Crowdfunding in 'Uncommon' Industries
Crowdfunding is usually associated with the technological, gaming, and social good. After all, headlines for these three tend to dominate airwaves due to a newsworthiness factor. It could be a unique gadget, one that buckles trends… or it could head in the opposite direction in the form of a failure or scam.
Still, these industries are not the only ones that engage in crowdfunding. Crowdfunding has expanded to benefit many other industries, a few of which this article sets out to explore.
Several journalism ventures have attempted to seek funding through crowdfunding. As crowdfunding rose to the forefront of the public consciousness in the early 2010s, sites were set up specifically for journalism crowdfunding. However, journalism crowdfunding has never reached the heights of other industries such as technology. Journalism crowdfunding sites such as Beacon, where startups and established outlets (including HuffPost) sought funding from, eventually shuttered. Insufficient revenue appears to be the most plausible cause. Journalism crowdfunding is a category that is available on big names such as Kickstarter. However, it is the second smallest category on the site, accounting for just over 5.2k of Kickstarter’s 432k projects and under $16m pledged compared to the site’s $4.1b total.
Crowdfunded journalism has established itself to be a viable avenue for the community seeking alternative news sources. Tortoise Media, headed by former BBC head of news James Harding, describes itself as an escape from the overwhelming amount of news inundating the senses daily. It is currently the most-funded journalism project on Kickstarter. Other journalism projects stem from the lack of editorial support for funding, leading journalists to resort to crowdfunding in order to tell the stories that they want to.
Recent developments suggest that despite the relatively low rate of success, journalism crowdfunding is still alive and well. The core tenet of crowdfunding still exists – it is important to build a community. In light of the recent debacle over “fake news”, this low success rate is likely a manifestation of how much more discerning (and cautious) the community has become.
The prominence of crowdfunding has led to several filmmakers turning to crowdfunding when traditional avenues don’t work out, with the 2014 Veronica Mars film being one such film. Veronica Mars was originally a TV series that ran from 2004 until its cancellation in 2007 due to stagnating ratings . Series’ creator Rob Thomas had a script for a planned film sequel done – however, Warner Bros had declined to give it funding at that time. The cast and production crew then turned to Kickstarter to secure funding.
Image source: Variety.com
The film reached its $2 million goal within 11 hours. It eventually went on to raise $5,702,153 from 91,585 people, making it one of the most funded film projects of all time.
Another group, FND Films, ran an Indiegogo campaign for a film with arguably one of the vaguest descriptions out there. Nevertheless, the campaign managed to raise $77k USD – likely buoyed by the creators’ popularity. Except the group vanished right afterwards with all the proceeds and were later seen ‘living it up’ on social media.
Amidst public outrage and even an appearance of Fox News announcing they had run out of funds, the group soon released a video. To be exact, it was a full-length film about a trio of 3 filmmakers who raised $75,000 through crowdfunding for a movie, only to blow all the funds elsewhere. The disappearance was revealed to be part of an elaborate hoax which proved to be stressful for both the creators to keep up, and the backers left in the dark.
Now that the film is out, they are both taking it in stride. Seems like all is good.
However, this film project has once again driven home the point that it’s very difficult to believe the content you read online. For newcomers – learn how to navigate crowdfunding platforms here.
Crowdfunding isn’t just for entertainment or gadgets. Science crowdfunding has seen success, with projects including MRI scans to discover how LSD affects the brain, and an attempt to unravel what the extinct dodo once did with its beak. In the face of declining budgets and intense competition for resources several researchers, particularly students from educational institutions, have turned to crowdfunding to widen the available pool of much-needed funds.
Crowdfunding presents researchers with a greater chance to gain access to funding and conduct research with the freedom that a traditional grant does not or may not offer.
One particularly ambitious project, Lunar Mission One, aspired to drill beneath the surface of the moon and offered the opportunity to send a strand of every backer’s hair onto the moon as an incentive. Although the project reached its target, the creators recently announced they would have to ground the project indefinitely.
In traditional research funding methods, gatekeepers with backgrounds in science make relevant judgement calls about what research needs to get done. Controversy has arisen over the credibility of crowdfunded studies. A number of researchers have expressed concerns that crowdfunded research projects are meant to appeal to a mass audience (in order to attract their funding and blessings) and are thus frivolous, drawing resources away from “legitimate” and more essential research areas.
Are there any crowdfunding projects that you know from any of these “uncommon” industries outside of technology and games – or any unusual projects in general? Let us know in the comments below!