With ProPublica partnership, Beacon moves further away from subscriptions

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Since 2003, 33 states have cut worker compensation benefits, leaving more people injured on the job without support.

The story of these discrepencies have been the focus of ProPublica’s Insult to Injury project and on Monday the crowdfunded journalism platform Beacon Reader began a partnership with ProPublica to extend, localize and continue reporting started by ProPublica.

The 300 or so reporters Beacon works with will be invited to launch campaigns.

“It’s the kind of story that could benefit from on the ground, local reporting. They’ve build a database, a blog and have a list of employees gathered,” said Beacon head of communications Keren Goldshlager. “But what they don’t have is staff to cover this issue in every state so we really need the help of local reporters to do that and so we’re going to be working with reporters to generate more campaigns.”

The partnership is a continuation of Beacon’s changing business model, which will rely less on subscriptions to the work of individual journalists or publications and more on partnerships and timely, topic-based reporting projects.

“It’s something we’re going to be doing more and more – take a big national story and blow that out,” she said. “Not a lot of organizations have the resources to chase a story all the time but there are journalists available to fill those gaps.”

Co-founder Dan Fletcher explained some of this new strategy last week during an appearance on the MediaShift podcast.

The subscription model was an initial focus for Beacon because they believed in the importance of the relationship between readers and journalists.

“Later we found that readers want to be part of tackling a big issue, we all came together and covered this investigation and as a result of that something actually happened,” Goldshlager said.

This has a history of being true.

A 2011 survey of donors to the crowdfunded journalism platform Spot.us found that donors care less about the journalist or publication they’re funding and more about the topic and potential impact of reporting.

Other new Beacon initiatves, Spotlight and Bounties, are also expected to become more active in the coming weeks and months.

Spotlight bundles campaigns of similar topic or news organizations. It started earlier this year with a series of Institute of Nonprofit News reporting projects. Spotlight may be used for worker compensation stories.

Beacon believes linking campaigns by topic makes it more likely that donors will give to more than one campaign, Goldshlager said.

Bounties invites readers to pick a story they want told or issue they want investigated then crowdfund the reporting themselves. Once the goal is reached, a Beacon journalist is assigned to report the story.

With Bounties and other forms of giving for storytelling on Beacon, an effort will be made in the future find more partners willing to give a large lump sum or do dollar-for-dollar matching donations for the kinds of stories they want to see reported.

“I think we see the biggest impact when its combination of a bunch of individuals giving small amounts and a few larger givers who give big amounts,” Goldshlager said.

An effort will also be made to identify people who work for nonprofit or community organizations to initiate Bounties campaigns.

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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.