“On June first, six of us were fired from GOOD magazine,” begins the promotional video.
Remember that story?
Well, the six out-of-work journalists and designers, plus two of their colleagues who later quit, are not lamenting GOOD times past; rather, they are looking ahead to Tomorrow: a one-off dream magazine and website, to be released this fall. To finance the idea, they began fundraising this week on Kickstarter.
Here is how that went:
Within five hours they had met their goal of $15,000.
Four days later they had raised more than $27,528.
The average backer pledged $27.55.
A bit of context: Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing crowdfunding site that allows anyone to pitch an idea to the Internet at large, and hope that like-minded people will volunteer to reach into their pockets.
Project-starters must explain the worthiness of their ideas using text and video. They then must set a fundraising goal and deadline, and create a hierarchy of rewards for contributors at each notch on the donation scale.
If the capital has not been raised by the deadline, nobody pays. If the goal has been met or exceeded, the money is transferred and the rewards distributed (with the caveat: "This isn't Best Buy — rewards aren't shrink-wrapped and ready to ship. Once the project is funded, the journey to bring them to life begins.")
Since Kickstarter launched in April 2009, 2 million people have successfully funded more than 24,000 projects with $250 million in start-up capital (this is probably the most successful Kickstarter project to date).
Kickstarter is divided into categories, including music, film, art, technology, design, food and publishing. Presently featured in the "journalism" subcategory are:
- A new website for the Boston Review ($7,837 raised so far).
- A project that will revive journalists' old interview tapes via podcast and radio and YouTube ($2,382 so far).
Among the most-funded journalism projects thus far have been:
- Matter, which promises a weekly top-tier longform piece on big themes surrounding science and technology ($140,201).
- Radio Ambulante, a monthly Spanish-language radio programme that will tell "compelling human stories from around Latin America and the United States" ($46,032).
For many journalistic endeavours, rewards for pledging, particularly in smaller increments, revolve around access to the finished products. The site represents a new model for financing journalism, whereby strangers vote with their wallets, and like-minded readers crowd together to bring their dream news sources into existence.
And it appears to be working.
The Tomorrow team posted their page on June 25, giving contributors until July 25 to donate in any increment over $1, and offering donors of $15 dollars or more recognition on the magazine's donor page, plus a copy of the 100-page, oversized magazine. In the $15 category there are presently 717 backers.
As befitting this team of hyper-creative misfits, the rewards grow more eccentric with donors' largesse. A pledge of $250 or more earns you either "a personalized consultation on your online dating profile from Amanda Hess, a Tomorrow editor and sex and relationships writer" (2 backers so far) or "a life event of your choosing, illustrated in GIFs by Tomorrow editor and #realtalk from your editor creator Ann Friedman" (this limited reward has "sold out" with 5 backers).
Their big-ticket item for $500, "a one-of-a-kind personalized PG-13 phone message from porn star James Deen," has not had any bites so far. In a Tumblr post analysing the results, the team theorises: "Many of [James Deen's] fans are so young they probably don’t have $500 lying around. (Possible side project: starting a Kickstarter to help a cohort of Deen fans afford our Kickstarter incentive.)"
The same post offers a chart ranking by dollar amount the social media sites that brought the project the most success on Kickstarter. Twitter was the winner with 32 percent of donations, followed by Facebook with 11 percent, and Tumblr at 6.4 percent.
Here are three Kickstarter tips from the Tomorrow team, based on their learnings:
1. "Little incentives worked best for us. People with the money to afford the big ones aren’t the ones who follow us on Twitter."
2. "Your network is worth more than Kickstarter’s. We were listed in the 'Popular' section on Kickstarter’s homepage for a while, but it only drove eight donations."
3. "Any publicity helps. Most of our donations were driven from external referrers: The more people chatting about a project, the more donations."
The magazine's manifesto is as follows:
“Tomorrow is about (and for) the people who are working out what’s next. Today’s dilemmas deserve fresh eyes liberated from the tired status quo of superficial journalism, boring narratives, and old ideas about what works. We’ll take a look around the corner to bring you stories about the people, the movements, and the trends that are tearing the world down and building it anew.”
For forward-looking journalists with a great idea, and enthusiastic prospective readers willing to help, Kickstarter is exactly such a trend.
Sources: Kickstarter, Tomorrowmag Tumblr
Video from Mashable: