Dutch outlet De Correspondent set a record for crowdfunded journalism when it raised $1.7 million (just over £1 million) last year, offering one year memberships in exchange for contributions.
De Correspondent publisher Ernst-Jan Pfauth said the outlet does not have readers, but 'members' who have the opportunity to contribute to the journalism produced at De Correspondent.
"I think one of the biggest untapped resources of knowledge in journalism is the knowledge of your readers," he told Journalism.co.uk in a podcast.
When De Correspondent reporters are working on a story, they write about it on their personal profile first to allow members to send tips or ask questions.The relationship is so much more direct because we owe our very existence to their generosity.Ernst-Jan Pfauth, De Correspondent
The reporting process at De Correspondent regularly involves this step, unless the story in question needs to be kept under the radar before publication.
"This brings a depth to the journalism that you wouldn't have without them [the members]," he said.
"And because we're a crowdfunded journalism platform, the relationship is so much more direct because we owe our very existence to their generosity, so that really helps in establishing a relationship.
Members can now react to what De Correspondent journalists are working on, but Pfauth said he was also looking at ways to make it easier for them to contribute story ideas.
"This is something we have to work on because [at the moment] the initiative of a new story is always with the journalist."
At collaborative journalism platform Contributoria, crowdfunding is built into the process that sees an idea develop from pitch to published story.
Screenshot of Contributoria's October 2014 issue, Contributoria.com
Contributoria members each receive a number of points per month to donate to their favourite pitches, and projects that get backed move on to the research and writing stage.
In this phase, members of the platform can help form the article, asking questions or making suggestions to the writer.
"The opportunity is there that if somebody wishes to get involved they can," said editor Sarah Hartley. "Obviously the writer does have the last say in the end, they don't have to take any notice of other people's views although we rather hope they do.
"And we do encourage them to take part in the discussions because that will help make a better story."
Hartley said there has been no indication of members expecting to have "a great deal of influence" over the piece as a result of crowdfunding.
"You're joining a community and that's what you're paying for," she said, adding that members have been supportive of writers. "It helps the final piece by having that transparency early on."
But how do journalists financing individual projects in this way feel about being paid directly by their audience?
Jess McCabe, acting features editor at Inside Housing and freelance features writer, crowdfunded a series of features about the economics of domestic abuse, to be published by non-profit news service Women's eNews.
She said she has been keeping in touch with those who contributed to the project through email, and has set up a Tumblr blog to post updates. She said she has also been more public about the reporting process and future plans.I need to demonstrate to them that they're getting value for money for it.Jess McCabe, Women's eNews
"I'm really just reaching out to people directly in a way that I haven't necessarily on other features," she said. Updating the blog was also a learning process, as McCabe said she did not want to "ruin the story" by revealing too much ahead of publication.
"Unlike everything else I've ever done, the people who want to read this project have paid for me to go and do this reporting. So obviously I need to demonstrate to them that they're getting value for money for it.
"It's a case of really showing my working in a way that you don't normally have to do as a journalist."
But what's it like crowdfunding as a local journalism outlet? A Little Bit of Stone is a local news site covering Stone, a market town in Staffordshire. Its team successfully completed a crowdfunding drive on 17 October, raising £15,380 and allowing founder Jamie Summerfield to dedicate more time to the site.
Video from A Little Bit of Stone's Crowdfunder.co.uk page.
He told Journalism.co.uk that while crowdfunding had to be a transparent process – explaining what the money will be used for and how – the team was already "very accountable" to its audience.
"If we get anything wrong, I'm stopped on the street. People talk to me about it," he said. Summerfield also uses social media to "have a dialogue" with the audience, particularly through the site's Facebook page.
"It's almost like a behind the scenes thing before something goes onto the website, where we can get ideas and contributions," he said.
"In a way, the crowdfunding has just been a continuation of developing that link and that relationship with our audience."
Hear more from De Correspondent, Contributoria, and Jess McCabe in this Journalism.co.uk podcast.
Free daily newsletter
- City Bureau is bringing journalists and communities together to encourage civic participation
- Lydia Polgreen, editor-in-chief of HuffPost, on inspiring innovation: 'We need to get better at telling our own story'
- Latest report from the European Broadcasting Union outlines challenges for public service media
- Reach, skills and 'feet on the ground': Benefits for local and national newsrooms to collaborate on stories
- In Sweden, Blankspot aims to cover underreported stories while promoting trust in journalism and media literacy