New crowdfunding platform Indie Voices seeks to connect investors with media projects in developing countries

By Alejandro Martínez

One of the biggest questions in journalism entrepreneurship today is how to finance a publication in the digital age and ensure its sustainability.  And one advice keeps coming up: media outlets should avoid depending on advertising dollars and strive to diversify their revenue sources.

Indie Voices, a new platform focusing on independent journalism projects in the developing world, is trying to help publications do just that through crowdfunding, a strategy that involves making a pitch to the denizens of the Internet and asking them to help propel a project.

But more than just organizing fundraisers, the platform’s goal is more ambitious: Indie Voices seeks to become a meeting ground between entrepreneuring journalists and investors, where the former can find different sources of funding and put together their own financial strategy, and the latter -- whether a single donor with $20 or a foundation with $10,000 -- can choose different ways to channel their money.

“What we think we’ll be facilitating is a new way of engagement between media and the crowd,” said Indie Voices founder and CEO Sasa Vucinic. “We want that crowd to move from passive audience to becoming the new owner of media companies.”

Vucinic, a Serbian journalist entrepreneur who co-founded the Media Development Loan Fund in 1995, created Indie Voices with a similar mission: to help independent media projects obtain the necessary funds to launch or sustain their operations.

Vucinic hopes Indie Voices will attract more media projects and investors by stepping back into the role of a middleman and helping the two groups connect directly through his platform.

“We don’t claim to have the smartest answers. We’re trying to give financial tools and products that people can put together in any way that works for them,” Vucinic said.

Indie Voices has launched with two ways in which investors can help sponsor the platform’s projects: contributions and no-interest loans. The next phase, to launch some time next summer, will include low-interest loans and equity investments.

Indie Voices recently launched its beta version with its first group of eight media projects seeking financing. Among them is InfoAmazonia, a map-based journalism platform launched by Brazilian environmental journalist Gustavo Faleiros that uses open data and visualizations to tell stories from the nine countries composing the Amazon forest.

IndieVoices will launch a new project each Sunday until they reach 15, Vucinic said.

Indie Voices is currently looking for more media projects to help fund through its platform, whether they are large news sites, individual blogs, documentaries or journalism-related technologies. It’s focusing on innovative projects that will help enrich the media ecosystem in developing countries.

“This website was created to make every possible news media product investable,” Indie Voices’ website says.

Click here to find out more about how to pitch a project to Indie Voices or learn more about how to become an investor.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.