Byline, a new crowdfunding platform for journalism

byline-crowdfunding-journalism

A new crowdfunding platform for journalism launched in London this week. Its goal is to ensure crowdfunding journalism is no longer considered unorthodox, they want it to become mainstream.

“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.

The site launched in beta Tuesday.

One of the first stories on byline.com comes from Steven T. Jones, former editor of the San Francisco Bay Guardian. Following the paper’s closure last fall, Jones wants to create a Guardian in Exile for $2,000 a month, potentially with old Guardian staffers. You can read more about his efforts in The New Yorker.

There’s also work from Iraqi photo agency Metrography and playwright and journalist Peter Jukes. British feminist Julie Bindel plans to examine a movement to give sex workers rights. Byline staff have also published a series of interviews with content creators and other interesting people like Noam Chomsky.

To make crowdfunding journalism common or mainstream will require “well-known interviewees and journalists.” Watch for more from Byline staff and crowdfunded journalists in the coming weeks, Tudor said.

For the first three months of the site’s operations, journalists can use the Byline platform for free. 

After that Byline will keep 15 percent of money raised. That’s much higher than Eventually the plan is for some of that money to go into an investigative journalism fund.

“There will be cases where a reporter can’t crowdfund an investigation because the campaign itself will give the game away, so we’d like to front them the money to get it done, if we think it is a really valuable investigation,” he said.

Some Byline staff, including Tudor, moved from South Korea to London to create the crowdfunding platform.

Tudor now works on Byline full-time but in the past has written articles for the Wall Street Journal and The Economist. His latest in a series of books on North Korea and South Korea is titled “North Korea Confidential: Private Markets, Fashion Trends, Prison Camps, Dissenters and Defectors.”

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Khari Johnson
Khari is founder and editor of Through the Cracks: Crowdfunding in Journalism. He also writes about bots and artificial intelligence for VentureBeat. He has built news startups in the U.S. and Europe for the last decade.

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