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GoFundMe....and everyone else

I perusing the GoFundMe homepage today, and here’s some of what I saw:

So it was a lot of babies and families looking to raise money for medical bills. For all of them, what really stood was the story. This is an excerpt from a family that recently had twins whose mother passed away:

“Jamie underwent intensive treatment and therapies for her disease while continuing to nourish the growth of her two little miracles. The twins, Camila and Nico are tiny, healthy, vibrant and stable. With so much sadness in my heart I regret to report that on Friday morning, March 17th 2017, Jamie's health took a fatal turn and she passed away of congenital heart failure in an emergency surgery that morning.”

The family is about three-fourths of the way through their goal. This story really is heartbreaking. It was also on the front page as one of the stories recommended for me.

So what determines who will reach their funding goal? It feels like every week, I see another GoFundMe or Kickstarter project from friends on social media seeking financial support for a new project or family crisis. This is a train I tend to conduct frequently on this blog, but I must ask:

With so many crowd funding websites and campaigns out there, are they really that effective?

A study from 2015 shows that 31 percent of Kickstarter campaigns reached fundraising goals. And of the five major crowdfunding websites, that “success rate” is actually the highest.

The campaigns that are successful are most likely those ones on the front page of GoFundMe. They involve babies, medical tragedies, and the occasional celebrity.

But what about the ones from our bloggers? The ones we observed in the mid-2000s? Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo reached out to his audience when he wanted to go to New Hampshire to cover the 2004 primary – and his goal was met. Robert Greenwald successfully funded his documentary, Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers, by pitching the project on the web to his fans, and promising to put everyone in the credits. And he did, making those credits longer than the film itself (not actually, but they were long).

These bloggers at that time were successful because of something coined the “1,000 True Fans Theory.” This posits that having one thousand consumers devoted to your outlet is much more effective than having millions of readers/consumers that are also attached to sixteen other outlets. These fans are the ones that will donate to your campaigns. They connect with the editors personally for whatever reason, and they are passionate about the content the outlet produces. This is a necessary base, especially for an indie media outlet trying to start new projects.

However, in today’s expanding Internet world, are there really anymore true fans out there? I personally check a series of one or two outlets regularly, with the rest of my news coming from aggregators like Google News. Perhaps this is because I’m a student without steady income, but I can’t help but wonder if this is a trend amongst other digital natives. Growing up surrounded by technology made information almost too available. It seems as though there is no more room for loyalty on the Internet.

This is not to say that the true fans exist. They definitely do – Democracy Now!, Talking Points Memo, The Intercept, and other indie programs will always have their true die-hard supporters. The question now becomes, how can they draw in new supporters who are so used to getting information from several different platforms?

This question is especially important as we consider the future viability of independent media. It’s harder to crowdfund, and increasingly difficult to secure true fans. With this in mind, the indy media field is tasked with exploring new methods of gaining revenue…or finding ways to appeal to the next generation of “true fans.”

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