Degrees ruler
Credit: By Steve Snodgrass on Flickr. Some rights reserved.
First launched more than two years ago, Fair Observer – which is a website based in the US but has a team of volunteers plotted across the globe – is driven by a desire to solve what it perceives as "problems" within the mainstream media.

Offering readers what it calls 360° analysis of stories, it wants to challenge a "lack of background context" in mainstream media, sensationalism by some outlets, and "an often biased tone", managing editor Abul-Hasanat Siddique told Journalism.co.uk.

As such, it has adopted a three-pronged approach to its output. Firstly, it aims to bring the background to stories or subjects in the form of "a very short, umbrella-type of article", Siddique explained.

Secondly, it aims to counter sensationalism with "quality analysis", centred on the 'why', instead of just the 'what', of a news event, and thirdly, it prevents bias with a combination of facts and "plurality of views".

Together, this makes up the recipe for the site's 360° analysis. Content can be submitted by anyone, with contributors said to range from university students to those at a "former government level". Fair Observer's editors are then on-hand to organise publication of suitable articles.

Once published, readers can search for content based on subject or geographical location. As well as text articles, the site also carries 'photo features'.

With this content model established – albeit with aims to bring in more multimedia, interactive and live content in the near future – the site has recently taken steps to look at how to financially support the next stages in it development.

The organisation recently applied for non-profit status, and has also taken to Kickstarter to attract "short-term" crowdfunding to support a long-awaited launch of a new website.

"I think there are plenty of other websites out there in terms of a better user interface," Siddique said, "and it's essential whenever you get a new reader, who comes to any website, be it the BBC or Al Jazeera, that you have a very good interface to attract the reader, to make sure they understand your product."

The current site was launched in beta in July 2011, and an overhaul now seems to be secured after the Kickstarter campaign secured its goal of $25,000 within 11 days. At the time of writing it has been pledged $26,990.

"The pledges from Kickstarter will go to the redesign, for the coding, for the servers and for a mobile version of the website," Siddique explained, adding they have ambitions for an app as well.

The campaign has also set out "stretch goals", giving an idea of what else it could achieve if it were to receive higher levels of funding. This could include "more live debate", building on its previous work with Google+ Hangouts, with the aim of offering its 360° analysis in live video form.

In general the site is keen to venture out further into wider content styles, Siddique added.

"The idea is to go and incorporate multimedia content a lot more: podcasts, interactive videos, interactive infographics and so on," he said.

Other goals include running journalism-related training initiatives "around the world".

Fair Observer, which is run by founder and editor-in-chief Atul Singh, has also signalled its intention to take part in Kicking It Forward, meaning funds raised which are not required to cover costs will be offered to other campaigns.

"We fundamentally believe that it's only right that we pledge what we've accumulated beyond our expenses to other campaigns, to help them out in their own projects as well," Siddique said.

In the long-term Fair Observer also hopes to be able to introduce some kind of payment for its contributors. The team who work for Fair Observer, both its in-house editors and contributors around the world – said to total more than 720 people from more than 30 countries at the last count – are currently unpaid, working as volunteers.

"Kickstarter will only take us so far," Siddique said, meaning that payment for contributors will rely on other funding being secured. The organisation will be looking to US grants as one potential source of more long-term funding.

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