How to get your digital magazine funded (and still complain about it)


Today Tommaso De Benetti shares his experiences of online publishing with us: ”For reasons mostly unknown, me and the French never got along very well. It’s history, it’s soccer, it’s Carla Bruni cowardly changing her citizenship: I cannot say.”

Recently, however, I found a reason to love appreciate them once more: Ulule.

As US based comptetior Kickstarter, Ulule’s idea is to help people fund their projects, being them short movies, music records, or, in my case a digital magazine.

Players, that’s the name, is – simply put – the magazine me and the rest of the editorial team wanted to read. Incidentally, an Italian magazine like that just didn’t exist, so putting it together was a no-brainer. Players speaks about media: movies, music, books, games, web. More specifically, the idea is to select stuff we find amusing and offer it to our audience. If we review something bad (and we do), it’s probably because it’s just spectacularly bad.

Before launching we were torn about the business model to adopt. We wanted to make it visually beautiful, and written with quality in mind. All this requires a lot of work: we didn’t want to make money out of it, but at least we wanted not to lose money in the process. How to get something back when people are used to have everything for free on the web? Luckily enough, most of the collaborators had other projects or initiatives going on: some are renown journalists, some are running podcasts, others made their name on forums where users were overlapping our target audience. We then decided to see if we could inspire trust in at least a core group of followers and get them to support us with some expenses. The bet was won: we reached (and surpassed) our goals in both the fundraising campaign we set up on Ulule (see Campaign 1 and 2).

In our model supporters get special rewards, the most important of which is preview access to the new issues of Players. All the others get the magazine for free, but 15 days later.

All nice and good then? Not quite.

First of all: Ulule protects the identity of supporters slightly too well. Despite the instructions in the FAQ and reminders everywhere, most of them forgot to leave their data in the form. Since you do not even get their emails before the project is fully founded, we faced the problem of understanding who is who before granting preview permissions for the new issues of Players.

Secondly: the project does not get funded and there is no exchange of money if the goal is not reached within the deadline. It does make sense (if you need 5000€ for a movie and you collect 1000€, most likely you have to change your plan), except that the deadline has to be agreed with Ulule’s team. Don’t get me wrong: they are extremely kind, but I have the feeling they do not completely understand how hard is to get Italians to pay for anything. As a matter of fact, we reached our goals just in time in both cases, and we had to help it a bit.

Third and most important reason for malcontent: a project like ours need a fundraising without a deadline (we are selling subscriptions, in a way), and crowdfunding platforms are simply not flexible enough for that (yet).

So, as much as I am amazed that we collected more than 1100€ in just two months from voluntary donations, we will try something different from now on. What we found out so far is that freemium models can work even for small projects, if people trust you and the product is exciting enough. Justhow long we can keep new supporters coming, that’s a story you will read here in a few months.

Tommaso De Benetti  is a young and dynamic lover of media and communications living in Helsinki. Spending most of his time discussing the industries of games and music, he runs Writing Bold, a freelance copywriting service about technology. He’s also a regular employee at Microtask, one of the leading companies in the field of crowdsourcing and distributed work. 

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