For-profit fact-checking is on the rise, and fewer organizations are relying on volunteer work.
These are among the results of this year’s State of the Fact Checkers, an annual report inaugurated by the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) last year to get a better idea of how fact-checking organizations are handling budgets, structure, publishing format and funding.
The data, which was collected from April to July of this year, surveys 75 fact-checking organizations that are all verified signatories of the IFCN’s Code of Principles, or which are at least in the renewal process.
The number of participants in this year’s survey almost doubled that of last year’s (42 organizations provided data to the report in 2018), but there are still some worthwhile comparisons to take note of.
First off, fact-checking continues to be principally a digital practice. 97.6% of last year’s respondents and 98.7% of this year’s survey said that their fact-checks are predominantly published online. Televised and printed fact-checking have seen no notable increases.
Second, it’s clear that the industry saw a dramatic spike in growth between 2015 and 2017. Whether this trend will plateau in the following years is unknown.
Finally, and perhaps most notably, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of fact-checking organizations adopting for-profit funding structures, from 28.6% in 2018 to 46% this year. The number of nonprofits and academic initiatives has gone down.
Granted, this still doesn’t guarantee that fact-checkers are the wealthiest bunch: The number of organizations functioning with budgets over $500k has decreased, and those with budgets under $20k have grown.