As digital technology wreaks havoc on the business models of legacy media such as newspapers and magazines, they are now turning more often to the non-profit model. Can they raise donations, micropayments, or get grants? They might want to check out a magazine that’s been a pioneer with the non-profit model, and first went online in 1993: Mother Jones. The progressive magazine has combined grants, donations and advertising to publish their print magazine and website, and recently updated their site with an emphasis on blogs and community comments.
In fact, the new commenting system allows readers to vote up or down comments, and to tag comments as a “solution” (when they have a solution to a problem) or a “result” (when they take action and get results). That way, other readers can see what their peers are doing, and MoJo reporters can follow the actions of readers. The new Comments Central section of the site is still a work in progress, as the editors are still gauging how the community would like to interact online. Plus, the site was built in open source Drupal, and Mother Jones hopes that its readers might help it do data mash-ups and other projects it might not be able to afford on its own.
I recently visited the Mother Jones headquarters in San Francisco with videographer Charlotte Buchen, took a tour of the offices and spoke in-depth with co-editors Clara Jeffery and Monika Bauerlein. They told me about their difficulties with the redesign — which went over budget and took longer than expected — along with their views on citizen journalism and the anti-social nature of investigative journalists. Here’s a video report with excerpts of my interview with Jeffery and Bauerlein.