IrishCycle.com is reader-funded journalism, but what does that mean?

IrishCycle.com is a news and comment website focused on cycling as transport, greenways and other transport issues. It is reader-funded, but what does that mean?

IrishCycle.com is funded by readers like you who choose to subscribe because they see the value of our journalism being accessible to all — it’s kind of the modern-day equivalent of buying a newspaper and, when finished, giving it to a friend or leaving it publically so somebody else could read it.

...I'm sorry to disrupt you while you're reading this article, but without messages like this, IrishCycle.com's reader-funded journalism won't survive. With 676k views so-far this year, it's not just "avid cyclists" that this website reaches. But the number of subscribers is around 0.6% of readers. This large gap between readers/subscribers is standard for non-paywall reader-supported journalism, but IrishCycle's journalism needs more support. Don't delay, support monthly or yearly today. Now, back to the article...

Why subscribe?

IrishCycle.com is covering issues around cycling for transport, greenways, the use of our public space and decarbonising transport in a more in-depth way than anybody else. Not to get too high-minded about it but there are currently 343 readers who see the public benefit of IrishCycle.com’s journalism and I hope you can too.

But not everybody can subscribe?

That’s part of the point of keeping this website open. If journalism is a public good, why restrict its readership to those who are willing and able to subscribe? IrishCycle.com does not need everybody to subscribe for it to work. Another part of the point of keeping this website open is that as the readership grows, so, too will the number of subscribers.

Why is funding even needed?

Time is one of the big costs — time on researching articles (including asking questions, watching council meetings, reading documents, sending FOI requests etc), writing articles, taking and otherwise sourcing images, editing articles, seeking people to write guest articles, commissioning freelance journalists to write articles, acting as a social media manager, answering reader’s questions, dealing with complaints, moderating comments, and acting as customer service for subscribers. I cannot think of another job that I’d prefer doing right now but there’s a lot in it that might not be apparent.

Then there are ongoing costs such as the cost of hosting this website, paying for services that keep it running, domain names, the occasional procuring of equipment, paying tax etc.

What qualifies you to call this journalism?

This website is run by me, Cian Ginty with contributions from others — I have reported on and commented on cycling in Ireland for over 15 years. I’ve a background in journalism, with a BA in Journalism from Dublin City University and HDip in Print Journalism from Ballyfermot College of Further Education.

I wrote about cycling (and other issues) for national newspapers and that led to me starting CyclingInDublin.com first for overflow stories and information. That grew into what IrishCycle.com is today.

Is campaigning journalism really journalism?

Campaigning journalism has a strong journalistic tradition. Examples include The Guardian’s ‘Keep it in the ground’ campaign and The Times’ ‘Cities Fit For Cycling” campaign.

But much of IrishCycle.com is just straightforward journalism on what can be seen as a niche topic which has wider impacts than your average niche topic. Journalism does not stop at large mainstream news outlets, it includes area-focused and topic-focused outlets, publications, broadcasters and podcasters.

But isn’t journalism usually funded by advertising?

That’s not really the case, most newspapers are paid for by a mix of advertising and their purchase price or subscription (both print and digital subscriptions). Subscriptions are also key for magazine journalism.

But where there are subscriptions, there’s usually a paywall?

Usually, yes, but there are also many examples of reader or listener-funded journalism with open access for all — the most high-profile is The Guardian newspaper.

There are also some — like our US counterpart Bike Portland — that are funded by a mix of subscriptions and advertising. Other media outlets — such as the Dublin Inquirer — have gone through phases with and without a paywall.

Why not both subscriptions and advertising?

Advertising can range from low-value, low-quality to high-value journalism — the latter can devalue a website and the former is labour-intensive. Media outlets, even small ones which rely partly or fully on advertising, usually have a staff member working on managing advertising. I have listened to other small media outlets and this just isn’t workable for IrishCycle.com.

A secondary issue is that advertisers also sometimes look to influence content directly or do not continue to advertise when coverage does not suit them.

Won’t subscribers also look for influence?

IrishCycle.com seeks ideas from all readers but, with 340 subscribers, it is much more unlikely that they will have undue influence than if IrishCycle.com was relying on, say, 20-30 advertisers.

What about ‘leaky’ paywalls?

While now back with a paywall, the Dublin Inquirer now allows people to read three articles a month without paying and one extra article a month if they register but still don’t subscribe. If IrishCycle.com ever implements a paywall, it will likely be something like this but — for now at least — IrishCycle.com wants to avoid the extra complication for both readers, subscribers and IrishCycle.com.

Thanks for reading and a special thanks to subscribers,

Cian Ginty
Editor, IrishCycle.com

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