Falconwing Media is looking for 682 people to write three-sentence news summaries, embed them within images that are immune to blocking, and distribute them using social media. The news service will outcompete “oldmedia” — by writing “about civic issues relevant to the net generation” — and will “pay people well,” in Bitcoin.
“I just had had enough, and tried to come up with a way to circumvent these organizations that are still operating on a lot of pre-internet assumptions. Decoupling publication from distribution (creating news that get shared outside your control) is one such strategic action I don't see oldmedia catching up with in a decade, if ever.”
— Rick Falkvinge
Rick Falkvinge, Swedish IT serial entrepreneur and known founder of the Pirate Party, is creating a new reporting format designed to outperform what he calls "oldmedia." The news outlet will start in Europe, with ultimate plans to go global. They plan to begin with 21 writers plus a manager for each of 28 countries in the EU, plus Switzerland, Iceland and Norway.
Falkvinge believes his methods could outcompete “those who aren’t doing journalism any longer” and the mainstream media that still lives in “yesterday’s Internet.” He hopes to bypass the usual elements of publication, distribution and advertising, with a goal of achieving a total of 30,000 impressions per story in order to break even financially.
Falkvinge starts net-generation news service, hiring 682 people pic.twitter.com/MGA9iffAV6— Falconwing News (@FalconwingNews) June 15, 2015
Cointelegraph spoke with Falvinge about his idea.
Cointelegraph: How did you come up with this idea to create such a different form of news reporting?
Rick Falkvinge: Basically, I saw that time and time again, the oldmedia outlets had reduced themselves to propaganda mouthpieces for corrupt and nepotistic regimes, presenting whatever preposterous-claims as objective divine truth. The latest scandal with the UK government trying to discredit Edward Snowden on complete fabrications through the Sunday Times is just one example, and an example where they happened to be caught with the hand in the cookie jar. But do remember that the BBC repeated the lies from Sunday Times at first.
I just had had enough, and tried to come up with a way to circumvent these organizations that are still operating on a lot of pre-Internet assumptions. Decoupling publication from distribution (creating news that get shared outside your control) is one such strategic action I don't see oldmedia catching up with in a decade, if ever.
In short, I saw a number of achilles heels that I realized I could combine to outcompete the dinosaurs on purely commercial merit.
CT: Where will this media be displayed and how often?
RF: We'll be posting to social media channels on all major platforms to encourage people to share. We also have this notion that just because it's serious, it doesn't have to be boring. There's an irritating notion that things that are really, really, really boring are also really, really, really professional. That's nonsense. Stuff doesn't get more professional or serious just because you're not enjoying it.
Therefore, this philosophy goes hand in hand with sharing: it's funny, and therefore, people share. And since people share, the concept works. And since it doesn't have to be boring, you shouldn't make it boring in the first place anyway.
I can't believe oldmedia hasn't figured this out themselves, to be honest — the very simple idea that people like reading and sharing things that make them smile.
“If you were to process legacy-banking payroll for some 700 people across 30+ countries, that would take at least four full-time people just on its own. Bitcoin can do it with a small shell script instead.”
CT: You’re choosing to pay journalists in Bitcoin only. What's the reasoning behind this approach?
RF: Cost-cutting on the backend, frankly. When I led the Swedish Pirate Party to election success in 2009, I did so on a basis of cutting administration to an absolute minimum, among many other things. If you were to process legacy-banking payroll for some 700 people across 30+ countries, that would take at least four full-time people just on its own. Bitcoin can do it with a small shell script instead.
In particular, this lowers the bar for entrepreneurship. The threshold to starting a business or a pre-incorporation project is lowered radically, and that's an even more important effect than lowering the overall cost of doing business once you're past the initial bar.
CT: How do you think readers will view these impressions, as opposed to how they view ‘oldmedia’?
RF: To be honest, these are just news summaries that are being distributed — 3 sentences, 400–450 characters. It's an eye-glimpse giving you a quick impression of a development. The in-depth analysis will also be necessary, but we'll move onto that later once we've mastered this part.
I predict that's where the major criticism will be, the shallowness of the information distributed. But that's deliberate. You don't get breadth and depth at the same time. This is breadth.
CT: Do you think you will be able to reach 30,000 impressions per story?
RF: It's far too early to count chickens. However, when I checked this morning, the launch story — posted to a Twitter account that previously had zero followers — already had 42,259 impressions. That's 40% above breakeven target on the very first story.
Now, it needs to be said that this is still just an indicator of future success, and by no means a guarantee. But it's a very encouraging indicator.
CT: Do you hope to create a wave of new journalism and re-design the entire format?
RF: It's not so much that I hope to redesign the entire format, as I hope to outcompete those who aren't doing journalism any longer. But the new format can hopefully be part of a vehicle to do so. This is how the net generation shares thoughts and ideas today, after all — sharing images with snippets of information and ideas.
CT: Could ‘oldmedia’ copy this idea?
RF: I doubt they would be capable of freeing themselves from pre-Internet assumptions to the point where they could decouple publication from distribution. You'll see them trying to drag "traffic" to their sites for a long time ahead, instead of encouraging people to share directly between them.
They're completely stuck in the "control" mindset, which is kind of the opposite to how the Internet works when it works best.
“Oldmedia rarely pays anything at all, and when they do, it can take months from publication to payment. Getting paid on schedule, with a completely transparent model, is superior before even looking at the numbers.”
CT: Why do you think your pay model is superior to the norm of journalism?
RF: Haha, that one's easy! oldmedia rarely pays anything at all, and when they do, it can take months from publication to payment. Getting paid on schedule, with a completely transparent model, is superior before even looking at the numbers.
Now, there are exceptions to this. But the situation I describe above has been the main-line case for some time. Besides, Falconwing Media is offering €125 (US$195) per week-hour of work as target pay, translating to €5,000 (US$7792) per month for an equivalent 40-hour job. You're not finding those rates in oldmedia.
To be honest, we're starting out at zero, too, as our pay is based on a revenue share. But it's a transparent and understandable model, where everybody has the ability to make the call for themselves if the target pay is achievable or not.
We want to hold power holders accountable and we want to defend the Internet's fundamental values.
CT: What is the end goal of this project?
RF: Our reason for being is that oldmedia have willingly stopped doing investigative journalism in favor of tabloid-ing and propaganda. We want to hold power holders accountable and we want to defend the Internet's fundamental values. It's not rocket science, and yet, you don't see oldmedia doing it.