Open Democracy editor says future is 'bright' after £250,000 fundraising drive saves site from closure

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Not-for-profit news website Open Democracy has been saved from closure after raising £250,000.

Editor-in-chief Magnus Nome said: “Our immediate threat of closure is not there anymore, we have 2013 fully funded. It’s a relief.”

The money was needed to “wipe away debt that had been accrued last year through lack of revenue” and fund openDemocracy’s main site, which is financially independent from its smaller sub-sections.

Open Democracy raised the first £100,000 in pledges from two main donors and said that a further £100,000 came from 10 donors who stipulated this money was conditional on the final £50,000 being raised by Open Democracy. Nome said that “very generous pledges” from donors and readers helped them reach the target.

“Now we have time to start building funding for 2014,” he said. “We’ve done a lot of work in the last year on diversifying where our revenue comes from. We still have to rely on philanthropy and we have an increasing amount coming in from our readers, but we will have some other income from sales and advertising.”

He added: “Getting online free journalism funded is an extremely big challenge, most people in that area will agree. But this has shown it is possible.”

The site provides in-depth analysis of issues and events that “that isn’t in the immediate media mainstream,” explains Nome. “We’re not following the day-to-day media agenda, while still reacting to what is happening in the world. You’ll have a situation flaring up in the mainstream media, and you’ll find that Open Democracy has actually been covering and writing about it for quite some time before it became something that everybody’s going to.”

Founded in 2001, the site describes itself as a “public service on the web not a commodity” that encourages debate and in-depth investigation into global political issues. It claims to attract around 200,000 readers a month.

Open Democracy runs a “digital commons” policy, where work can be republished by not-for-profit organisations around the world for free. “We like to spread material,” Nome says. “We like it to be read on our site, but we like it to be read elsewhere as well. It feeds in to our digital commons philosophy of spreading, allowing and sharing of thinking and information.”

The funding will be mostly spent on editorial and publishing costs – the salaries of the full-time staff including Nome himself, editor Rosemary Bechler, publisher Andrew Hyde and finance and business manager Jonathan Bowles – and the technical upkeep of the site. “It’s an extremely effective operation,” he adds, “we publish more than 50 in-depth articles a week. I don’t know anybody who publishes that amount of quality material with our tiny, tiny budget.”

The “vast majority” of the writers and contributors work for free and volunteer. “It leads into the digital commons idea again,” he said.

Nome sees the successful fundraising drive  as a sign of things to come: “I think that this has shown that there is a big thirst for Open Democracy, and we have had many, many hundreds of supporters rallying to the cause and digging deep.

“People appreciate what we do and find that we have an important role in the media landscape. I think we have a very bright future.”

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