11 thoughts on “Final thoughts: My debate vs. Felix Salmon about Matter and why I still believe that the Matter team created a dishonest Kickstarter campaign and why their business model is unsustainable

  1. I am a reporter. I am well known enough to benefit from my reputation in some cases. But I am not a household name. I don’t know if I ever will be, but I hope my work is so positive in its social impact that this becomes the case, eventually. I don’t know the journalists who started the Matter project. (I do know, through work, one of the founders of Kickstarter.) While I agree with much of what you write above, JR, I do not agree with this: “If the journalists responsible for this project were so great, they would already be household names after years of science and tech reporting, but they are not.” Are household name reporters, bloggers and columnists all great? Or are they just great at being attractive, great at self promotion, or great at posting early and often if not accurately or insightfully?

  2. I am a reporter. I am well known enough to benefit from my reputation in some cases. But I am not a household name. I don’t know if I ever will be, but I hope my work is so positive in its social impact that this becomes the case, eventually. I don’t know the journalists who started the Matter project. (I do know, through work, one of the founders of Kickstarter.) While I agree with much of what you write above, SRM, I do not agree with this: “If the journalists responsible for this project were so great, they would already be household names after years of science and tech reporting, but they are not.” Are household name reporters, bloggers and columnists all great? Or are they just great at being attractive, great at self promotion, or great at posting early and often if not accurately or insightfully?

  3. I like to think that science-minded readers will be willing to pay for great content a la carte. I also believe in things like the wisdom of the crowds, collaborative fundraising for projects that wouldn’t appeal to VCs but are socially worthwhile, and the power of consumers to change an industry like, say, the news. In many ways, I’m rooting for MATTER.

    One thing that is damning of the project team, though, and which you point out above in point 3 is that they seem to have an imprecise definition of ethics and independence in journalism.

    I see a great deal of naiveté at best, or fiction at worst (not sure which as I don’t know the founders) in their pitch on Kickstarter.

    Specifically: what lets this team imply they’d be totally independent while literally selling corporate sponsorships and editorial board seats to those who pledged and supported them with funds? What is independent about a magazine that sells “name checks” in stories? If your editorial board is comprised of people who chipped in to help you start up, when their donations stop, do you kick these supposedly valuable members of the crowd off the board? And how much bias are you creating by seeking funding only via Kickstarter? I love what Kickstarter is doing — I just don’t know if the people funding projects there are very diverse, from a demographics standpoint. Are they mostly white, for example, mostly tech professionals, say, rather than educators or public servants, or the like…

    You could be creating a very biased board, potentially.

    It’s fraught with ethical conflict, imho. And yet? Again. I am rooting for them. I love to see new models in news, and more potential, fairly paying work for the best and brightest reporters.

    • Hi Lora,

      I agree with the potential bias, it struck me as odd that MATTER wants to be free from advertising and yet they offer advertisement slots, seems they like to play with fire.

      However, This will not deter me from rooting for MATTER, journalism and news specifically have become saturated with news unworthy subjects or just downright product placement.

  4. Hi Stephen,

    disclaimer: I am a business major with a minor in philosophy, not a scientist or journalist.

    your piece is providing arguments on why MATTER has an unstable business model and will therefore likely not succeed. bellow are my comments:

    1) the basis of your assumption is that both the main stream journalism who charge and MATTER will be valued in the same way by the consumer. eg. you assume that you are comparing apples with apples. I don’t agree with that assumption, the effect crowd funded projects have on the value perception of the end-consumer is not known yet. MATTER could become much more valued by consumers than the mainstream (UN)democratically set up businesses exactly due to its crowd funding origin. Kick starter (and other like it) are a definite game changer in regards to capital funding and it is unknown but not unlikely that it could have a profound effect on value perception of the end consumer due to its ‘democratic and social beginnings’.

    2) I am going with your cost assement here, but this is not a reason why the business model is unstable. it just states that long form journalism cost a certain amount of money. But depending on the exact business model (not just the .99 dollar per view but ALL revenue streams) MATTER is using, this may or may not be a problem. The fact that it cost 6000 dollar per pieces doesn’t stand as a complete argument in my opinion.

    3)Good point, MATTER lied on this point or at the very least bended the truth. off the top of my head I can see possible mitigating factors. but the bottom line is they’re playing with fire by running the risk that they will burn their socal kickstarter bridges if they don’t handle it right, this is a realistic risk that could make the business assumption too optimistic.

    4)i can imagine that 1,000 people on your editorial board is going to cause problems if its not handled properly. as to your argument of MATTER pushing articles through. It could happen and it would be pretty self defeating if they did definately a potential risk.

    5)why are you assuming that there is no revenue stream during those 6 months? that doesn’t seem right or fair. Every business will go bankrupt if they don’t sell.

    6) I agree with Lola on this point (see above), house hold names are not a guarantee for success and i can imagination that it isn’t even a preferred scenario for the people at MATTER.

    7)the underlining assumption here is that MATTER will not explore or stuble upon other revenue streams besides the selling of their articles, it’s too premature to make a conclusion like that. but it is a potential risk to the business model, if the .99 dollars per view target is not achieveable. But again it really is too early to tell.

    All in all, I don’t think it’s complete fair how the business model of MATTER is being knock in the blogosphere. Yes, it isn’t perfect and YES it has uncertainty but then every business plan has that! in many ways that is the essence of a business plan, but it has a lot of potential and considering that they passed their kick starter litmus test with flying colour we should give them the benefit of the doubt.

  5. Pingback: Crowd funding journalism | livingmoontree

  6. Pingback: Does the world really need more science journalism? Matter says yes, and thousands agree : The Last Word On Nothing

  7. Is The Atavist actually profitable yet? As I understand it, their platform is still in beta when it comes to third-party licensing, so I’m unsure how “approximate” this 50% of revenue is.

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