Funding the News

The independent media often depends upon financial support from their audience, most independent media outlets will request their viewers to donate money to support different news ventures or they will have a prominent “donate” button on their website. Incorporating the viewers into the financial base of the news outlet not only helps to pay the bills but it also generates a sense of community between the viewer and the outlet. It creates a co-dependent relationship where the viewer depends on the outlet for news and the outlet depends on the viewer for support financially as well as in brand recognition.

Brave New Films called upon their fan base to help them fund “Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers” in 2006. Before the film had even been made they called upon their viewers telling them what they wanted to do and requested financial support to fund to project. With their viewers donations they were able to fund the film. Brave New Films then featured all of their donors names in the credits of the film. To further incorporate their supporters with the film, Brave New Film creators call upon their loyal viewers to hold mass viewings and encourage their viewers to set up phone conferences with them to discuss the content of the film in order to spread the story to others.

The problem with financially depending on donations is that if a larger group chooses to donate to the news outlet they could try to add strings to their donated funds, particularly if they act as the primary donor. When that happens the independent media can find itself in a situation that the corporate media knows all too well, that sometimes a story has to be sacrificed in the name of maintaining financial stability. As Jack Shafer argues in his Slate article the non-profit business model isn’t necessarily the best business model. “But before we get out the party hats and noise-makers to celebrate the rise of nonprofit journalism, here’s the bad news. In the current arrangement, we’re substituting one flawed business model for another. For-profit newspapers lose money accidentally. Nonprofit news operations lose money deliberately. No matter how good the nonprofit operation is, it always ends up sustaining itself with handouts, and handouts come with conditions.”

So what kind of business model should the media be using for funding?

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