Don’t Ex­pect News For Free



There is a com­mon per­cep­tion that tra­di­tional me­dia is dy­ing, and that only dig­i­tal me­dia can sur­vive in a world where change is the only con­stant.

Yet, many on­line news out­fits are strug­gling to stay afloat too. Take Shang­hai­ist, which was abruptly shut down by its Amer­i­can owner Gothamist last month. Set up 12 years ago, the pop­u­lar news and cul­ture web­site Shang­hai­ist boasts 4 mil­lion views per month and more than 5 mil­lion fans on Face­book.

In Sin­ga­pore, The Mid­dle Ground (TMG) an­nounced in Oc­to­ber that it would be wind­ing down. Set up by for­mer Straits Times as­so­ciate edi­tor Bertha Hen­son and pub­lisher Daniel Yap, it started life as a blog by Hen­son and was re­launched as TMG in June 2015, offering news reports and com­men­tary.

It launched a fundrais­ing drive on crowd­fund­ing plat­form Pa­treon last year with a goal of $15,000 per month to cover part of its ex­penses. But it raised only about $3,000 each month from 200 pa­trons.

Two other lo­cal so­cio-po­lit­i­cal web­sites have also bit­ten the dust in re­cent years due to a lack of funds. In­con­ve­nient Ques­tions, started in Jan­uary 2015, shut down in June last year, while Six-Six News, which launched in June 2015, went off­line in April last year.

In an e-mail in­ter­view with ZBBZ, Hen­son, 53, said the big­gest chal­lenge of run­ning TMG is to pay its ex­pert con­trib­u­tors a salary that does jus­tice to their pro­fes­sional ex­pe­ri­ence. To do this, a sus­tain­able busi­ness model is es­sen­tial.

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