Cooperative journalism startups are all the rage these days, and Nov. 6, NYU’s journalism program will celebrate another one being added to the list. The concept behind global journalism cooperative Deca isn’t totally unique, but I like its chances of surviving mainly because it operates with a worldly point-of-view.
Writers for Deca are based in more than 90 countries and every continent. Their idea for entering the digital journalism sphere starts with solid, rich reporting, as it should, and they are selling Deca’s products to consumers via a $15 yearly subscription fee. At least ten times a year, Deca writers, which include National Magazine Award and Pulitzer Prize winners, will publish one piece of long narrative nonfiction. This is after a lengthy vetting process where the writer works with another Deca network member to edit the piece, respond to feedback and get the go-ahead from other Deca writers, too. The articles are longer than a magazine item but shorter than a book and will finally be available for purchase as e-singles.
With new journalism ventures, there usually has to be a niche. Which group is Deca going to tap into? But they say their stories are just going to be “about the world.” With the success The Big Roundtable, Medium, The Atavist and others have seen with this wide-open content model, I see lots of potential. Even Longreads recently started commissioning pieces of original storytelling because they see it’s something journalism consumers are hungry for.
As with any online journalism co-op, the challenges are not only many but quite complex. Deca’s Kickstarter campaign was incredibly successful, which bodes well for its initial interest but doesn’t tell us anything about long-term sustainability.
According to New York University’s Deputy Director for Media Relations James Devitt, some questions being addressed at the upcoming (Nov. 6) panel between Deca writers and NYU’s Carter Journalism Institute Literary Reportage program are as follows: “When journalists and artists step outside traditional institutions, what is gained and what is left behind? Can collectives ever be organized? Can writers edit? Can creatives do spreadsheets?”
The most important takeaway is that Deca’s model pays accomplished magazine writers directly for their independent work, and it’s easily accessible to readers. There isn’t enough of that going on right now, so I’ll check it out.
You can learn more about Deca here.