Today during yet another aimless lunchtime rumination with friends, I was spitballing the idea of a website that is not only entirely crowd-funded, but also crowd-directed. The site would essentially be a blank slate, with no inherent direction or mission. It wouldn’t be a site specifically about videogames, technology, cars, music, or world news, but it could be about all of those things. It would be focused utterly on topics suggested, developed and chosen by the community.
Users would be asked to fund the site through donations, in a fashion similar to Kickstarter, with every donation over a certain dollar amount garnering that user a single vote. These votes could then be spent to either pitch a commissioned long-form written piece on the topic of their choice, or to vote for an idea that has already been pitched. This means that the entirety of the site’s content would be driven by the community, a community that is engaged enough to pay for the content that they want to see produced, and they would have actual agency in its production.
Site contributors would consist of a dedicated team of editors and writers, supported by community members that wish to try their hand at writing pieces themselves. Users of the site would also be able to apply to write pieces that exist in the list, given sufficient evidence of their experience with the topic. Site staff would then work with these community writers, helping them by providing contacts, advice, stylistic guidelines, and an experienced editorial voice. Pieces would also be sought and published from well-known guest writers from around the world, obviously subject to availability.
The idea isn’t without its flaws, here’s just a few:
- Getting started would be the most difficult part. Users will only contribute to a site that they have confidence in, how would we initially build that confidence, and support ourselves while we do so?
- Given the generally acerbic nature of Internet feedback, how would the editorial team measure and act on feedback?
- How long would it take before the list is completely dominated by porn-related pitches?
- Considering the fact that money is involved, how much power would site staff have in dismissing pitches that were deemed uninteresting or distasteful?
- How would the community funding work with advertising before the site becomes self-sufficient?
- How would we encourage return readership? An RSS feed may prove frustrating, as the content would probably be incredibly varied and difficult to categorise.
- All that the site would be able to guarantee is a high quality of writing, and excellent presentation. The content itself is almost completely unpredicatble.
- Perhaps the funding side of the idea is crazy? Should we just focus on the community-driven content aspect? Aside from the obvious, there are numerous advantages to community funding:
- A community that invests financially, invests passionately and often vocally.
- Trolls and other malcontents would be discouraged.
- Sufficient community funding would negate the need for advertising, producing a cleaner, more pleasant site.
I’m still not 100% convinced that this is a good idea, but the fact that my initial dismissal has subsequently brain-wormed its way into this blog post, I can’t shake the feeling that there might be something there.
It’s a community-focused site, so I guess the best thing to do is to post the idea and see if the nebulous but evidently powerful “crowd” takes to it. Right at this very second I’m pretty excited by it, and I hope that you see potential in it too. I’ll post more as the idea matures.