Why We Care about Scoop, and Why We Think You Should
By Scoop Co-Editor Joseph Cederwall
The last few days has seen a humbling and welcome surge of support for the “Scoop 3.0” campaign, mostly from our readers and Foundation supporters. We are now over 21,450 pledged, at around 60% of the 35,000 target. There are now just six days remaining for us to raise the final $14,700, which is around $2,000 per day - a much more achievable task. Please check it out and Chip in at: Pldg.me/scoop
I am now writing this as an appeal and explanation to all those readers sitting on the fence or unsure whether to support this campaign. However, this is also, even more crucially an appeal to those organisations using Scoop professionally to support our readers in meeting this target through ScoopPro license sales. We genuinely do not believe the burden should unduly fall on our readers.
I wanted in this story to explain why exactly we, and the many readers and organisations that have supported us so far think Scoop, and the “Scoop 3.0 plan” matter for New Zealand. I also will endeavour to explain how important it is that you support this campaign now in its final days.
Scoop co-founder Alastair Thompson sums up the urgency of our current existential crisis well in his recent open letter to Scoop readers:
“Scoop's services are not
currently sustainable, and unless they become so in a
relatively short space of time - we will be unable to
continue to provide
This danger is very real. It has not been an easy road for Scoop over the past three years since we changed our business model and attempted to raise most of our revenue through ScoopPro professional use license sales. We were hit hard by the cannibalisation of NZ media advertising spends associated with the emergence of Google and facebook. Since then we have struggled to meet overheads despite cutting almost everything including our office space and much of our editorial team. We are now at a point where there is no fat left to trim, it is now a matter of either increasing ScoopPro commercial revenue or stopping publication of Scoop’s daily feed of news and mothballing the enterprise until better finances somehow eventuate.
However, the good news is, the dedicated Scoop team and community of readers and supporters, care about Scoop enough to persevere with this project despite these significant financial difficulties, ongoing setbacks and frankly, outright hostility from other members of the NZ media over the past three years.
Many of the core Scoop team, including myself, have ploughed extensive unpaid volunteer hours into this project, and most of Scoop’s staff are still paid less than a living wage. I came to Scoop as a social entrepreneur from the Enspiral community of businesses and freelancers working for social impact, as described by Global technology thought leader Doug Rushkoff in this recent podcast. In this world, we are sadly all too used to working for less than living wage on projects we believe in for the good of the world. Before me, my good friends and colleagues Damian Sligo-Green, Alastair Thompson and many others poured a lot of energy and expertise into setting Scoop on a path to a new business model as a non-profit and founding the Scoop Foundation for public Interest journalism.
other volunteers and supporters (well over 1000) have
pledged their time and financial support in various Scoop
PledgeMe campaigns over the past three years - I believe
this current one is PledgeMe number six. We also now have a
number of regular donors supporting the Scoop Foundation
with regular monthly donations via PressPatron.
This support is humbling, and the messages of solidarity we receive gives us in the core team the strength and belief in what we are doing, to continue the battle despite the often thankless and frustrating work involved.
So, why do so many people care enough about Scoop to continue supporting it to this stage?
I have some thoughts on this question based on what I have observed and feedback received over these past three years. The idea for this article actually came to me when I read this message of support on our Scoop 3.0 campaign from an anonymous donor.
I’m not sure if it was intended as tongue in cheek, or is completely true, but either way, if the writer reads this, we thank you from the bottom of our collective hearts. When we pull this “Scoop 3.0” transition off, we will buy your kids a pair of shoes each, so please get in touch.
Real Face of Jesus - Popular Mechanics
I do not define myself as ‘a Christian’, however this comment put me in mind of a verse I remember from my childhood in that institution:
“And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury. And He saw a poor widow putting in two small copper coins. And He (i.e. Jesus) said, "Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them; for they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live on." Luke 21:1-4
We know most Scoop readers are struggling, like most people in today’s New Zealand society to make ends meet. So, everything we receive from you is most appreciated. For this reason we are focusing most of our efforts in this campaign on the ‘Crowd sale’ aspect, which targets commercial and professional users of Scoop, who should be licensed under the ScoopPro model. If even half of the organisations using Scoop regularly complied with our license terms, this revenue would be enough to meet all of our financial needs as an organisation. Think of it as a Robin Hood tax, taking money from (mostly wealthy) organisations to fund free media for the wider public. If you can think of companies that should be licensed then give them a gentle nudge and send them to the PledgeMe page for a 30% discount off licensing.
