by Sara Vicenta Cabral
The Beacon Reader start up offers freelancers and displaced journalists a life jacket in the murky sea of opportunity the surrounding the new media environment.
Co-founded by Adrain Sanders, Dmitri Cheniak and Dan Fletcher a former FORBES 30 Under 30 In Media list member, Beacon Reader was created with the goal of giving journalists a publishing platform, the opportunity to build readership, and profit from their content.
A $5 monthly subscription gives readers access to a wide range of what Beacon founders assure is quality journalism. The most popular writer receives the largest share from the subscription and the remainder is split among the rest of the contributors. In this way, Beacon acts as a medium through which readers can sponsor their favorite writers.
“The actual number of readers, at this stage, is kind of irrelevant, as long as the writers are like, ‘This is worth it for me,’” Sanders said, as quoted in a Neiman Lab Article.
However, the project does not fail to raise questions like one in The New York Observer, “if users cringe at having to pay a measly 99 cents for a week of unlimited New York Times articles, will readers really be down to pay $5 per month for Beacon?” Not to mention the juxtaposition of quality journalism with the lack of content control which editorial staff Caroline O'Donovan drew attention to in her article in the Neiman Lab.
Beacon is one of several ventures like Storyhunter, Contently and True/Slant, which work towards creating opportunities for freelance, displaced and new journalists in light of budget cuts and staff layoffs. With 28 writers, Beacon is a budding business and is sure to see changes as it progresses.
“There’s a tremendous amount of ideas I think we can play with,” Fletcher told. Among these ideas is the possible addition of a tipping option.
Along with the surfacing of Beacon is a reverberating lesson for the journalism and arts workforce.
From print journalism's sinking ship to the rise of blogs, online newspapers, social media and citizen journalism, it is evident journalism is changing. Despite the need to ease anxiety caused by budget cuts and staff layoffs like the one the Chicago Sun-Times made earlier this year when it laid off its entire photo staff for freelance video and photo journalists, some contend this is the future of journalism.
“It's entirely plausible that more than half of the American workforce will one day log in or show up every day as independent contractors,” journalist and CCO of Contently, Shane Snow, said on Linkedin. Foreseeing the changing news landscape, Snow co-founded Contently in 2010, another publishing medium giving writers and their content exposure.
Opportunity is abundant despite the heightened competition created by the economic conditions in the media and by the entrance of unprecedented key players through social media platforms.
In August, the Pew Center reported two thirds of journalism bachelor-degree graduates found full-time jobs within six to eight months, an increase from the the 48 percent reported in 2009 along with an increase to $32,000 as the median starting salary. Although prospects are looking better, the industry and the market are dynamic.
“Freelancers are de-facto entrepreneurs, which means all of us need to learn to think and act like startups,” said Snow in his article “Half Of Us May Soon Be Freelancers: 6 Compelling Reasons Why.”
Among those reasons is the shift to online and computer work which has changed the concept of work as a place, increasing specialization in various fields, and access Internet grants employers to find a specialist to perform a one-time specialized job.
Though we'll have to wait and see what will become of Beacon, this start up is a reminder for people in all occupations of the number of opportunities the Internet has made available.