This is actually the latest iteration of ReadWrite’s crowdfunding campaign. Or, to be more precise, it’s the run-up to a campaign that’s actually scheduled to begin on July 7. The ReadWrite team first started talking about a crowdfunding campaign back in March, but the tone back then was pretty like pretty much anyone else looking to raise money.
So why did the campaign take a darker turn? Well, ReadWrite’s editor in chief Owen Thomas (who I used to write for at VentureBeat) admitted that the initial feedback was relatively muted.
“There wasn’t much response, so we kind of sat back and asked ourselves why,” he said. “The temptation is to is to put a shiny surface on things and to not expose the struggle. But the struggle is real.”
To be clear, Thomas isn’t claiming that ReadWrite is about to shut down or anything like that. Wearable World acquired the site a few months ago, and Thomas said the new owners have “big plans.”
In fact, he said Wearable World CEO Redg Snodgrass (he and Thomas are pictured above) deserves the credit for thinking this up. After all, the hardware startups in Wearable World’s incubator look at Kickstarter and Indiegogo as possible funding sources, so why not ReadWrite?
Which is fair enough, but makes me wonder to what extent ReadWrite is really struggling. According to the Bring ReadWrite Back campaign, it’s working with “the most bare-bones staff imaginable” — Thomas said there are about a dozen writers and editors, but only three full-time employees, including himself: “ReadWrite in its prime had a much bigger newsroom.”
He didn’t want to go into too much detail about how ReadWrite might change with more money, because he wants the readers who support the site to shape its new direction (and hey, he doesn’t want to give competing sites his best ideas). But it could certainly mean more ambitious, in-depth coverage.
“ReadWrite is a capitalistic enterprise, but that doesn’t mean we’re leaving readers out,” he said. “That’s original sin of online journalism — we never stopped to bring our readers in.” For ReadWrite to reach its full potential, he argued, “We need to bring our community in.”
More broadly, Thomas noted that “it’s really rough out there” in the tech media world. The most surprising development this year was the sudden shutdown of GigaOm, but more broadly, there’s been a struggle to make the ad- and events-driven business work, or to find something beyond those models.
“I think creating a leg of revenue that is direct from our readers and not dependent on advertisers or on event ticket sales is really interesting,” Thomas said. “It gives us a lot of freedom and it gives us a lot of responsibility, which is what we want. We want to be directly responsible to our readers.”
You can read more and sign-up for updates on the campaign page.