Alastair Thompson, editor and co-founder of Scoop Media says the online news organisation now has a “fighting chance” after reaching a crowd-funding target of $50,000 on Pledge Me to establish the Scoop foundation for public interest journalism.
Crowd-funding for media organisations seems to be in vogue at the moment with Auckland’s 95 bFm radio station seeking $45,000 from donors on the Givealittle webpage.
Speaking to StopPress on Wednesday afternoon, Thompson said the money raised had been earmarked to improve the financial viability of Scoop Media through its self-described ethical paywall through which Scoop encourages large users to purchase a commercial licence.
“The crowd-funding campaign was quite explicit about establish[ing] the ethical paywall as the long-term sustainable business model to support Scoop.”
There are currently 82 accredited commercial licence holders for Scoop as listed on the organisation's webpage.
Thompson says he rejects typical commercial paywalls which are too restrictive. Scoop’s ethical paywall instead aims at keeping content free on the website.
“It’s essentially creative commons applied. Other commercial models require paywalls to be coercive. Paywalls create an obstacle. They are quite complex and expensive to initiate.”
Scoop typically serves as an online bulletin board for lobby groups, government departments and businesses to post press releases, which are then often disseminated through mainstream media channels.
Thompson said Scoop’s value lay in acting as a distributor of unfiltered information.
“In terms of the value that Scoop provides, I think it’s fair to say it exists primarily in the collection of content and the archive of content. Scoop’s content set is very useful for people doing work. People use Scoop’s content to help them analyse competitive threats, regulations of government [and] look up contacts.”
The idea of the ethical paywall may sound nice but without the ability to compel users to pay for Scoop’s content and services, doesn’t the service risk a lot of people taking advantage of the free service?
Thompson agreed this was an ongoing problem for Scoop but he said the numbers of “ethical” subscribers could help make Scoop viable.
“Free-riding is an issue. Inevitably there will be quite a lot of free-riding as we grow our subscriber base. Our view is that free riders should be ashamed of themselves but we are not having any intention of actively pursuing them because there seem to be plenty of customers who are willing to acknowledge the value that they receive from Scoop and pay for it.”
Thompson was optimistic about the value of Scoop licences, given the amount of web traffic driven to the site.
“We do know on a daily basis, Scoop receives 20,000 visitors. That relates to people accessing information in our archives.”
Scoop, like many media organisations, has struggled to keep its head above water and Thompson said the crowd-funding wouldn’t make them fully financially sustainable overnight.
“Scoop is profitable on a year-to-date basis as of today [Wednesday] with this crowd funding [but] we need commercial support in terms of people buying our licences in order for us to be fully sustainable.”
By May next year (the anniversary of the first Scoop licences being sold), Thompson was confident that sufficient numbers of licences would have been sold to make Scoop financially sustainable on a monthly basis.
However, Thompson added: "until that point we may need some additional support, special sponsorship or some special support from corporations”.
Thompson said Scoop is aiming to sell an additional 50-100 commercial licences over the summer.