Spot.Us launched in
November of 2008, making this our three-year anniversary. Counting the months of planning (and applying for the
Knight News Challenge) that went into the launch, I’ve been working
on Spot.Us, a journalism crowdfunding project, for almost four years. In that time, we’ve pushed boundaries,
and have had many successes and shortcomings which I’ve tried to share along the
way. As I’ve always said, Spot.Us will never be perfect. It will never
be “done,” and as long as we can strive for something, we’re making
progress.

Today we are taking a big stride by formally being acquired by the Public Insight Network. There is a lot to suss out with this merger, but when you sit and think about it, it makes a lot of sense. The official press release is here.

SPOT.US + PIN = ROCKING

The Public Insight Network (part of American Public Media) was co-founded by my friend Michael Skoler,
now at Public Radio International. It’s a software platform (similar to
Spot.Us) that has long been at the forefront of how Public Media can
interact with and take cues from the public by giving them a means to
inform journalism. Individuals can provide insight to make stories more
informed, insightful, and reflect the community in a truer sense. Spot.Us
is built on a relationship with the public, giving them a kind of
editorial control and influence over what stories should be done. Both
create a media that is more responsive and responsible to the public’s
needs according to their own volition. Combined we offer both
opportunities to readers, creating a more nuanced relationship between a
news entity that uses PIN/Spot and the public.

Creating
and managing a more nuanced relationship — that’s what “public media”
should do. I hope that as Spot.Us and PIN merge, we can continue to push
the boundaries in transparency and participation in the process of
journalism so that media organizations can better serve the public.

All
of this is under the backdrop of my gig at UC Berkeley’s J-school, which
is a blast. Spot.Us is my baby, but just as it is time for it to grow up and move
out of the house, it was time for me to tackle new problems. Through
this merger both are happening.

I
will continue working at Berkeley’s J-school and will remain the
founder and a part of the Spot.Us team moving forward. But it is high
time for Spot.Us to grow wings and move beyond what any small team can
accomplish. I believe under the PIN leadership of Joaquin Alvarado, Spot.Us can grow to accomplish much more, and I intend to be there as we reach for higher goals and aspirations.

There
will be much to write about in the coming months (years). I’m happy to
say that Spot.Us is able to fund itself as a project for the first year
of this merger, and if revenue grows, could do so indefinitely. But I want to keep this post short and sweet. Spot.Us will
continue. For the moment, it will be status quo. There will be changes
moving forward, but we will remain an open platform that will fund-raise
for independent journalists and news organizations.

And to close it off — an excerpt from the first IdeaLab post I ever wrote about Spot.Us:

As
I see it — community funded reporting is low-hanging fruit. The Knight
News Challenge is all about doing research and development — the kind
that isn’t done elsewhere in the industry.

Now,
it may turn out that this low-hanging fruit is poisonous. But aren’t
you glad that somebody is at least going to give it a good honest bite
to find out? More importantly — aren’t you glad it’s somebody who shares
the values of the news industry? Fact is, this idea is going to be a
learning process. My goal isn’t to solve the business woes of
journalism. I don’t think anybody can do that. But I do intend to taste
the fruit of community funded reporting and report back as clearly as
possible how it tastes. Fact is, this idea is going to be tried by
somebody. My fear, however, is that those who get to it first
successfully don’t have journalism’s best interest in mind — but the
bottom line.

I’m happy to report back that the fruit isn’t poisonous. In fact, I think it’s time we begin to harvest at a larger scale.

(Image Credit: Jules Brelaz)

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