Mar 31, 2014

Hustling for your journalism: Beacon offers hope — and challenges

Beacon has hit on a low-cost model to fund high quality, specialised journalism. For freelancers, it's a way to get funds up-front to do the investigative work they want to do. But it also offers new challenges.

Myriam Robin — Media Reporter

Myriam Robin

Media Reporter

It's tough being a freelance journalist. Commissions can be few and far between, rates are dropping across the industry, and even when you do secure a paying client, some news organisations are notorious for taking yonks to pay up. Editors hope the piece they've commissioned will strike enough of a chord with readers to justify the cost, but if the piece goes viral, the freelancer doesn't get paid more. In exchange for the freedom to choose their own assignments, freelancers bear most of the risk in the transaction, with little of the reward. Beacon offers a novel new way to pay the bills -- and for all the reasons above, it's particularly attractive to freelancers. The platform, which launched in August last year, allows individuals to pay $5 a month to support the work of a particular journalist, who'll then post exclusive articles to Beacon. Supporters also get access to articles written by all the other journalists who use Beacon to fund and spread their work. Most (70%) funds go to the particular journalist the subscriber wants to support; the rest go into a shared pool, to be distributed to journalists on Beacon whose articles are the most read for that month. Theoretically, this could free up freelancers from relying on publications to propagate their work, as they can go directly to readers interested in their pet subjects. Former AAP and Eureka Report journalist Rachel Williamson, now a freelancer, is giving the site a go. She wants 60 subscribers to commit to recurring funding of $5 a month to fund her living costs and security in Somaliland, where she wants to investigate how the region's new-found oil wealth is affecting its independence movement.

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