Social media exploration
We talked last time of what worked and not during a crowdfunding campaign, using both social media and IRL connections to get a project funded. I’d like to write a bit about the way we covered the SXSW Interactive conference, because as far as I know, it’s not been done before, and we’re only at the beginning of something new, which gather community, crowdfunding, new media and big events.
Crowdfunding for journalists: get money and readers
Entrepreneurial journalism begins with funding one’s idea. Crowdfunding is great in the way you go “beyond money”, and get a proof of concept, a first circle of readers-funders, feedback on how to drive the project, and a deadline to comply with. More: we also offered part of the content to the crowd of backers with a dozen articles preparing the field we wanted to dig in after we got the money.
For 40€, for instance, we would write an article on SXSW for your site/blog. For 450€, you would have us as your journalists sent to the conference. For 250€, you were sponsor and displayed on our websites, told about on our social media channels, and in our IRL events.
This is a key point as we gather traction for our coverage even before going to Austin, with 59 backers for our campaign, including 10 institutions (innovation agencies, startups, coworking spaces). They were offered with other to join a Facebook group to give us feedback as priority readers, if we can say.
Creating a social readership through community leaders
We needed to cover both our idea (What made the success of Austin’s innovation ecosystem) and the conference (the main keynotes, the demos, the parties…).
I teamed up with Knowtex, a French community-based research and new media project focused on the science community. We intended to hire other people, mainly students in journalism and community leaders in their fields, as SXSW offers a wide array of topic which we don’t master all of course. It worked partially, mainly due to short timing of everything, but we’ll work better on it during French innovation festival Futur en Seine.
For instance, we wanted students in healthcare who blogged and tweeted about it to join us to curate the events at SXSW linked to this topic, such as the Health competition startup. Same thing with space exploration, a big new issue this year at the interactive conference, we were able to have one blog post made by one of our friends who knows a lot about the air and space industry.
Our idea was both to have an expert eye on topics we didn’t know much about, and in the same time to have our whole coverage of the event flow into these interest clusters or communities. If you like space exploration, you don’t find much interest to a coverage by the New York Times, as the writer, as good as he can be, may not be as expert as a blogger himself working in the industry.
Strengthening the community through events and master-classes
Covering a huge festival such as SXSW is not easy, but reading from another country, with a timezone difference, and a day job to do, is even worse.
We insisted a lot on doing as many master-class, post-SXSW events and even fireside chats in pubs and bars to give back what we learned and saw at Austin. This is really where the journalist, already an entrepreneur thanks crowdfunding, becomes a trainer or a teller. We had great and positive feedback from the people we offered this experience.
The best things with events and IRL meetings is that you give flesh and momentum to a community first created online, with people barely knowing each other. That’s when you understand that social media is ok for spreading some news, but not enough to engage, as the conversations were long, lively and freed from social media narcissism. We hugely recommend to make this as often as possible.
I must insist there’s something to be done with community-based journalism, or at least diffusion. We really want to think of us as editorial curators during an event, and spread bits of the coverage to community leaders and their audiences. So if you’re up to cover the main French innovation fest or have us create a community around your event with new media, real-life beer-fueled events, drop me a line.