Crowdfunded journalism startup Contributoria adds membership options and print edition

Contributoria, a crowdfunded journalism startup that launched earlier this year after winning a news-innovation challenge sponsored by Google and the International Press Institute, says it is looking to expand the pool of funds available for contributors by adding paid membership options — and has also added a monthly print edition of the articles that are produced by the writers and journalists who belong to the Contributoria community.

Writers and readers can still become a member and/or contributor for free, and can submit pieces they wish to have crowdfunded, as well as interacting with other writers and earning points that can be used to fund articles. But the service has now added two new tiers: for $3.29 a month, subscribers get three times as many points, and for $9.99 they get the print edition, an e-reader edition and five times as many points (points are a virtual currency whose value is set every month).

Contributoria is backed by Guardian Media Group, the parent company that owns The Guardian newspaper in Britain (please see disclosure below), and co-founders Matt McAlister and Sarah Hartley are both former Guardian editors. As they explained in an interview with Gigaom in January, they started Contributoria because they wanted to explore ways of taking the Guardian’s principle of “open journalism” even further and giving readers a way to support journalism directly.

Contributoria screenshot

The idea won a news innovation challenge that was sponsored by Google and the International Press Institute in 2012, after which McAlister and Hartley spent a year refining the concept and finding a designer/developer to join them (Dan Catt, formerly of Flickr), and then the site launched in January. In the six months since, the founders say the community has grown to 2,000 members, and the sponsors and other financial partners have generated $100,000 that was used to fund more than 200 articles, data-journalism projects and investigative features.

Freelance journalist Mischa Wilmers says using Contributoria helped him develop his idea because it gave him access to others who knew something about the topic: “When I first pitched my proposal on the site someone who knew more about the topic than me began leaving very critical comments underneath,” he said in a prepared statement. “I ended up working quite closely with him on the piece and he pointed me to some very interesting sources and interviewees.”

Contributoria is one of a number of startups that are trying to promote a crowdfunded model for supporting journalists, a group that includes Beacon Reader, which has a similar membership option that pools the available funds from backers and shares them with contributors. In a blog post, McAlister said that Contributoria is an attempt “to flatten the traditional hierarchy of the publishing process and extend authority to people in a community.”

Guardian Media Group is an investor in Gigaom’s parent company. Post and thumbnail images courtesy of Shutterstock / Daniilantiq