives about those places. From Arizona, most of Headlee’s stories that got selected were about Native Americans, she said. From Detroit, the national stories always focused on the ongoing decay of the city and troubles faced by the auto industry.

But there’s much more there to cover.

“Anybody that’s worked in the national media, if they’re being honest, they’re aware of a coastal bias,” Headlee said.

It’s not malicious, she points out quickly. “There’s no conspiracy theory to downplay the middle of the country.”

To cover the territory well, “Middle Ground” will pay for stories from local reporters. It doesn’t make sense to parachute reporters in, Headlee said, when writers there drive down those streets daily and know those communities.

Headlee, who currently lives in Washington, D.C., says several radio stations in the area east of California and west of the Eastern Seaboard are interested in serving as the show’s home. Once a location is chosen, she’ll move there. She’s working with Sue Goodwin, former executive producer of NPR’s “Talk of the Nation,” senior editor Jacob Conrad, formerly of “Day to Day,” and producer Chris Gauthier. For now, Headlee said, everyone’s working on the show during his or her spare time.

Once funded, “Middle Ground” would join a number of successful crowd-funded radio shows and podcasts, including “Investigating Internships” from ProPublica, and Andrea Seabrook’s “Decode DC.” Community funding also got KHOI on the air in Ames, Iowa.

The whole idea behind funding the news show wouldn’t have been possible in the past, Headlee says, but with social media and growing partnerships in radio, people are more willing to support a show like “Middle Ground.”

“I think, in the end, it’s a better way to serve the public,” she said.

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Change in securities law may let audience rescue NSFWCorp, CEO writes

PandoDaily | The New York Times

NSFWCorp CEO Paul Carr needs to raise money, and fast.

As I’ve said before, if we were a bullshit app with the kind of press we’ve enjoyed and as many paying customers as we have, we’d be drowning in investors. But we’re a “content company” which no Silicon Valley VC will touch with a barge pole.

A change in securities law that went into effect Monday “establishes a mechanism for ordinary people to make small investments in small companies,” Robb Mandelbaum writes. But the change may come too late for Carr’s online/print hybrid publication, he writes.

And it’s for that reason that companies outside the valley, generally, and media companies like ours, specifically, have the most to gain from today’s change in the law. Finally we can do what we do best: tell our story, loudly and clearly, to an audience who are already predisposed to hearing it.

The only question, for NSFWCORP at least, is whether that audience has enough time to act.

Related: Journalism’s Least Safe and Most Intriguing Site: NSFWCorp.com (The Daily Beast) Read more

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Crowdfunding campaign aims to buy Tribune’s papers

Indiegogo.com

While concerns among some journalists mount concerning interest from Rupert Murdoch and the Koch Brothers over the sale of the Tribune Co., activist group The Other 98% proposes a different kind of community journalism. They’ve begun a campaign on Indiegogo.com called Free The Press, which aims to raise $660 million to “democratize the Tribune Company.”

“The only people who are bidding on it right now are infamous right-wing Billionaires, who are likely to pay something around a $660 Million pricetag to control a big slice of trusted news media,” the campaign reads. “Instead of sitting back an allowing whichever victor to manipulate us through the media, we’ve decided to stage an intervention. And we want you to join us.”
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