Below I set out five reasons we care about Scoop, in both my words and those of “Scoop 3.0” supporters:
Because Scoop is a non-profit news
Scoop is an independent, non-profit social enterprise owned by a charitable trust (The Scoop Foundation), with purposes of supporting public interest news media, open access to vital news and media literacy. There are very few other media sources with such an ownership model and commitment either in New Zealand or globally. As already mentioned, Scoop is also part of the Enspiral ‘social impact’ network which gives us a strong community of like-minded organisations to bounce ideas off and learn about best practice and common mistakes made in this space.
This non-profit underpinning, clearly helps many readers and supporters put their faith in the project. Many feel that Media is a Public Good and as such should not be about making private profits. A quest for profits in the form of clicks and eyeballs and metrics has been clearly associated with the dumbing down or ‘click-baitification’ of the news in the facebook era. A non-profit media ownership model is an essential antidote to this concerning trend. Other successful examples of non-profit or limited profit media such as The Guardian, ProPublica, Texas Tribune, The Intercept, and De Correspondent clearly show this has legs approach.
We want to take this model even further in “Scoop 3.0” and make Scoop a cooperatively and community-owned newsroom. This has been done successfully by New Internationalist and The Bristol Cable in the UK and the Colorado Sun in the USA.
Because Scoop is
What does independence mean in media? It is a measure of one's capacity to "make decisions and act according to its own logic," and distinguishes independent media from state or corporate controlled media.
Rupert Murdoch - Wikipedia
Independence therefore means a freedom from undue influence and interference with editorial policies by any outside parties. This means true independent publishers are not concerned with the Government or any party line, or the interests of any corporates. It is clear that many Mainstream Media organisations today are not truly independent. Many are ultimately owned by a small group of media moguls with extensive corporate holdings and interests and/or connections to the political elites. Others are constrained by support from sponsors - or by the political allegiances of their owners. Editorial decisions in such organisations can be and are influenced (or at least suffer from the perception of influence) from those at the top.
Scoop has not as yet benefited from the Corporate sponsorship model adopted in response to the ad revenue crisis by many other independent ‘new media’ news organisations such as The Spinoff, NewsRoom, Vice and others. However, we have recently decided to seek sponsors in this fashion so long as we can maintain our independence in doing so. As I wrote about recently, we are convinced that this sponsorship will not impact our independence as long as we follow some important principles or commitments as set out in the article. Importantly we are only seeking this revenue to supplement our core revenue - a broad base of 200+ ScoopPro licensees - which is already delivering us 90% of the revenue we need.
The dangers of censorship and limits on independence are an important concern and appear to be likely to become more prominent in the future.
RNZ Mediawatch has reported here on the concerning Chinese Government’s attempts to shape the International message through Media censorship and manipulation. This revelation that the Chinese are paying foreign journalists to report favourably from Beijing is perhaps even more insidious. However, the Chinese are far from the only ones, authoritarian leaders such as Putin and Trump have demonstrated an ability to censor, shape and manipulate the discourse of the free press to their benefit that is highly problematic.
Part of the “Scoop 3.0” plan is to explore a transition to Blockchain based publishing. A blockchain media ecosystem would have the benefit of creating an encrypted, uncensorable and unalterable archive of news media for the future despite any such efforts by authoritarian government or other bodies.
Because Scoop’s model is unique among News
We also care about Scoop because we believe it is a vital and unique piece of the news media infrastructure in New Zealand. Most know that Scoop publishes a wide array of press releases and editorial submissions from across sectors in New Zealand 24/7.
However, it may not have occurred to many, that this is highly uncommon. No other sites in New Zealand do this, and in fact there are very few examples globally that we are aware of. Some of our colleagues in the media look down on us, for exactly this reason, seeing this as a lesser service, and not real journalism. It could in fact be argued that this spin-free model is actually of far more use than the constant ‘reckons’ of elitist journalists which essentially take the same press releases Scoop use and ‘mansplain’ or interpret them to readers.
I am not saying, journalistic analysis and investigation do not have real value, of course they do, however realistically, much of what passes for journalism these days is simply cut and paste jobs of these very same source materials we receive in the Scoop inbox. Very soon no human will be involved as AI is increasingly leading to robo journalists writing basic reports.
The Scoop model, on the other hand, lets you see the various source and sides of an issue and make your own interpretations. We have forged our own path to a new commercial revenue model based on this unique strength and point of difference as a comprehensive publisher of timely, raw news. Alastair Thompson summarises the value of Scoop’s unique model to professional organisations here:
“Scoop provides two quality professional services for free to 1000s of NZ businesses and organisations:
#1. Reliable easily accessible access to professionally curated news intelligence information in real time;
#2. Free open access to publish press releases in a high profile manner.”
