The effect of new technologies on the media industry is often characterised by the word ‘disruption’, but there are also moments when technology becomes an enabler, a supportive tool, a generative force improving the way people express and share ideas.
When applied thoughtfully, technology can be a very powerful force for good.
Today we are proud and pleased to open the doors on Contributoria - a platform for journalists, by journalists. It is a place designed to help people help each other, to improve the writing process with transparency, and to support quality journalism through collective funding.
At Contributoria everyone can get involved in the entire process - by backing proposals from journalists and funding their projects, to commissioning new projects in areas of special interest which don’t necessarily make the pages of the mainstream media.
And then they can stay involved, making suggestions and edits in a collaborative process which will result in a fresh edition of original in-depth reporting every month.
Quite simply, we’re giving our members the tools to support the journalism they really want to read, a way to reward the producers of content who are creating what they want to see out there in the world.
So why are we doing this?
Much has been written about sustainable business models for journalism. The reams of columns, blog posts, tweets and conferences that have been dedicated to the topic have mushroomed as the industry faces up to the constant change and disruption of digital technologies.
We wanted to do something, not just talk about it. We thought it was time to try out a completely different approach, a combination of new technologies, new ways of working and new funding models.
How could we offer talented journalists a new marketplace to sell their work and empower readers of quality journalism with the opportunity to help that market flourish?
We submitted our concept, Contributoria, for the Google/IPI News Innovation contest. We were thrilled, and challenged, to be named as winners in 2012 and handed a small budget to turn the idea into what you can see here today on contributoria.com.
Who’s behind this?
Matt McAlister develops new businesses at Guardian Media Group. He has been involved in various aspects of the digital publishing ecosystem since 1994 - leading digital arms of print businesses, building platform services at large media companies and creating new digital businesses.
Editor Sarah Hartley, an active multimedia journalist and blogger, worked for more than a decade at the Guardian Media Group in a variety of senior editorial posts before joining the boutique digital consultancy Talk About Local a couple of years ago.
Developer Dan Catt, helped to build Flickr in the early years of Web2.0 and later returned from San Francisco to work at the Guardian to take a sideways look at the data behind the news. He now splits his time between working with data, studying the news and trying to get back to his struggling artist roots.
How it works
Please take a look at the ‘write for Contributoria‘ section for full details. In brief, Contributoria’s rolling publishing cycle operates in three different modes - planning, production and publication.
Writers propose story ideas in month one, and members back stories collectively using points allocated to them from their membership fees. Commissioning options are also available to media organisations to supplement the community’s crowdfunding activities.
Then collaborative editing tools help writers work together with their peers in month two to improve the quality of their output. Contributoria has partnered with Poeti.ca to enable live co-editing with other community members.
Lastly, final versions of articles produced by the community are published on the Contributoria web site in month three where they will remain free to the public and available for re-use with a Creative Commons license (CC-BY-NC). Writers whose works get published are paid using the community’s membership funding pool.
Our first issue is live now with articles we’ve commissioned from some of our friends and supporters. We hope you enjoy reading this varied selection - now we’re handing over the reins of what will appear in subsequent monthly issues to you.
If you’re a writer, Contributoria is now open for your proposals with funds available. Those proposals will soon be vying to earn members’ support and interest.
Please join us today. Let’s work together and apply the powerful technologies available to journalists to build a stronger marketplace for quality writing in the world.
Thanks for stopping by on our big launch day and welcome to Contributoria.
Matt, Sarah and Dan.