An Experiment to Save Journalism

An Experiment to Save Journalism

Will you join me in an experiment that could save quality journalism around the world?

It’s a big statement, I grant you, but it’s an urgent one. Without a vibrant, free, and independent press, democracy is in serious trouble. There is no cause that is dearer to me, and nothing I would like to leave more to future generations than a world where journalism of integrity and importance is flourishing. This cannot be only a mission for those of us in the press. This is a purpose that requires a society-wide embrace.

Journalism is under threat. And not only from authoritarian governments. You can’t have reporters, editors, and news producers unless you have a business model that sustains them. Business models mean money, and right now it’s becoming harder and harder for news organizations to find ways to keep newsrooms staffed and the lights on. And let’s face it, the status quo is pretty miserable for a lot of readers who are bombarded with ads and frustrated by paywalls. If newspapers go out of business or can’t afford to cover city hall, we all lose.

Much of the current disruption is because of a digital revolution that has upended advertising and subscription services. But could technology be a solution to the problem?

Let’s start by acknowledging that you could write everything I know about technology on the back of a postage stamp. But I know enough about how the world works that if someone with a track record comes to you with what sounds like a good idea, then you’d be a fool not to listen.

That’s what happened a while back when Noam Bardin contacted my colleague Elliot Kirschner to see if we would be interested in trying out a new tool he’s developing. We were fans of the last tool he developed, the mapping software known as Waze which Bardin grew from a small startup to a billion dollar business. You might have heard of it.

Now Bardin had a new destination in mind. It revolves around the idea of micropayments, which aren’t new. The premise is that right now online journalism is all or nothing. Either you get it for free or you hit a paywall that asks for your credit card, your email, and a lot of money. Even for people of means, there are only so many subscriptions you will take. But for people living paycheck to paycheck, shouldn’t there be a way to get the news they need from a variety of sources more affordably?

What if you could pay as you go? Want to read this article? That will be 15 cents. Want to watch this short film? That will be a dollar. Want to support a local paper that just published a blockbuster investigation? Well you can give them a 10 dollar tip.

What Bardin explained is that you have to make this process seamless and easy. You also need to find out whether people will actually want to use it.

That’s where all of you come in. Sign up for the Paygo service and you get 30 cents for free to spend on this experiment. I will post articles for a nominal fee, and see what you think. If you use up the 30 cents you can add a few more dollars using Apple Pay or Google Pay. The goal is to make this user friendly.

Folks, we need your help. We need you to tell us if this is a good idea or a bad one. We need to see how you will use it, or not use it. In short, we need data to have a go at making something that is not only new, but needed. Our hope is that we will get this data from this experiment about whether this approach is viable and how it can be improved. We want to see if this is a way to keep local newspapers and independent publishers in business. So please sign up and give it a try.

Find out more about the venture here:

Mission statement from Noam Bardin: