Well, we’re asking for donations of twelve, or thirty-five, or a hundred dollars, so it wasn’t ever the kind of money that I thought would be influencing the writers. So I hadn’t really worried about that. But certainly, we never would have let donations influence our writers.
What do you think of some of the other different kinds of alternative sources of revenue out there for news organizations? For instance, a lot of outlets are looking into partnerships with Groupon or daily-deal type things, The New Yorker puts together conferences, The Nation has a fundraising cruise .
Whatever works! You know, real journalism hasn’t ever really been supporting itself—it used to be supported by classified ads and those kinds of things. There still needs to be indirect ways of supporting the work. So if people can figure it out, I’m all for it. Some of the British papers have had a lot of success with selling merchandise online. Once you have a lot of traffic, there are a lot of possibilities, and it’s just a matter of figuring out what works for you. That’s part of the reason that I remain optimistic about The Faster Times, even though we haven’t made a lot of money.
One thing we’ve done that has worked out pretty well is that we’ve set up a separate arm of the company—we call it Faster Times Media—and we’re basically doing content work for other brands, that’s not work that appears on The Faster Times site itself. It’s basically, we approach them and say, we’re a collective of writers, and as long as it doesn’t conflict with our journalism, we can run a blog for your company, too. We’re trying, as much as possible, to have a clear separation between the two. So the rule is, if you’re written about a brand, you can’t write about them on the site, etcetera. Of the different experiments we’ve tried, it has been the most successful—it’s allowed us to get an office and to start paying people more.
I mean, this is still relatively new, and we’re certainly walking a fine line in this branded territory. We’re working really hard to always maintain a distinction between that work and our journalism on The Faster Times. But so far we’ve been lucky, I think, in that we haven’t really been asked to write directly about a brand, which becomes a little bit more tricky.
One of our first accounts was with the British Airways, for instance, and they didn’t want us to write about how great British Airways is—they wanted us to write about small businesses, which is part of their larger campaign to attract small business owners to use British Airways more. So basically we were just writing a small-business blog, and our authors are almost all freelancers, and so for them it was just like another freelance gig. But it gave value to us as well, where we could say to the writers, “Hey, we know you’re not making a lot of money with The Faster Times, but by working with us, you’re also available to be included in these other freelance opportunities that come up.”