Journalism Crowdfunder Helps Climate Micro-Pub Launch

Screen Shot 2014-02-01 at 11.22.30 PMWhile perusing Columbia Journalism Review’s website this morning, I was struck by a story detailing the beginnings of an environmentally-themed “micro-publication.” But more than the project itself (these things are popping up all over the place, it seems), the digital magazine Climate Confidential’s partner caught my eye.

Beacon, a platform that seeks to “empower” writers by allowing readers to access the work of their favorite reporters for $5 per month, will host Climate Confidential as its first publication on the site — but only under one condition. Using its own brand of crowdsourcing, Beacon plans to lift Climate Confidential off the ground if they can gather 800 readers to back the climate-focused reporting venture.

Typically, you can become a part of the Beacon community by chipping in $5 each month to your favorite writer (I vetted it, and there is plenty of good journalism to be discovered there), but Beacon evidently thinks the reporting and writing brains behind Climate Confidential (comprised of a six-woman team of freelance environmental/tech journalists) will be quality enough to host the publication on its website as a special “project”.

The digital pub, only available to those who contribute via Beacon’s platform, will still get its own branding and logo as a microsite under the Beacon umbrella and will enjoy the benefits of long-term financial help from those who feel the mainstream media is neglecting stories on the “forefront of research and development in cleantech, the water-energy-food nexus, transportation and public health,” wrote the Climate Confidential team.

An important note from Beacon: with so many reporters using Indiegogo, GoFundMe and Kickstarter for niche journalism projects, why choose Beacon over the rest?

“What makes Beacon Projects different than Kickstarter and other crowdfunding platforms is that writers receive ongoing support from their readership. While some readers pay for one year or six months up front, many opt to contribute $5 a month. That means writers begin to receive a predictable paycheck for their work, making continued reporting possible,” wrote Beacon leaders on their blog.

Climate Confidential only has until March 6 to reach its goal of 800 subscribers (as of today, they’ve amassed 345 readers and a little over $17,000), and just like other popular crowdfunders, the publication is offering some added incentives like T-shirts and invites to special “salon” events, where you can rub elbows over drinks with the reporters whose work you’re funding.

All in all, I think we can learn from this little joint enterprise how valuable these two entities might be for each other, and my prediction is that when it comes to topic-based publications with lofty goals and crowdfunders that support journalism specifically, finding a partner is the smartest and most efficient solution.

What do you think of Beacon? Would you rather invest in reading Beacon writers, or do you prefer to pay for Byliner and Atavist work? Why?