The other two journalists - from Lebanon and Honduras - have an extra 13 days as of today to reach their respective goals. All five campaigns selected for participation deal with investigating and exposing abuses or shortcomings in their societies.
Press Start sets itself apart from other journalism crowdfunding platforms in that it specifically caters to journalists whose reporting is oppressed in their countries. It is the brainchild of Transitions, a news magazine publisher and journalism trainer in Central and Eastern Europe.
The team behind Press Start had engaged in a crowdfunding campaign with Kickstarter in late 2015 – crowdfunding to start their own crowdfunding platform – but did not reach their funding goal. They had to seek out an additional funding source to make their project happen.
The experience provided lessons Press Start can now impart to the people seeking crowdfunding through their own platform. In a recent interview with ECPMF, Press Start Project Leader Jaroslav Valuch highlighted the main takeaway:
The most important thing is to start getting some donors lined up days and weeks before you launch the actual campaign, who are ready to donate minutes and hours after you launch."
"Psychologically, people are more inclined to donate once they see the project already has some funding, 25, 50 percent. Launching with zero means you waste precious time reaching this initial psychological threshold. "
The route to crowdfunding success
From the beginning, the Press Start team knew they would probably need sources other than crowdfunding to get their ambitious international project off the ground. According to Valuch, after their unsuccessful Kickstarter campaign, they "were basically volunteering to make the project happen with the help of several unpaid interns," until startup help from Google’s Digital News Initiative Innovation Fund came through.
Press Start was then able to launch its first crowdfunding round in July 2016. The platform works by "cultivating close working relationships with well-respected journalism organizations all over the world," and is very selective with the journalists it decides to include, said Valuch. "These groups know better than anyone which journalists deserve support. With their help, we found the right kind of journalists to launch the site. Also, we wanted a topical, geographical, and gender mix for the first five journalists."
These journalists’ projects have a local rather than a global focus, although their causes can have universal appeal.
One of the five journalists selected was Zaklina Hadzi-Zafirova, the founder of the Centre for Investigative Journalism SCOOP Macedonia. She entered a project into Press Start named “Putting Macedonia's Hospitals Under a Microscope”. In her 2-minute video featured on the platform, the Skopje native says she has seen the Macedonian capital as well as journalism change “quite a bit” since she became a journalist 15 years ago.