Joe Verdirame

Joe Verdirame

NEW YORK — Joe Verdirame has a background at J.P. Morgan and funding startups.

Now he hopes to reshape funding for independent video journalism.

Verdirame, 39, is the founder of Vourno, a new publishing platform to help crowdfund video journalism.

The site launched on May 20 and is largely a blank slate. So far there has been one project that was completely funded in 24 hours. Verdirame hopes that, once the site builds some momentum, the concept of building multiple revenue streams for journalists (donations, advertising, licensing, etc.) will be enticing to freelancers.

How it works

The idea behind Vourno is simple.

1. Video journalists (“vournos”) propose a video story they want to create (“Video is where everybody’s going,” Verdirame said).

2. Members of the public (“pubs”) browse the stories they want to fund and help publish it by donating. They can also pitch their own stories they want to see published for a vourno to pick up.

3. Vournos gather enough funds from pubs to pay for their salary, equipment, travel expenses and any extra team members they may need (editor, videographer, etc.)

4. The vourno gets a certain amount of time to complete the story and publish it on Vourno’s website for all to watch and share for a week before selling it elsewhere.

5. More popular, original and in-depth reporting will get more play on the website, and more sharing means more revenue through advertising — which eventually will be shared by vournos and pubs.

“Everything that everybody needs is built into this platform,” Verdirame said. “It’s very easy to share. It’s very easy to promote.”

How It’s Different

Vourno purports to be different from other crowdfunding ventures by focusing more on video journalism, and giving “pubs” the pride of helping publish great video stories and not the typical perks of other crowdfunding platforms. While Indiegogo and Kickstarter have funded journalism projects, it’s not their sole focus.

Its closest relative, Verdirame said, is Spot.Us, a self-defined “a nonprofit platform for ‘community powered reporting’” created by Circa‘s David Cohn that was acquired by American Public Media in 2011. (For a sad update on what became of Spot.us, read this MediaShift story from last December.)

Journalism as a public good

Vourno was born out of a disappointment with the current state of the news media. Verdirame, his brother, some friends from college and some developers invested in the project when they saw news media bogged down by corporate business interests.

“We love the news, and we dislike where it’s at…Journalists are getting screwed. The public’s getting screwed,” Verdirame said.

By letting the public decide which stories to publish, he said, journalists would not be compelled to let stories die based on corporate interests.

“We have no hidden political or corporate agenda,” Verdirame said. “If it gets funded, it gets published.”

“It’s a great thing for the public,” Verdirame said later. “People want change. People want to see stories told that aren’t told. This is, to me, the ultimate platform to be able to do that.”

Vourno as a learning lab

Despite the best intentions, Vourno will have a difficult road ahead of it, with tough competition from existing crowdfunding platforms (which have established brands), and the need for marketing and outreach into the community of video journalists around the world.

Verdirame said he has eyed a couple of high schools in New York City, where he’s based, that could help Vourno get off the ground.

To both high schools and university journalism schools, Vourno could be a boon to student journalists looking to build their clips and make money while they’re at it, or to help schools raise money for journalism education, Verdirame said.

“It gets high school students to think entrepreneurially,” he said. “It gets them to think about journalism. It gets them to think about reporting on bigger issues. It’s a good way for the schools to integrate a whole other level of learning with real world tools into the classroom.”

Zach C. Cohen is an editorial and podcasting intern for PBS MediaShift. He is also the editor-in-chief of The Eagle, American University‘s student newspaper, and a reporter for Latin Pulse, a weekly radio program on Latin American foreign affairs based at AU’s School of Communication. Get regular updates from @Zachary_Cohen on Twitter or on his blog.