This 31-year-old is launching a news network on his own
The news business is a tough one.
Whether you’re a newspaper, a TV network or a website, the internet has made it harder to make a profit from journalism.
Finances at all the major news networks have been under increasing pressure, with some wondering if the web will eventually make them all redundant.
So you’d think starting a news channel in 2017 would be a dumb idea.
Tell that to Philip DeFranco.
He’s a 31-year-old YouTuber from New York, who’s just decided to take on the big players by launching a news network from scratch.
“I want to make the next great news network,” DeFranco says in a video announcing his project.
“A network that’s run under my vision of ‘It’s OK to have and share opinions but let’s get the facts right first.’”
Now the idea of running a news platform focused on ‘getting the facts right’ is not original, and it’s a tad embarrassing he thinks that it is.
But DeFranco’s approach to starting his network is novel — and it seems to be working.
In his video announcement, posted on the first of May, DeFranco asked people to support him by pledging money on the crowdfunding site Patreon.
Much like Kickstarter, Patreon allows people to financially back projects they love, but unlike other sites, Patreon lets fans donate money on an ongoing basis.
In the two weeks since announcing his campaign, DeFranco has attracted nearly 15,500 supporters, and leapt to the top of the Patreon creator chart.
By way of comparison, Wikipedia founder and internet darling Jimmy Wales also announced the launch of a news network this month. So far he’s only gathered 10,000 financial backers.
Interestingly, DeFranco has refused to display how much money that translates to, but as fans can pledge anything between $5-$10,000 per month, it’s fair to assume he’s making a minimum of $80,000 (£61,500) every month, before even launching.
He says the money will be spent on building new sets and launching new shows to be watched for free on YouTube.
Ten years to overnight success
Now DeFranco is not a journalist and, as far as anyone can tell, has never worked for a news channel before. He started making videos while studying biology at university.
So the support he’s receiving will no doubt have news executives in the traditional media scratching their heads.
But it shouldn’t be surprising.
DeFranco has slowly been accumulating loyal fans for more than ten years and currently boasts 5.4m subscribers on his main YouTube channel.
The fact that 15,000 (only 0.2%) of them are financially backing him doesn’t sound so incredible.
We’ll have to wait and see if a single YouTuber can take on the likes of CNN or Sky News — journalism is an expensive business.
But it’s a sign of our times that a 30-something YouTuber feels like they can.
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