“My boss is 18,000 people”: Journalism practices in crowdfunded media organizations

Adilya Zaripova


Imagine a media organization without ownership, hierarchy, advertisement, where every journalist is free to do whatever he or she wants. Recently, more and more journalists around the world have been chasing this beautiful dream. In the Netherlands, Germany, the United States, Hungary, Russia, Spain, journalists are attempting to create media solely or partly financed through crowdfunding.

This article analyzes three crowdfunded media organizations in three different countries—Krautreporter (Germany), Direkt36 (Hungary), and Colta (Russia). Using qualitative, in-depth interviews, it demonstrates that journalism practices in a crowdfunded newsroom are very different from those in other media. The study concludes that direct funding from the audience is a burden in a practical sense: this business model is financially unstable and increases the amount of work that journalists have to do. At the same time, participants claim to be more satisfied with their work now than they ever were before.


crowdfunding, journalism, independent media, autonomy, professional selfperception

Full Text:



References Aitamurto, T. (2011). The impact of crowdfunding on journalism. Journalism Practice 5(4), 429–445. doi: 10.1080/17512786.2010.551018. Aitamurto, T. (2015). The role of crowdfunding as a business model in journalism: A five-layered model of value creation. In L. K. Bennett, B. Chin, B. Jones (eds.): Crowdfunding the future. Media industries, ethics and digital society. Peter Lang Publishing Inc. (Digital formations, vol. 98). Belleflamme, P., Lambert, T., Schwienbacher, A. (2013). Individual crowdfunding practices. Venture Capital 15(4), 313–333. doi: 10.1080/13691066.2013.785151. Betancourt, L. (2009). Is crowdfunding the future of journalism? Retrieved from <http://www.crowdsourcing.org/document/is-crowdfunding-the-future-ofjournalism/ 1374>. Colta. O projekte. Chto takoe COLTA.RU? Retrieved from <http://www.colta.ru/about>. Crowdfunding industry report. (2012). Market trends, composition and crowdfunding platforms. Retrieved from <http://www.crowdfunding.nl/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/92834651- Massolution-abridged-Crowd-Funding-Industry-Report1.pdf>. Direkt36. Who are we? Retrieved from <http://www.direkt36.hu/en/kik-vagyunk/>. @direkt_36 (6 January 2015). In Hungary, telling the truth is getting more and more difficult. Here’s our plan to change that. Medium.com, Retrieved from <https://medium.com/@direkt_36/inhungary-telling-the-truth-is-getting-more-and-more-difficult-heres-our-plan-to-change-thate8985cdb65a6>. Flick, U. (2002). An introduction to qualitative research. 2nd ed. London, Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications. Franke, N., Klausberger, K. (2008). Design communities: Business model of the future? Institute for entrepreneurship and innovation, Vienna University of Economics and Business Administration. Retrieved from <http://noori.abismo.org/crowdsourcing.pdf>. Gajda, O., Abendroth, M. von. (2014). Creative funding for creative media. Crowdfunding guide for media professionals. Published by European Magazine Media Association and the European Crowdfunding Network. Retrieved from <http://www.eurocrowd.org/wpcontent/blogs.dir/12/files/2014/01/FML-ECN-EMMA-crowdfunding-guide-final.pdf>. Griffin, Z. (2012). Crowdfunding: Fleecing the American masses. SSRN Journal. Retrieved from <http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2030001>. Halpape, J. H. (2011). Finding friends for the Tyee: A plan for a reader-supported journalism program. Project. Simon Fraser University. Retrieved from <http://summit.sfu.ca/item/11590>. Hui, J., Gonzalez, J. L., Gerber, E. M. (2014). Understanding the role of community in crowdfunding work. The 17th ACM Conference. Baltimore, Maryland. Hunter, A. (2015). Crowdfunding independent and freelance journalism: Negotiating journalistic norms of autonomy and objectivity. New Media & Society 17(2), 272–288. doi: 10.1177/1461444814558915. Hunter, A. (2016). “It's like having a second full-time job.” Journalism Practice 10(2), 217-232. doi: 