In My Opinion: Stewart Kirkpatrick: What future, those post-indyref media projects?

THREE weeks on from the independence referendum, Scotland is faced with an intriguing media divide.

As some of you may have noticed, during the campaign, Scotland’s traditional newspapers almost universally backed the No side, supported by 55 per cent of voters. Only the Sunday Herald backed Yes.

In stark contrast, blogs, social media voices and ‘new media’ news sources were almost universally in favour of Yes, supported by 45 per cent of voters. As the head of digital at Yes Scotland, this gave me a great deal of pleasure – and was a key part of our digital strategy. (And, yes, I do know that we lost but we did increase support for our cause by 20 percentage points.)

Seeing how this imbalance plays out will be fascinating. Already some interesting trends are emerging

In the traditional media, that word, ‘interesting’, continues to have its usual euphemistic meaning, translating as ‘bloody awful’, as job losses link arms with plans for newsroom amalgamations.

On the other side, the emerging, pro-Yes, post-indyref digital media are also having an interesting time, albeit one with lots of cash sloshing around.

In the aftermath of the referendum result, many different publications and news ventures have come forward. The vast majority of these are looking for crowdfunding to create a mainstream media space that is more balanced towards the idea of independence. Some of these have managed to raise tens of thousands of pounds (considerably more than I managed during my time at the Caledonian Mercury, by some order of magnitude).

There is a huge appetite for this kind of project at the moment, but the question for these thousand blossoming flowers is: ‘What do you do when the money runs out?’

The projects that succeed will be those that most quickly realise that initial crowdfunding is only a start – and that to survive they must find sustainable income, and that is much easier said than done.

One site already looks like it has achieved this: Wings Over Scotland.

During my time at the Caley Merc I came to believe that one future for journalism was for individual writers to build up personal followings and be funded by them. Stuart Campbell, at Wings Over Scotland, has certainly done this, through multiple rounds of crowdfunding.

Another big question is: ‘How long will projects attract the level of crowdfunding they need to succeed?’

Whatever the answer, it’s very exciting that these new models are emerging because, Lord knows, journalism needs a better way of being funded than happens in traditional newspaper companies.

Stewart Kirkpatrick is a digital consultant. He was head of Digital for Yes Scotland and, before that, founding editor of the Caledonian Mercury.