Good news - journalism matters
For a variety of reasons, these are dark days for journalism, with the public's appetite to hand over money in return for quality reporting apparently in inexorable decline. How cheering then to be able to report some good news.
On Wednesday two journalists, Bobbie Johnson and Jim Giles, set out on an unlikely mission. They gave themselves 30 days to raise $50,000 to fund a new online technology magazine called Matter that would seek to publish long articles and get people to pay small sums for each one.
They used Kickstarter, a site where ventures ranging from new online games to documentaries to clever gadgets appeal for backing in a phenomenon known as crowd funding. Here is how they summed up their publication's aims:
"Matter will focus on doing one thing, and doing it exceptionally well. Every week, we will publish a single piece of top-tier long-form journalism about big issues in technology and science. That means no cheap reviews, no snarky opinion pieces, no top 10 lists. Just one unmissable story."
Anyone who scans much online technology journalism will know that snarky opinion pieces and cheap reviews - offered to readers for nothing - are its common currency so asking for cash to support heavyweight reporting seemed optimistic to say the least.
But this morning, less than 48 hours after Matter's appeal went live on Kickstarter, it hit its $50,000 target. Now the two journalists are hoping that more funds will be pledged over the next four weeks to allow them to deliver a better product.
In depth reporting, which looks behind the messages that technology companies and their vast armies of public relations executives pump out, is both time-consuming and expensive. But it seems there is an untapped hunger for that kind of journalism.
Another new venture in technology journalism, Kernel Magazine has also launched in recent weeks, though with a more gossipy brand of reporting than that promised by Matter. But it also aims to get readers to pay for at least some of its content, and its editors say they've already had an encouraging response.
So, two straws in the wind, pointing to the possibility of a new business model for quality journalism online. Both Matter and the Kernel still have to prove that they can build sustainable businesses, keeping readers engaged enough to hand over their money. But while others moan from the sidelines, let's applaud their sheer optimism in giving it a go.