I interviewed Sasa Vucinic, CEO of IndieVoices, a platform for P2P independent media funding -just launched last saturday November 23th. I did this for more complete story published in Eldiario.es, titled “Journalism does have who pay“, but I think it is worth to directly bring here Sasa Vucinic’s english-words.
This Serbian, social entrepreneur and Ashoka Fellow (disclaimer: I’m also Ashoka Fellow), created years ago Media Development Loan Fund, from which organization has funded 277 independent media worldwide worth $ 123 million, almost entirely in developing countries, whose about 65 million people are truthfully informed every day thanks to any of these media.
Now Vucinic has devised the “natural” way to scale the impact of their task: opening the funding capacity to anyone in the world thanks to the internet. This way IndieVoices was born.
What kind of investment products are IndieVoices offering when launching? And after?
We will launch IndieVoices by offering only contributions as an investment product. We were afraid to bite more than we can chew, so we decide to start with one product only. In January 2014 we will introduce the next generation products: two types of loans (with interest and without interest). In March 2014 we will introduce equity investments, i.e. investors will be able to buy small equity stakes which we call “fractional ownership units”. Before the summer of 2014, we plan to open a market-place on which investors will be able to trade all of these products (fractional ownership stakes and debt).
As you can see, we have this vision to create the whole set of very different investment products. It is our goal to create new, innovative and flexible system of funding for independent media in which every company will be able to use our financial products in the same way my sons use Lego bricks – to create unique, customized structures limited only by two things: needs of the media company seeking funding and creativity of those who are building this financial structure together with their audience.
How many projects are you offering to fund in your release step? What have this projects in common?
We will launch with 8 project only. We do not want our projects to compete for funding, like project typically do on other crowdfunding platforms. To the contrary, we want them to pool their audiences and help each other reach funding goals. So, we’ve developed a system which is suppose to help with that. All listed projects will be very different in their nature and geography. I can easily see investors putting their money in more than one project.
What do these projects have in common? Our assumption is that funding each one of them will make this world a better place but making media eco-system reacher and more sophisticated and more diverse… But that is our assumption – the crowd of investors will have the final word on that.
You call the future media-funding people “fractional Murdochs. What kind of interests do you expect will have these people to fund journalistic projects?
The logic here is very simple: everything about media is changed in the last decade or so, and everything became digital, except – media ownership. That institution is the same since the newspapers were invented. The time has come to reinvent that institution and align it with our digital reality. In our current digital world, I believe, there will be the whole category of people who will want to own media not for the sake of making profits, but for the sake of creating well informed societies in which they will live.
Let me try to explain that in a different way. Surely, Jeff Bezos did not buy Washington Post to make money. He can make money, much easier and faster, by releasing new Kindle.
I believe that Bezos bought Washington Post to save it as a source of information and knowledge for the audience it serves. You and I can do the same. But, as we individually are not as rich as Bezos is, we have to pool our resources together to achieve the same goal. So: 10,000 people living in Madrid and pooling their resources together (1,000 Euro each) will create a fund of Euro 10 million which is more than enough to launch a brilliant, new digital media company. Being the owners of this company, these 10,000 “fractional Murdochs” can give it different mandate: don’t go yellow on us in order to sell more advertising; instead of making profits give us high quality information”. In this way, every country can have it’s Guardian and each one of us can fund the equivalent of the Scott Trust. Media will never be the same again. That is the process IndieVoices are created to facilitate.
Can a traditional media, like El País in Spain, for example, be listed for crowdfunding on Indievoices? If not, why?
There is nothing that prevents traditional media to be listed on IndieVoices, except for the following reason – it does not really make sense for them to do it. Their current investors have their investment goals, which are different from those we are promoting. We in IndieVoices want to create, educate and organize brand new class of media investors – those that are motivated by social benefits which high quality independent media brings to the society about which it reports. That new class of investors will be satisfied with 4% or 5% annual return on their investment, provided that at the same time that investment brings social benefits.
I am afraid that different and somewhat opposing investment motivations can not co-exist within the same company, and if you ask me, it is better not to even try to mix them. We are pursuing a mission to provide new type and the new source for media funding for the new, digital media operating in this new, shared economy.
Can single or group of individual journalist get funded through IndieVoices?
Yes, individuals and groups of individuals will be able to win funding from their audiences using our platform. The logic here is simple: as long as content you create contributes to the media ecosystem by making it reacher and more sophisticated, you are eligible to use our platform. Will you win funding from the crowd? Well, the crowd will vote if they think that your contribution to the media ecosystem is needed, and they will vote with heir wallets.