A new London based crowd funded journalism platform has just launched in beta.
Byline trumpets a manifesto based on the principles of independence, a diversity of opinion driven but fact based journalism which uses its digital platform to ‘cut out the cronies’ and deliver public interest news straight to the audience. It hopes to convince it’s audience that paid for journalism also buys independence and accountability.
The journalist is accountable to the paying reader. When you pay, you have the right to directly ask questions to the journalist in a dedicated Byline ‘Supporters’Café’. And ultimately, you of course have the right to stop paying the journalist. We are accountable to you as well. Our income comes from a commission on your pledge, rather than advertising. If you don’t see journalism you’re willing to back, we won’t see a penny from you.
“Crowdfunding is absolutely a ‘real thing’ whose time has come,” said brewery owner and Byline.com cofounder Daniel Tudor. “Previous crowdfunded journalism attempts like Spot.us were great, but were probably ahead of their time. But now, crowdfunding is massive and becoming accepted by the mainstream, and at the same time, the news media is in a total mess.” By mess he means the funding model for news is broken. It’s hard to survive on advertising alone and clickbait and native ads don’t fix the problem either. Something needs to change or else local news and investigative journalism will “fall by the wayside in this new world,” he said. “This is an idea whose time has come, but still we need to grab people and make them say ‘Wow, its different this time.’ We want to make it normal for people to pay for journalism again,” Tudor said.
Seung-yoon Lee, fellow founder and chief executive of Byline has been talking to Journalism.co.uk where he describes how the business approach is to “break it down to the journalist”. With no editor in place, journalists are free to decide how to publish to the platform and whether their work will take the form of a regular column or one off writing. Connections between the writers and readers are vital in order to build up a revenue stream, so Byline allows readers to connect with journalists via an online space and is looking into giving readers further encouragement to invest in a business they hope will be good for readers and journalists alike.
Readers can access the columns for free, but if they decide to give money, they are offered some perks that journalists set up themselves. These interaction opportunities can include anything from a discussion with the journalist in the Supporters’ Cafe, to the chance of going along on an investigative trip with the writer or even something as simple as a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything). If journalists choose to do an ‘exclusive’ – an investigative project on a larger scale – with a set budget, they will not receive any money until the funding target has been reached. However, by setting Milestone Goals for their project, they can receive funding in stages. This would enable journalists to cover any upfront costs at the beginning of their investigation and keep readers updated on their progress.