January 20, 2016

Although crowdfunding is still “a drop in the bucket” when compared to the multi-million dollar business of print advertising, journalists are increasingly turning to their audiences for cash to bankroll various projects, according to a new report from the Pew Research Center.

In the first nine months of 2015, crowdfunding projects devoted to journalism raised more than $1.74 million on Kickstarter, according to the report. That’s up from $49,256 in 2009, the year Kickstarter launched. The amount of crowdfunding projects has also increased, growing from 17 to 173 projects over that same period.

Likewise, the contributor base to journalism projects on Kickstarter has also expanded, increasing to 25,651 people in 2015 from an initial 792 people in 2009.

It all points to a growing revenue category for news organizations seeking to identify new streams of income as traditional forms of cash ebb, according to the report. But more than that, it represents a small but expanding public-spirited “niche segment” of journalism backed by audiences.

It is bringing voice and visibility to efforts that would likely otherwise go unnoticed or unfunded, adding yet another way for the public to engage in creating, funding and disseminating journalism and adding one more option to the arsenal of revenue sources that the industry is desperately seeking to build up.

The report notes that its analysis of the growth in crowdfunding is somewhat limited by the fact that it only takes into account data from Kickstarter. As crowdfunding has gained visibility in recent years, multiple startups — including Spot.us, Beacon Reader and Contributoria — have also connected audiences with journalists looking to fund reporting projects. Because data from these companies are not presented, the report is not an exhaustive account of crowdfunding in journalism but rather a bellwether of the general trajectory of the enterprise.

The report also shows that individuals outstrip media organizations when it comes to the amount of crowdfunding projects funded on Kickstarter. Media outlets comprise nearly a quarter of all journalism projects on Kickstarter, whereas individuals account for 43 percent. Private institutions, a designation reserved for organizations like universities, account for 7 percent.

The report also offers a detailed breakdown of which projects are more likely to get funded on Kickstarter. The single biggest category of funded projects are longform projects that “would not be possible without the support of independent donors.” Magazine projects are the most-funded, followed by websites, book and radio projects.

Here’s the full report.

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Benjamin Mullin is the managing editor of Poynter.org. He previously reported for Poynter as a staff writer, Google Journalism Fellow and Naughton Fellow, covering journalism…
Benjamin Mullin

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