A New Platform
for Truly Independent Journalism
News media is broken. The numbers are staggering: a 35% decrease in overall revenue in past decade; a 55% decrease in print ad revenue in past decade; 7 out of 10 top U.S. papers sold in the past year. Newsroom journalists face the constant threat of job losses, and online editors treat the freelancer as ‘one who works for free’. Newspapers still depend on ads, and yet, ad revenue is going to Google and Facebook. Quality is in decline, and essential investigative work is disappearing. Democracy demands an active and independent press, not endless clickbait about Kim Kardashian's bum, 'Ten Reasons Why...' articles, and 'sponsored content' masquerading as proper journalism.
The time has come for something different.
This is why we created Byline, a one-stop crowdfunding and media outlet platform where journalists and quality bloggers reach readers directly. For journalists, Byline means control and independence, and the chance to make the regular income you deserve. Write regularly and in depth on a particular topic, and attract fans of that topic to commit to paying you either per article or per month. Or, raise a larger sum in advance, to take on a big project that requires travel or investigative work.
Interact with your readers through our Supporters' Cafe, and offer them special rewards to encourage them to pay. We don’t paywall, as we know you want your work to be read as widely as possible. As we grow, we will match you with readers most likely to be interested in your work.
For readers, Byline enables you to ‘make your own newspaper’ whilst supporting journalists and their content directly. We all have our own favorite topics and favorite journalists, so why should we all get the same front page?
We also offer you the chance to interact with the journalist. If you are a paying reader, you will be able to access perks such as: the right to ask the journalist a question about the work; signed books and event tickets; limited edition photo prints, and so on.
Byline earns its income from a commission on the reader’s pledge. This means we have no need to rely on advertising. This guarantees the journalist independence from commercial interests. And, as a platform rather than a newspaper, we don’t edit the journalist or tell him/her what to write. If a journalist wants to write it - and a reader wants to pay for it - Byline can make it happen.
We're taking out the middlemen - the newspaper proprietors and advertisers who have agendas of their own - and giving power back to the reader and the journalist. We hope you will be part of it too.
The Story So Far
Seungyoon Lee and Daniel Tudor went to San Francisco in July 2014, with the seemingly quixotic aim of creating a startup with the potential to rescue news media from clickbait and native ads. They lived – along with three interns – in a two-bedroom apartment in The Tenderloin, surrounded by carelessly discarded pizza boxes and cans of Blue Moon. After a few short weeks, the bathroom reached the state you would have expected it to be in, and thereafter remained so.
None of this was much fun. The two came back to London that November - but they did come back with a plan. And with Daniel down to his last £100 of savings, money finally came in from investors: Nicolas Berggruen, Jaewoong Lee, Eric X. Li, and Ian Osborne.
Byline became a ‘real’ business, with a company registration, a bank account, and actual employees. The mantra for hiring was always ‘someone smarter than ourselves’. They achieved this with an ego-crushing level of ease. Seree Kang and Jordan Lim (please see below) joined, and by mid-April, Byline was ready to launch in super-beta-please-forgive-our-many-mistakes version. Some didn’t forgive, but most did – and after a few weeks, we found that we had become the most popular crowdfunded journalism site (by Alexa rankings), and that people were starting to fund our journalists.
Radical feminist Julie Bindel raised £6,500 to investigate the global sex trade. Iraq-based photoagency Metrography got US$6,500 to document the lives of displaced people. And then we found our most natural niche, Murdoch-bashing. Coverage of phone hacking-related trials became a speciality, with James Doleman and Martin Hickman quickly raising £2,000 and £3,000 respectively to sit in courtrooms day in, day out.
An interview with former News of the World reporter Graham Johnson got us in hot water with lawyers representing former editor Rebekah Brooks, after he dared imply she was something other than a paragon of virtue who knew absolutely nothing about, er, you know, phone hacking. Private Eye gave us our first unexpected piece of publicity as a result.
We had scoops, too – such as the discovery of a previously unseen photo of a thrusting young David Cameron, Bullingdoning it up at Oxford. Alex Andreou became the go-to ‘heterodox’ writer on the Greek crisis. Interviews with big-time rebels such as Julian Assange and Noam Chomsky helped get us noticed. World Press Freedom Award winner Daoud Kuttab joined as a columnist, as did former San Francisco Bay Guardian editor Steven T. Jones. We even managed to sign up a political cartoonist, Eric Lewis.
Crowdfunded journalism pioneer Peter Jukes came on board first as a columnist, and then as an advisor – along with the unimpeachably brilliant and eminent Bill Emmott and the thoroughly legendary Sir Harry Evans. This still blows our minds, though with everything currently moving at 800 miles per hour, we thankfully don’t have much time to reflect on the fact that failure has now become unacceptable.
July 2015 marks our 'official' launch, and is our busiest month of all so far. We have an extraordinary new line-up. For instance: Norman Finkelstein and Benny Morris will tackle the Israel-Palestine issue; the creator of ‘Milifandom’ will begin a video blog; ex- Erotic Review editor-in-chief Rowan Pelling will write Byline’s first sex column; reporter Barry Keevins will investigate the four mysterious deaths at Deepcut Barracks; feminists Beatrix Campbell and Rahila Gupta will launch a worldwide project in search of non-patriarchal societies; and QI creator John Mitchinson will write for us about things that are, well, quite interesting.
A perfect marriage of the Web and the traditional newspaper… a venture that will sustain the information for a functioning democracy and rescue us from ‘volumes of clickbait and celebrity rubbish'.
- SIR HAROLD EVANS
- HUGH LAURIE
The brave new journalism that dares to report on the old. Needs support.
- HUGH GRANT