Planet Money and Kickstarter: Is web-based crowdfunding the future of public media?

Planet Money T Shirt NPRWhen the NPR show Planet Money wanted to put together a project about the economic life-cycle of a T-shirt, Kickstarter seemed like the natural approach — and it showed how much crowdfunding has in common with public media.

When the reporting team at Planet Money — a joint venture between PRI’s This American Life and National Public Radio — decided to do a series tracing the creation of a T-shirt all the way from the cotton fields to the department store, producer Alex Blumberg says that Kickstarter seemed like a natural way to engage listeners in the project. In a sense, he told me in an interview, the web-based crowdfunding platform is really just a more modern way of doing what public radio has always done, which is to allow fans to support journalism they care about.

If launching the project via Kickstarter was a gamble — and one that apparently took a certain amount of convincing before Planet Money’s corporate masters would sign off on it, according to Blumberg — it certainly seems to have paid off: the campaign hit its goal in a single day, and has since raised about $300,000 or six times as much as it was originally looking for (the audio of my interview with Blumberg is on SoundCloud and also embedded below).

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