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

Via, Author: Mathew Ingram —

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 Planet Moneyfrom 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).

Blumberg, who works for This American Life and created the Planet Money show in 2008 along with NPR economics reporter Adam Davidson, said that when the show decided to set up the T-shirt project — an idea that stemmed from a book by Pietra Rivoli called “The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy” — he thought Kickstarter was the most obvious way of allowing listeners to not only follow the experiment, but to become participants in it as well.

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