It is for this reason that we are now laser focussed on getting organisations to pay for this unique and vital service through our ScoopPro “Ethical Paywall” copyright law based news monetisation model. This approach allows us to charge professional users for their use - which delivers them economic benefits - whilst retaining free access to the public.
However, so far only a small number of organisations (just over 200) are complying with our licensing terms. I explored this continued challenge to stop organisations from ‘freeriding on the public good of Scoop’ in this recent column.
Ideally we would no longer be asking for donations from readers, and we are very close to full sustainability from the ScoopPro model. We estimate we only need another 90 or so organisations (300 in total) to meet all costs and pay staff a decent living wage.
Because Scoop Supports Democracy
A lot of our supporters appear to believe that this unique model and approach of Scoop supports democracy in New Zealand. I do too. And so does Scoop’s dedicated team. We can see this on an hour to hour basis as we see the dialectical development of news play out in real time in our inbox.
Having an open, free, comprehensive public record of what was said by whom is an important piece of the democratic infrastructure. And it is something that Scoop’s team has now provided to NZ’s democracy since the beginning of MMP in 1997. Everything ever published on Scoop is still in our nearly 20 year deep archive of almost one million items, everything is carefully curated, tagged, indexed and searchable on the site or via Google.
Access to a variety of different viewpoints and information on an issue is an important element in democratic debate, it allows readers to get a full picture of an issue as it emerges and develops.
The Scoop front page editor Lyndon Hood does an excellent job of curating Scoop on a daily basis to ensure that the widest range of current affairs and issues are covered in this way.
The “Scoop 3.0” plan seeks to enhance Scoop’s coverage further by using profits from increased commercial revenue to fund the Scoop Foundation’s mandate to support more longform investigative journalism into important public interest issues. The foundation funded investigative pieces over the last two years by Alison McCulloch into Post Natal Depression and by Charlotte Graham and Veronika Meduna into the scientific, economic and social impacts of the Kaikoura and Wellington Earthquakes. We plan to produce much more of this type of journalism once we can make this transition.
We also plan to follow a collaborative or ‘engaged’ journalism approach such as that pioneered by De Correspondent in the Netherlands and now The Correspondent globally. This approach enables investigative journalists to take a long view on issues and work collaboratively with citizens also interested in the issue.
Simon Wright of Public Engagement Partners (PEP) is a Scoop collaborator in our public engagement tool, HiveMind. Simon understands the importance of internal democracy and public participation more than just about anyone I know. I was super stoked to see this comment from him on why he supports Scoop and donated towards the “Scoop 3.0” idea:
Scoop is serious about democracy both externally and internally. We have a fairly non-hierarchical structure already, and use an online discussion tool called Loomio to discuss and make collective decisions on important issues. As already discussed we want to extend this approach by opening Scoop up as a cooperative community-owned organisation. This will allow readers and supporters to join the discussion and help us chart the future course of Scoop collectively.
Finally, I would like to draw attention to the profound Crowded House lyric line referenced by Christopher Poor with his pledge..
This is quite appropriate, we are confident that freedom and democracy internally at Scoop will most certainly lead to freedom without, or freedom in our news coverage and impact on society.
5. Because Scoop has big plans for the future
Finally, Despite starting on a somewhat pessimistic note, I’ll finish by saying we have great hopes for the future of Scoop and the New Zealand independent media.
We have big ambitions for 2019. The “Scoop 3.0” plan details how we intend to continue developing Scoop, by launching new technology to make Scoop.co.nz a much more responsive, personal and user friendly platform. The ultimate goal is to develop a high tech, open source, resilient, blockchain enabled product that can then be shared with other independent media organisations to rebuild a sustainable, open access, public interest, independent media ecosystem.
If you think this all sounds like a good plan, then please consider supporting the “Scoop 3.0” campaign by donating before Monday 3 December.
This “Scoop 3.0” transition will lead to a flourishing and independent Media ecosystem supporting NZ democracy. Times may have been a bit tough for both Scoop and NZ Journalism lately, but working together, we can rebuild it as something greater , more open and democratic and more resilient than it ever was in the past. As the title of Freerange Press book on Reimagining Journalism in Aotearoa (which we are offering as a donor reward) eloquently implies, Don’t Dream it’s Over.
There is freedom within,
there is freedom without
Try to catch the deluge in a paper cup
There's a battle ahead, many battles are lost
But you'll never see the end of the road
While you're traveling with me
Hey now, hey now
Don't dream it's over
Hey now, hey now
When the world comes in
They come, they come
To build a wall between us
We know they won't win
Crowded House - 1986