We’ve long admired journalism that matters. The kind that uncovers a scandal, identifies a marginalized population, or reports from the front lines. The internet has only furthered the proof that journalism is key to a highly-functioning democracy.
Internet advertising, on the other hand, has turned journalistic efforts into clickbait, a race for eyeballs, and populist fervor. Technologists have to be brought in to remove pop overs, unders, and just-in-the-wayers. The priority for cat memes usurps, but funds, compelling content.
Ad blockers and tools like Instapaper essentially arose as a backlash to this, only resulting in fewer dollars available for journalism. While I’m inspired to see the uptick in subscriptions to traditional news outlets, the designer in me feels like the barrier is too high. Yet another account, password, place for my credit card to be stolen, and so on.
Even if the New York Times hooked you with their catchy new Twitter ad, are you going to maintain your subscription after three months?
I’m also consistently impressed with the journalism coming out of nonprofit organizations. With less pressure to provide 10-million-views work, they are able to spend more time building out great stories, interactive experiences, and some other words about convergence. And you don’t have to believe me, the Grey Lady concurs:
Nonprofit newsrooms have long sought to position themselves as civic resources, relying on the same skills as newspapers and television stations, but without profit motives or a dependence on advertisers. As traditional news organizations with dwindling resources have curtailed their ambitions in recent years, nonprofit news groups have sought to pick up the expensive work of investigative and accountability journalism — though often with a fraction of the audience. (NYT: Nonprofit Journalism Groups Are Gearing Up With Flood of Donations, Dec. 7 2016)
Ad blockers don’t bother nonprofit outlets, because they have other methods of raising funds: foundations, individual donations, and grants. About those individual donations… you always know when your favorite podcast is going through a fundraising drive, and let’s be honest, you always fast-forward. Again, friction makes it hard to donate.
That’s why we are launching the Beta for 16ninety today. 16ninety is a small attempt at solving that friction: a Chrome extension that notes every time you read an article on a nonprofit journalism site. At the end of each month, we’ll send you an email to remind you of everything you’ve read.
If you choose, with a click or two, you can make a payment to all of the nonprofits that you read that month. It will recommend 10¢ per article, but you can always give more.
There are many other ways we consume journalism today — podcasts, Instapaper, mobile — but we had to start somewhere.