Forum future hinges on red button

Apr 9th, 2017 | By | Category: Hot Topics, Latest News

Tamahere Forum has teamed with journalism support platform PressPatron in a bid to ensure the community website’s long term future.

The pitch Tamahere Forum readers see if they hit the “supporter” button. (Photo: Screenshot)

PressPatron, an entrepreneurial venture designed to support the future of journalism, allows reader-supporters to make contributions to their favourite journalism websites in a few simple steps.

Tamahere Forum founder Philippa Stevenson, an award-winning journalist, has edited the news website largely voluntarily for nine years.

“I’ve been very grateful for the sponsorship and advertising support I have had over the years because it has helped me cover some costs,” Stevenson said. “I’ve always, hoped, though, that I would be able to expand the coverage by paying journalists to write more stories, and to be able to justify spending more of my time on the site.

“I’ve been waiting for nearly 10 years to be an overnight success!”

It’s not just hyper-local ventures finding it tough going. Major publishers around the world have failed to attract advertising to their online platforms and once mighty media companies have dwindled, forcing the layoff of thousands of journalists.

The first revenue losses came when newspaper advertising, once known in the industry as “rivers of gold” it was so plentiful, decamped to other sites where people gathered online. Companies could have their own window to the world unmediated by the news media. Sites like TradeMe or eBay drew people to new kinds of forums.

Since 2007, digital platforms like Facebook and Google have taken over much of the distribution of news online – along with the income from advertising.

In the interests of protecting the journalism that keeps people informed and aware of what is happening in their society a range of alternate funding sources are being explored. They include paywalls to restrict access to “premium” content and philanthropic trusts to support public interest journalism.

The idea for the crowdfunding platform PressPatron grew out of founder and CEO Alex Clark’s research into what New Zealanders are willing to pay for.

“Voluntary subscription is going to have a higher uptake than paywalls,” he believes.

“Not everybody will sign up, but the forecasting and modelling that we’ve done – and the actual data that we’re now starting to generate – shows that the revenue from this could exceed the revenue from online advertising quite quickly,” Clark told RNZ’s Mediawatch.

He believes reader support for publications will grow with the greater understanding of the crisis that journalism is going through.

“It doesn’t follow traditional economic modelling, but people are willing to pay because they care about journalism,’ Clark said.

“We find 70 per cent of contributors are signing up for monthly recurring contributions. They are paying $12 per month on average. One time contributions are larger . . and the overall average is $55.”

Stevenson is a staunch believer in the value of local news.

Philippa Stevenson

“With shrinking journalism resources the bigger media outlets have had to abandon smaller areas. They focus on the bigger news – stories that give them more bang for their buck,” she said.

“But people need to know what is happening in their backyard. That’s need-to-know news that effects people in their every day lives. And it’s also great to celebrate the success of local people or note the passing of much loved community members.”

She has long promoted the idea of under-employed journalists putting their skills to work for their communities, including in this story on Mediawatch in 2015.

“The trouble is I’m always asked the same question: “Do you make a living out of it?” Of course, I have to be honest and say no. But I hope that by teaming with PressPatron I can spread the idea that people need to support media services – mine and any others they find useful or enjoyable – if they want them to survive.

“I’m proud of the service I provide Tamahere. It has grown into a resource I think people really value. But I worry that one day in the future I’ll just have to pull the plug because I’ll have had enough and I won’t be able to find anyone to take it over because anyone who has an interest will want an income, too.”

“I hope the big red button makes a difference,” Stevenson said.

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