How to do crowdfunding

MARTIN Hickman - investigative journalist with Exaro News and founder of long-form journalism publishers Canbury Press - told members about models for crowdfunding journalism at June's LFB meeting. Martin arrived straight from the trail of the former News of the World executive editor Neil Wallis on conspiracy charges related to phone hacking, having raised £3000 in crowdfunding to cover it.

Martin Hickman; © Hazel Dunlop

Martin Hickman

Unlike his colleague Peter Jukes (who also spoke at this meeting: see here), Martin was "traditionally a newspaper journalist - the Mail, Eastern Daily Press... a steady traditional newspaper career like a tractor going up a long incline very slowly." After taking voluntary redundancy from the Indy a couple of years ago, he "ended up reporting the phone hacking trial for Hacked Off", turning to crowdfunding to extend that trial coverage.

Crowfunding not only brings "support for those upfront costs: you can get a very good idea of the market" from donors "coming along to the launch party" and other interactions. Martin has since co-authored Dial M for Murdoch and his crowdfunded book on "Plebgate" police officer Keith Wallis's trial is out soon.

Seung Yoon, CEO of crowdfunded journalism site, says they currently have "7000 funders, many more readers." While some of the funders reading Byline follow an individual journalist with an established name and "visibility", Seung Yoon explained the site's a "deliberate mix of well-known and not well-known" contributors.

Seung Yoon; © Hazel Dunlop

Seung Yoon explain how it works

A "very obscure Iraqi photojournalism agency" was "counter-intuitively the first to get funded: people felt the need to fund it." Then there's the feminist author writing for Byline on prostitution - she got a core following within a week... It can be a subject, not a person" that people will pay to follow.

Byline is like an agency, it "doesn't have a newsroom... We're taking a cut... 15 per cent commission" (about standard for crowdfunding platforms) but for the remaining four and a half months of their launch they're waiving the commission. Byline can provide advice and support on "the tricks... how to set up rewards... helping to tweet out and stuff, tools for how to raise your profile." Crowdfunding doesn't take your copyright. A colleague who writes for Byline sold on his Coulson perjury trail piece to the Spectator.

Currently it's by invitation only, but once its "culture is established," any freelance can pitch to Byline, says Seung Yoon. How? "Put your CV out there... display samples of work" says Martin, then come to them with your proposal for a project that you "can't start... without this money." Peter reminded us of income from crowdfunded sources, "it's taxable."

Last modified: 23 Jun 2015 - © 2015 contributors
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