The Save Journalism Project Freelance Reporting Initiative
The Save Journalism Project is a non-profit advocacy organization that launched in June with the mission to raise awareness about the existential threat the journalism industry faces from the tech giants. Much important work has been done to focus attention on attacks on the free press. But the economic sustainability of the journalism industry has received far less coverage, even though the business model of news publishers has been destroyed by Google and Facebook’s domination of the digital advertising marketplace and control over web traffic.
While ad revenue has exploded for Google and Facebook, news publishers are losing billions of dollars each year, forcing the closure of hundreds of newspapers and deep jobs cuts across the industry. According to Pew, news publishers made $14.3 billion in ad revenue in 2018, just half what the industry earned from advertising in 2009. And for the last seven years, news publishers have lost roughly $2 billion per year in ad revenue, much of it going to the tech giants instead. If the revenue slide isn’t stopped in the next few years, there may not be a journalism industry to save.
We are launching our Freelance Reporting Initiative to raise funds to hire laid off reporters to write freelance stories highlighting the challenges posed to the journalism industry by the tech giants. The first two stories that we intend to commission will focus on how communities are being affected by the loss of news outlets and how Google and Facebook have come to dominate the digital advertising market so comprehensively. We will commission journalists to report these stories, but we will not know in advance which outlet will accept the story. We will be working with our extensive contacts in the journalism industry to get these stories placed and have high confidence that we will succeed.
The first story will explore in depth the problem of "news deserts." Local news outlets are central parts of American communities. Without them, we may never uncover crises like the Flint water supply, or expose sexual predators like Jerry Sandusky and Larry Nassar. More than 1,300 communities across the United States have lost their local paper in the last fifteen years. Those that remain are often operating with a much smaller newsroom and possibly even publishing fewer editions because they cannot monetize their content online.
The second story will track the explosive growth of the digital advertising "Duoploy" of Google and Facebook, who together combine to gobble up nearly two-thirds of all digital advertising revenue. Just a decade ago, news publishers made more in advertising revenue that Google and Facebook put together. Now, the Duopoly make more than eight times what all news publishers earn from advertising. Simply put, Google and Facebook have a death grip on the journalism industry.
Freelance reporting has long been a critical part of the American journalistic landscape, with greats like Ernest Hemingway and Hunter S. Thompson defining the genre for generations of reporters. But like everything else in journalism these days, freelance reporting doesn’t pay what it once did. While it was common for Hemingway to get up to $5 a word for a story and most freelancers getting around $2, today publications can pay as little as 25 cents. Our Freelance Reporting Initiative will pay freelancers $2 a word, far more than the going rate and reflective of the need to support high-quality journalism. Our goal with this initiative is to raise $10,000 to enable us to commission five stories of 1,000 words each.
All of the funds we receive from your pledge will go directly toward funding these stories.
Risks and challenges
The primary risk we face is the threat to the journalism industry itself. News publishers have experienced a nearly 50% decline in their advertising revenue over just the last seven years, losing roughly $2 billion per year. According to Pew, all news publishers combined earned $14.3 billion in advertising revenue in 2018. If the pace of revenue loss of the last seven years continues for the next seven, advertising revenue will be wiped out and the free press will disappear along with it.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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