Aussie opinion website The Big Smoke (TBS) has announced the launch of a new a section called ‘Their Voice, Your Shout’, showcasing writers who wish to have their work crowdfunded.
The section showcases writers who wish to be part of the platform and encourage readers to donate. Writers can also promote content they have written, regardless of where it’s published, on the platform.
Other than choosing journalists, there are also areas of interest that audiences can click that leads them straight to specific writers who specialise in those fields.
The idea started from a discussion about the new age of media between TBS publisher Alexandra Tselios and investigative journalist Ginger Gorman (who claims to have had her work ripped off by many outlets recently).
“The Big Smoke has always been about building an ecosystem rather than being a traditional publisher,” Tselios said.
“That is why our business model is an amalgamation of agency offerings within a publishing platform, so a section like this simply allows us to continue that ethos by showcasing writers and thinking of new ways to support communities. We want the public to support the writers directly, not us as publishers.”
Tselios noted that TBS receives no portion of the funding given to journalists on the platform.
“It’s a commercial model. We can survive and expand by working with brands who understand the value of connecting with audiences in an impactful way,” she said.
“Journalists, however, who often freelance for multiple publishers, are usually at the mercy of editorial decisions and even content theft. We want to nurture a platform that connects these writers directly with the readers who value and follow their work.”
Gorman, who has been a journalist in Australia for 16 years, said: “There’s no question that this is a really frightening time for journalism in Australia. The MEAA (Media Entertainment & Arts Alliance) told me a few days ago that since 2011, more than 2,500 journalists have lost their jobs.
“I’m in this number – I lost my job at the ABC two years ago. But if we get past the fear and devastation at what’s happening to our industry right now, perhaps this disruption could offer us opportunities for innovation.
“In essence, I simply don’t agree that just because advertisers have always supported journalism that the funding model has to stay this way. We’ve known for more than a decade that the so-called rivers of gold (classified advertising) are drying up.
“So, maybe it’s time for us, the journalists, to think about new ways of supporting our work and maintaining a healthy media ecosystem that holds those with power to account.”
Gorman said journalists must continue to make the voices of the voiceless heard, and crowdfunding could be the seed of a movement.
“Let’s be clear: the public understands how important quality journalism is, and people are voting with their wallets,” she said.
“Perhaps crowdfunding won’t be the long-term solution to supporting quality journalism, but given the current state of play, it is certainly time to experiment and try new things and see how it evolves.
“I think we can all agree that in the current political climate here and overseas, the need for quality reporting is more vital than ever.”
TBS also intends to roll its new crowdfunding section out across its USA site over the next month.
Greg Gerding, editor of TBS in the US, said: “’I’m excited about rolling this out for our US contributors too. It will motivate people to write more and build their own audiences, but it will also ensure that the quality of the writing is high, and that the reporting is independent and on point.
“It will also fill a need where our arts funding has fallen short.”