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Story Exchange: Crowd-Funding Public Radio

For a brief time, it was going to be called Story Market, but the wise guys (and gals) at PRX have decided to name their new venture Story Exchange.

Funded by the super-competitive Knight News Challenge and modeled after Spot.Us, another Knight News Challenge winner, Story Exchange will be an online platform where public radio producers can raise direct support for their projects. PRX will be piloting Story Exchange this fall with Louisville Public Media.

Writing in a blog post on the PBS Idea Lab site, PRX’s Jake Shapiro said:

“We anticipate (and will blog about) some of the challenges to come, including the ways that Story Exchange runs counter to some of the ingrained public radio culture, the obstacles we encounter integrating a new model into the existing PRX system, the tech partnership, and the overall merits and successes of the emerging crowdfunding model for journalism.”

Is Transparency the New Objectivity for Public Media?

What parts of ingrained public radio culture do you think might be challenged by the development of a crowd-funding system? Right now, independent producers seek support from foundations for their work. And freelance reporters pitch and sell their content to editors or get paid for assignments from stations and networks. There’s supposed to be a firewall between funders and the editorial content of news, even as foundations have often supported coverage of issues on their docket of concerns.

So, will the networks and stations pay to acquire content supported elsewhere? Will they reject such pieces or adjust their fee scale accordingly?

Public = People Powered

A system that enables socially-networked (perhaps viral) media investment may wind up delivering more money into the hands of independent producers than the current system of acquisition fees, distribution and royalties. It may enable great content to be produced at a liveable, sustainable wage, regardless of distribution avenues. I highly doubt this kind of citizen-funding model poses any threat to station membership or other forms of support to public radio.

Do you think that public radio listeners are more likely to send electronic donations to support an idea they believe in, or put a donation in a tip jar as a thank you for good work after its done? Will citizen-funders care whether the story or series they support has a commitment to traditional broadcast? Will stations use Story Market to boost their own local news budgets?

Ripe and Ready

The whole public media system will learn much from this new economic experiment. But we can’t be totally sure just how it will all turn out.

I say bravo for PRX, and bravo for the re-branding – or rather building on the PRX brand as it is. Market sounds so commercial – evoking images of peddlers hawking their wares, jam-packed cereal aisles or even the stock market (need I say more?), while Exchange has that feeling of fair trade, a give and take among equals.

Story Exchange is just one piece of an expanding scope of inventive work led by PRX. This past week PRX made a big announcement of $2.7 million of investment from CPB, Ford and MacArthur Foundations. This support will keep the fairy godparents of Remix Radio, The Public Radio Player app, and much more at the frontlines of innovation in the world of public media.