10.1080/17512786.2015.1123107. Jian, L., Shin, J. (2014). Motivations behind donors' contributions to crowdfunded journalism. Mass Communication and Society 18(2), 165–185. doi: 10.1080/15205436.2014.911328. Jian, L., Usher, N. (2014). Crowd-funded journalism. J Comput-Mediat Comm 19 (2), 155–170. doi: 10.1111/jcc4.12051. Johnson, K. (15 February 2015): A new world record for crowdfunded journalism. Throughcracks.com,. Retrieved from <http://throughcracks.com/crowdfunding-journalism-elespanol-worldrecord/>. Krautreporter. Zeit für Journalismus. Retrieved from <https://krautreporter.de/pages/ueber_uns>. Kurpius D. D., Metzgar, E. T., Rowley, K. M. (2010). Sustaining hyperlocal media. Journalism Studies 11(3), 359–376. doi: 10.1080/14616700903429787. Lawton, K., Marom, D. (2013). The crowdfunding revolution. How to raise venture capital using social media. New York: McGraw-Hill. Lehner, O. M., Nicholls, A. (2014). Social finance and crowdfunding for social enterprises: A public–private case study providing legitimacy and leverage. Venture Capital 16(3), 271–286. doi: 10.1080/13691066.2014.925305. Loginova, I. (2012). “Colta.ru operezhaet vremja”. Moskovskije Novosti. Retrieved from <http://www.mn.ru/society_civil/20120717/323096125.html>. McCarthy, M. (2012). Crowdfunding for civic journalism: An analysis of story content and publication on Spot.Us. California State University, Northridge. Conference of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. Retrieved from <https://www.academia.edu/4279825/Crowdfunding_for_Civic_Journalism>. Nevill, G. (2014). Funding news freedom: How reporting is paying its way. Index on Censorship 43(3), 63–66. doi: 10.1177/0306422014548376 Pfauth, E.-J. (2013). How we turned a world record in journalism crowd-funding into an actual publication. About Dutch journalism startup De Correspondent. Medium.com, 27 November. Retrieved from <https://medium.com/de-correspondent/how-we-turned-a-world-record-injournalism-crowd-funding-into-an-actual-publication-2a06e298afe1>. Pfauth, E.-J. (2014). Here’s what happened to that world-record in journalism crowdfunding. Lessons from year one of De Correspondent. Medium.com, 30 September. Retrieved from <https://medium.com/de-correspondent/heres-what-happend-to-that-world-record-injournalism- crowdfunding-cc5bac50b812>. Picard, R. G. (2014). Twilight or new dawn of journalism? Journalism Studies 15(5), 500–510. doi: 10.1080/1461670X.2014.895530. Planeta. Podderjhi Coltu! Retrieved from <https://planeta.ru/campaigns/colta>. Porlezza, C., Splendore, S. (2016). Accountability and transparency of entrepreneurial journalism. Journalism Practice 10(2), 196-216. doi: 10.1080/17512786.2015.1124731. Rubinton, B. J. (2011). Crowdfunding: Disintermediated investment banking. Munich Personal RePEc Archive (31649). Retrieved from <http://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de/31649/>. Ramos, J. (2014). Crowdfunding and the role of managers in ensuring the sustainability of crowdfunding platforms. Ed. by James Stewart. European Commission, Joint Research Centre, Institute for Prospective Technological Studies. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union. Retrieved from <http://ftp.jrc.es/EURdoc/JRC85752.pdf>. Tomczak, A., Brem, A. (2013). A conceptualized investment model of crowdfunding. Venture Capital 15(4), pp. 335–359. doi: 10.1080/13691066.2013.847614. Vukanovic, Z. (2015). New media business models in social and web media. Journal of Media Business Studies 8(3), 51–67. doi: 10.1080/16522354.2011.11073526. Wenzlaff, K. (2014). Saving journalism (Crowdfunding Project of the Day). Available online at http://www.future-crowdfunding.de/saving-journalism-crowdfunding-project-of-the-day/. Wroldsen, J. S. (2012). The social network and the Crowdfund Act: Zuckerberg, Saverin and venture capitalists' dilution of the crowd. SSRN Journal. Retrieved from <http://ssrn.com/abstract=2141015>.

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7146/mediekultur.v33i62.24767

Comments on this article

View all comments

This website uses cookies to allow us to see how the site is used. The cookies cannot identify you or any content at your own computer.