PRX has been named a winner of the prestigious Knight News Challenge, the global competition to support innovation at the intersection of journalism and technology. But the real winner here may be independent producers, whose ranks are swelling at the same time that sources of investment seem to be shrinking.
PRX successfully sold the Knight Foundation on the idea of building StoryMarket, a version of Spot.Us designed specifically for public radio. Spot.Us, a previous Knight News Challenge awardee, is a platform that enables journalists to crowd-fund their proposed projects. Individual reporters or collaborative teams post a pitch then launch a social networking campaign to attract donations to support their reporting. Some public radio types on the West Coast have tapped into Spot.Us, as I described in a previous blog post called Spot.Us: Show.Us the Money.
According to PRX, “If you are an independent producer, StoryMarket is a new source for funding original work. Distinct from PRX.org an open market for existing work StoryMarket helps commission new work at professional rates for the best ideas.”
That could be music to the ears of some in the indie community who have been disappointed that their stories have not attracted more revenue through PRX. (See AIRBlast series “Distro Dancing.)
Tap That Well
Even though public radio is immensely popular, PRX says research shows that only about 10% of listeners take the leap to membership. That means there’s a tremendous resource just waiting to be tapped. StoryMarket will offer listeners another direct route to engage with public radio, through up-front investment in documentaries and stories during the idea stage of development. As PRX puts it, “don’t just support the programs you know and love, help us create the ones you need.”
StoryMarket could also enhance the amount, diversity and depth of local reporting at stations, which could also use their airwaves to invite listener support for specific beats or projects. PRX will be piloting the new platform this fall with Louisville Public Media.
One of the thornier issues public radio stations and networks will have to grapple with is how to credit contributors to crowd-funded stories. Donations to Spot.Us are transparent, which in theory allows everyone to see the identity of all donors. Will public radio vet these donor lists? Will stations air content that’s been subsidized by individuals or organizations involved in an issue, such advocates or activists who might see an opportunity to influence coverage using the power of their purse?
What do you think of StoryMarket? What should those at PRX who are creating this new plaform do to make sure that independent public media producers’ needs are met?
Many congratulations to everyone at PRX!