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.