Sustainability: Spot.Us promotes community funded journalism

In the search for news business models, one of the most intriguing experiments underway is Spot.Us. Founded by David Cohn, Spot.Us creates a marketplace between reporters and communities to try a new paradigm for funding journalism. Cohn was among the most recent recipients of the Knight Foundation News Challenge Grants last spring for this project.

The concept works like this: A reporter posts an idea for a story along with an amount they need to produce the work. Members of the community can then donate money through the Web site to fund that work. The checks aren’t cashed, so to speak, unless enough money is raised. Spot.Us has already funded a few stories while the site was still being built. The stories are then available for any publication to run for free, though they can be exclusive is a news organizations contributes enough. As Cohn explains, this can be a great way to stretch the freelance budget.

At the moment, Spot.Us focuses on the San Francisco Bay Area. So if you’re a freelancer or full-time journalist working in the area, then check it out. And if you have an interest in supporting quality journalism, then think about making a donation. The concept really works around micro-finance, so the donation doesn’t need to be huge. Lots of little donations can really leverage the network effect and make things happen.

Will this work? I hope so. It’s off to a strong start. Is it the answer to all of journalism’s problems? No, and Cohn doesn’t claim it is. But it represents the right kind of thinking for this era: Some thing that harness the network power available through the Internet while also thinking progressively about what the underlying business model looks like.

That’s the kind of innovation that’s worth your support.


3 Responses

  1. Technically, actually – not 100% launched yet. Going to announce it soon though…… but not yet.

  2. SharonTime to get my vote on – but before I do – some answers to your questions.The best way to stay informed about Spot.Us is to register. All registered members will get occasional email updates about Spot.Us’ progress and what cities we are expanding to, etc.I do not determine the price of each investigation – the reporter does. Spot.Us is NOT a news organization – it is a platform that enables independent journalists to use community funded reporting. I am not an editor.I am planning on moving beyond the Bay – but since we haven’t even launched yet – it’s a bit too early to know where and when. Hopefully soon šŸ˜‰ although I love the Bay.

  3. David, once it’s launched how will we know how it’s going – i.e., how many contributed, what methods you used to sollict those contributions, and so forth? It would also be helpful for others to know how you determined the “price” you put on each investigation – i.e., when you know you have enough financial backing to pursue the story. And, are you planning on expanding beyond the Bay area? If so, do you know the time frame for that?

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