Impact of Crowdfunding on Journalism

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* Article: THE IMPACT OF CROWDFUNDING ON JOURNALISM: Case study of Spot.Us, a platform for Community-Funded Reporting. Tanja Aitamurto. Journalism Practice, Vol. 5, No 4, 2011, 429-445

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"This article analyzes the impact of crowdfunding on journalism. Crowdfunding is defined as a way to harness collective intelligence for journalism, as readers’ donations accumulate into judgments about the issues that need to be covered. The article is based on a case study about Spot.Us,a platform pioneering community-funded reporting. The study concludes that a crowdfunded journalistic process requires journalists to renegotiate their role and professional identity tosucceed in the changing realm of creative work. The study concludes that reader donations build a strong connection from the reporters to the donors, which creates a new sense of responsibility to the journalists. The journalists perceive donors as investors, that cannot be let down. From the donor’s perspective, donating does not create a strong relationship from donor to the journalist, or to the story to which they contributed. The primary motivation for donating is to contribute tothe common good and social change. Consequently, donors’ motives are essentially morealtruistic than instrumental. Thus, when the public donates for a cause, the marketing of a certaintype of journalism should be aligned with the features of cause marketing. The traditional role of journalism as a storyteller around the campfire has remained, but the shared story is changing: people no longer share merely the actual story, but also the story of participating in a story process."



"In the era of the unraveling of traditional business models in journalism, (Downieand Schudson, 2009), new revenue sources for journalism are being sought. One of thenew revenue models is crowdfunding, in which stories are funded by voluntary donationsvia an open call to anybody to donate. Crowdfunding is increasingly used to fund journalism on several online platforms. This article analyzes the impact of crowdfunding in journalism, and the analysis is based on a case study of Spot.Us, a platform that ispioneering community-supported journalism.This article examines crowdfunding as a realization of collective intelligence (Levy,1997). By donating to a pitch the donor expresses his or her opinion about what kind of topics need to be reported. Donors’ judgments are aggregated and accumulated intofunding for a story, and with the appropriate funding stories will be delivered. Theseaggregated judgments in the form of donations are an articulation of collectiveintelligence concerning the topics journalism needs to report.

The case study about Spot.Us, reported here, presents data from 15 Spot.Us reporters and donors, along with ethnographic observations made while participating involunteer work at Spot.Us. The article explores how collective intelligence is manifested ina crowdfunded journalistic process, and how these manifestations impact on the work andthe role of a journalist. Crowdfunding is also considered from the donor’s standpoint by looking into donors’ motivations to contribute finance and their experiences in the crowdfunded journalistic process. I conclude by discussing what the findings mean to journalism, journalists and society.

Spot.Us is an online platform to crowdfund journalism. Crowdfunding is a type of crowdsourcing, which means an open call for anybody to participate in a task (Brabham,2008; Howe, 2008; Muthukumaraswamy, 2010). In crowdfunding the crowdsourced task isto gather money to a certain purpose, and in the Spot.Us case, the task is to gatherfunding for a story pitched by a journalist. On Spot.Us, freelance journalists pitch theirstory ideas, and community members, basically, anybody who comes to the website, can donate for the pitches they like.Spot.Us launched in November 2008, and by April 2010, more than 800 people havefunded over 60 stories, with an average donation of $60. By April 2010, the donations onSpot.Us aggregated to $100,000. Spot.Us is a nonprofit organization, and it was selected inthe year 2008 as a winner of the Knight News Challenge contest organized by the John S.and James L. Knight Foundation. Spot.Us is initially funded by the Knight News Challengeaward grant." ( 1 Method, Data and Research Quest