“UFO culture” day

“Blograising” and the fate of journalism

There’s a very neat debate taking place at Calpundit, about whether it’s possible for writers to support themselves by raising money from their blogs. Kevin points out the example of David Appell, a freelance science writer, who’s using his blog to raise money for a story he wants to write on the sugar industry. David raised $370 in only 24 hours, and the total is climbing! Kevin riffs off this and imagines a ebay-style marketplace for projects:

How about some kind of journalism eBay for this kind of stuff? You know, journalists could post story ideas and get bids from potential readers (or editors who just wanted to buy the story outright). If the bids get high enough, the reporter would then go off and work on the story. Alternatively, readers could suggest stories and see if there are any reporters willing to follow them up. Reporters could end up with eBay-style satisfaction rankings based on how highly the bidders think of the delivered product.

There’s a really superb discussion that follows that posting, so scroll downwards. I weigh in myself with a post — but the fun part was, while I was writing the post, I was trying to think of a simple word to describe the act of using a blog to cultivate an audience and raise money for a project. Then it hit me:


You read it here first, heh. Anyway, here’s what I posted:

I doubt many journalists — or even more than a tiny few — could rely on blogging for their regular bread and butter. But … I actually do think there blog journalism could easily be supported on a case-by-case basis, much as Chris did with Back-to-Iraq. It would work like this:

A journalist or writer — or even a nonjournalist blogger (these categories are breaking down even as I type this) — could propose to the public an interesting, in-depth project that might take a couple of months to pull off, and which the mainstream press wouldn’t support. The blogger puts a price tag on it — i.e. “I’ll need $5,000 to pay my way while I do this story.” Then she or he waits to see if people are willing to support it. To help generate buzz for it, the blogger can essentially sort of begin blogging regularly on the topic, as Chris did with Back-to-Iraq, to help build an audience. If the audience is intrigued enough, they may well cough up the cash for a full-length treatment of the subject. This isn’t all that different from how documentary makers do their work; frequently they cobble together money from several sources, ranging from friends-and-family to foundations and interested companies to broadcasters.

But the downsides of blograising (heh … term I just dreamed up now for “raising money via your blog”) are, of course, legion. One problem is that it wouldn’t work well for investigative projects — since investigative projects work best when the researchers are quiet about what they’re doing, so as not to alert their subjects or scare them off. Say, for example, that you publicly announced on a blog that you’re looking for money to investigate a major corporation. Well, that’s going to set of piercing alarm-bells at that corporation, and any chance you have an inside access is shot.

But the idea is worth exploring more, for sure!

(Thanks to Chris from Back-to-Iraq for pointing this one out for me!)

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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