Daum Kakao’s new journalism platform is eliciting a positive response from online news readers in South Korea. Total individual contributions to the News Funding, first introduced in September of last year, exceeded 700 million won (roughly $700K) by Jan 28. News Funding is a slightly modified form of conventional crowdfunding platforms. Instead of gathering funds from individual investors to finance companies’ business projects and products, the service bankrolls journalists’ articles.
So far, more than 50,000 readers have used the service to contribute to covering production cost of reports they felt attached to. In many cases, a single reader makes multiple contributions. In one particularly notable case, a single reader funded various reports for a total of 51 times. This new source of funding from the general public, while giving the public satisfaction for participating directly in the reports’ production process, is also encouraging writers to create more diversified, independent, and in-depth contents.
There are noteworthy early signs that those anticipated results are materializing. Positive public responses to this new journalism platform have been accompanied by participation of about 180 professional and student writers producing quality pieces on issues ranging from current affairs, economics, culture, to entertainment and sports. Throughout the expansion period, the number of content provided by Newsfunding grew from 8 to nearly 50.
“It is possible to produce reports that actively reflect readers’ opinions, thanks to the new platform that allows for active communication between readers and writers,” says Sang-kyu Park, the writer of “Did She Really Kill Her Father.” Keun-mo Ahn, the writer of “Exchange Rate War, Aiming at our Pockets” also described the new platform as providing a “novel experience” of “communicating eye-to-eye with readers.”
Most contents are akin to traditional in-depth reports. For example, an article titled “Why Does My Kid Not Look at the Mirror?” closely follows the hardship and prejudice burn patients suffer from. “Shin Hae-Chul, ‘To You’” is another such example, recounting the life of Shin, a widely admired musician and controversial social commentator who recently passed away, through interviews with people close to him..
Interestingly, however, articles on News Funding also act as bridges to larger social projects. For example, funding directed to “Why Does My Kid Not Look at the Mirror” not only pays for the report’s production cost but thirty percent of the funding is also donated to a non-profit foundation providing help to burn patients. In case of “Shin Hae-Chul, To you” all of the funding to the report plans to be used to cover future educational fees for Shin’s two bereaved children. There are also talks of using some of the funds for the report to establish “Shin Hae-chul Street.”
General manager of News Funding , Kwi-hyun Kim of Daum Kakao, comments, “Newsfunding has established a virtuous cycle structure that leads to both production of high-quality contents and active consumption by readers, made possible by intimate collaboration between contents producers and readers.” In order to further develop this momentum behind Newsfunding, Daum Kakao plans to provide easier ways to participate in funding and expand the range of contents provided by presenting more than texts.
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