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Editor’s Note: Encyclo has not been regularly updated since August 2014, so information posted here is likely to be out of date and may be no longer accurate. It’s best used as a snapshot of the media landscape at that point in time.

Spot.Us is a journalism crowdfunding project in which users can donate money to pay for the costs of specific stories they would like to see covered.

Spot.Us was founded in 2008 by David Cohn and launched through a $340,000 Knight News Challenge grant. It was acquired in 2011 by the Public Insight Network, a division of American Public Media. Cohn left the organization in 2012. Under APM, the site’s funding awarded and percentage of successful projects plummeted.

The project is based on the model of sites like Kiva and DonorsChoose.org, which allow users to donate or lend to groups in need. On Spot.Us, freelance journalists pitch stories and ask for funding to cover them. Once the stories are reported, they’re offered to news organizations for free, though publishers can donate in exchange for exclusive publishing rights.

Spot.Us began in San Francisco and expanded to Los Angeles in September 2009 through a partnership with the USC Annenberg School of Journalism and to Seattle in April 2010.

As of April 2010, Spot.us had raised more than $100,000 toward reporting projects, with about two-thirds of its proposed stories reaching full funding. As of February of 2011, it had funded over 160 projects with the help of 5,000 contributors (a fifth of whom contributed more than once), and it had collaborated with 95 different organizations.

Spot.Us’ most prominent story has been a $10,000 reporting project by Lindsey Hoshaw on the Pacific garbage patch, which resulted in a blog and a story published in The New York Times in November 2009. New York Times public editor Clark Hoyt published a column about the project, its fundraising needs and the Times involvement in July 2009.

The Times story received some criticism for being relatively bland, though Hoshaw responded by saying that the blog included deeper reporting than the article.

Spot.Us also funded an investigative report on San Francisco’s Bay Bridge that was published in December 2009 in conjunction with SF Public Press, McSweeney’s San Francisco Panorama and the San Francisco Chronicle.

Early in 2010, Spot.Us rolled out several new features, including a program to allow journalists to ask users to assist in their reporting and the ability to track stories from beginning to end.

Cohn has also integrated the project’s open-source model into advertising. In June of 2010, it launched a program that allows users to earn credits they can use to fund stories by engaging with ads on the site.


Recent Nieman Lab coverage:
March 23, 2018 / Shan Wang
On the Pactio platform, loyal readers follow and fund their favorite individual beat reporters — A majority of Americans may find “the news media” broadly to be untrustworthy. But they feel differently when asked about the news outlets they regularly read. That’s a gap Pactio wants to address. R...
Feb. 11, 2015 / Joellen Easton
Here’s a recipe for successfully crowdfunding journalism in 2015 — A year ago, American Public Media decided to place the crowdfunding site Spot.us on hiatus and conduct an assessment of the platform and its potential. We completed that evaluation in the spring, took a few months to dig...
June 26, 2014 / Ken Doctor
The newsonomics of European crowds, funding new news — VIENNA — A small roar erupted in the crowded workshop. Krautreporter, with hours to go, had met its crowdfunded goal, gaining a commitment of €60 each from what would turn out to be 17,000 people. The €1.020 millio...
Jan. 31, 2014 / John Wihbey
What’s New in Digital and Social Media Research: Linking helps save newspapers and how multitasking spikes arousal — The academic community is out of the gates this new year with some intriguing findings — from the limits of funding stories through micropayments to the importance of social media for people’s news diets. Man...
Dec. 18, 2012 / Dan Kennedy
For MuckRock.com, the new Freedom of the Press Foundation will mean more muck, more rocks — The FOIA-generating startup will benefit from the new foundation aimed at crowdsourcing donations to news organizations....

Recently around the web, from Mediagazer:

Primary author: Mark Coddington. Main text last updated: December 20, 2012.
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