It used to be that freelance meant you were a free-agent. Now, it just means you work for free, or scraps.
Crowdfunding seems to be happening everywhere these days. From small art-projects to large scale hardware ventures, the Internet community is eager to send cash towards a cause they believe in, and it’s a great way to fill in the financial gaps when pursuing an in-depth project on behalf of a publication (say, a trip out to the Middle East for a local paper) or to start a completely new publication.
And, given the recent (and major) successes of journalism projects like NPR and Public Radio Exchange’s 99% Invisible and long-form science feature magazine Matter, there’s plenty of stories out there that prove funding a journalism project can work. If you’re strapped for cash and looking to make your dreams happen, crowdfunding is one of the best ways to do it.
However, it’s important to note that a funding campaign for a magazine is very different from a funding campaign for an iPhone-linked smart watch. Because there isn’t a high-value product on the line, people won’t necessarily be clamoring for your work alone.
Here are some smart tactics you should consider when embarking on your own crowd funding. Good luck!
1. Make a Video That Shows You Off
Here’s a piece of Crowdfunding 101: If you want to get funded, make a video. Staticstics show that projects with an engaging video attached to their funding appeals boost their chances of full funding to 50%. But, it’s not as easy as it sounds — creating a dynamic video about an unmade (or as-yet undeveloped) journalism project can lead to lot of head scratching. Read more
Instagram has become an unlikely, yet important, online tool for journalists, bloggers and citizens. Not only is it a great way to shoot stylized photos and on-the-go location shots, but it’s also a smart outlet to turn to when looking for eyewitness accounts of major news — people often turn to Instagram thanks to its quick sharing with social media networks like Twitter and Facebook.
However, these past few weeks have changed the service in a radical way, and now is the time to determine whether it’s the right tool for your photos and your personal use.
1. You Won’t See it On Twitter
This season has been a rocky one for Instagram and one of its biggest propagators, Twitter. Two weeks ago, the companies had effectively “broken up,” with Instagram no longer hosting images through Twitter’s API. Twitter snapped back, effectively distributing its own Instagram clone (with filters to boot) right in its native TwitPic system. Read more
How often have you, as a journalist, been asked to provide proof that you are, in fact, a journalist? At least one NPR.org contributor has been asked several times lately.
Alan Greenblatt explains in his story today that increasingly, government officials are asking him to prove his official journalist status before granting him interviews. Tides have turned and now it’s not just the reporter doing background research, but the sources are backgrounding the reporters.
The other day, I arranged to speak with Bob Wirch, a Democratic state senator in Wisconsin. The morning of our appointment, I received a call from one of his aides, instructing me to bring along a press badge or some other credential that included a picture and identified me as a reporter.
This rarely happens. In some 20 years of interviews, less than a handful of people have ever asked me to prove that I was the reporter I was claiming to be.
But, increasingly, elected officials and their staffs are checking journalistic bona fides, going online to read old stories and check out photos.
He points to other instances where this was the case, and notes the irony that the people politicians most need to be on guard against are not those allegedly pretending to be journalists — when someone says they’re a journalist you should be on your guard about what you say because the whole point is other people will hear about it — but from people who gain access and broadcast gaffes never intended to be shared.
His point, however, had me wondering… should you need to prove you’re a journalist? What type of proof is enough? What if you’re not working for an agency that hands out press badges? What’s stopping you from printing up your own press badge and business cards? It’s not like you apply for a license to be a journalist and can hand out your license number to verify with the state, as electricians or plumbers do. (I hope nobody gets any bright ideas.) And it’s not like medical professions where you need a certain degree and set of training to perform the job; you simply do not need a degree in journalism to prove you know how to ask who, what, when, where, why and how, and then write it up accurately. Plenty of good reporters didn’t learn those skills in the classroom. And plenty of bad reporters have a degree but still didn’t learn to apply those skills well.
Earlier this month, I talked about three enterprising Kickstarter campaigns — Outer Voices Podcast, Radio Ambulante, and The Independent Voice Project. Recently, another great journalism-focused project has started making news, and it’s called MATTER.
MATTER is the brain child of Jim Giles and Bobbie Johnson, two experienced reporters with a passion for making journalism better. Giles and Johnson have lined up a team of writers and editors to help push this vision forward, and according to the Kickstarter project page, MATTER will be for readers, not advertisers.
The “return to long-form journalism” is a phrase that has been bandied about for a few years now, and several websites currently exist around this premise (Longreads, The Atavist, Byliner, Longform, etc.) MATTER won’t be a curation service; rather, it will include original investigative reporting from their team of writers, some of which have contributed to publications such as The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Economist, The Guardian, The New York Times, National Geographic, Nature and Wired.
“The thing about long-form, in-depth journalism is that it’s expensive. There used to be many more newspapers and magazines that produced that sort of content, but journalism is in financial trouble and those outlets have cut back,” said Giles.
The Kickstarter campaign will help raise funds for MATTER to produce their first three pieces. By pledging at the $25 level, you can join their editorial board (powered by All Our Ideas) and lend your voice to the kind of reporting MATTER covers.
As of this article, the project is over 60% funded, but you can pledge until the campaign ends on March 24, 2012. For more information about MATTER, you can visit their website at readmatter.com. You can also follow the progress of MATTER on Facebook and Twitter.