The term ‘quality online journalism’ is becoming somewhat of an oxymoron these days, with clickbait and sponsored content preying on information thirsty readers with short attention spans. But there are a number platforms that hope to change this. We have already seen Coda, the single story news site which focuses on one crisis at a time, and now Byline is a London based startup that crowdfunds independent, long-form journalism.
Byline was founded by Seungyoon Lee and former Economist journalist Daniel Tudor. It recently launched in Beta with a host of established journalists covering interesting, relevant topics. Radical feminist Julie Bindel raised GBP 6,500 to investigate the global sex trade; Iraq-based photo agency Metrography got USD 6,500 to document the lives of displaced people. Writers can crowdfund an exclusive project — a large assignment that requires a lump-sum payment will only be completed if the full amount is raise — or choose to finance an ongoing column. Upon completion, journalists can offer rewards to supporters such as ‘thank you’ credits at the end of their piece, a Skype chat with the writer, or a signed book or DVD.
The platform aims to be an antidote to the mainstream news media of the UK and US, which is inevitably heavily influenced by the small number of businesses that own it. Byline takes 15 percent of all money raised, the rest goes to the journalist, hopefully forming the equivalent of a regular freelance wage. Could this model find a place in the increasingly free information world?