Here’s the latest buzzy idea for saving journalsm: Be Obama.
Crowdfunding, as described here is essentially allowing (hopefully) large numbers of people to contribute small amounts of money to fund journalistic endeavors. Spot.us, for example, posts lists of potential stories, lets freelancers sign up (or contribute their own ideas), and then lets people donate money toward funding of the story. Once the story tops up with cash, it gets reported and written.
So, yeah, worked great for Obama, right? Crowdfunded his way right to the White House. Except it seems to me that journalism maybe has tried more or less this before. I think maybe it was called subscriptions, back in the day when people got newspapers thrown at their windows by bleary-eyed sixth-graders. Or, if you prefer the broadcast metaphor, maybe we can think about pledge drives.
In fact this model does work reasonably well if the crowd is forced to fund, as is the case with BBC or German TV here. Of course that’s not a market-friendly strategy, but that whole market-knows-best thing is looking pretty threadbare these days anyway.
Not that I’m arguing that all journalism should be supported by a mandated fee of some kind. But it sure seems that if old journalistic values are going to be maintained at any level, it might be a good way of doing things.