We are pioneering a new business model for web journalism.
Banyan Project’s purpose is to ensure that, despite failing newspapers, communities have the reliable news coverage and information they need. It is a robust response to an urgent need of our democracy.
The multifaceted Banyan model is built on the sturdy foundation of consumer cooperative ownership, with readers owning local news co-ops the way shoppers own food co-ops and depositors own credit unions. The news co-ops are designed to be easily replicable from community to community, the way food co-ops and credit unions replicated from coast to coast.
The co-ops will be businesses owned by hundreds if not thousands of community members. They will be led professionally and governed democratically through one-member/one-vote election of directors, as are co-ops of all kinds. Their revenue structure is designed to make them thrive even as newspapers wither. And their journalism will be free for all to read so they can serve the broad public of the less-than-affluent everyday citizens we call the Banyan public, not just the upscale people newspapers tend to cultivate.
Further, the Banyan model amplifies the impact of its journalism by integrating the social power of the Web with co-op culture’s inherent trustworthiness:
- Distinctive publishing software, designed to make it comfortable and gratifying for readers to collaborate with the editors, will attract voluntary energy that can significantly expand the scope of coverage possible with a small staff. This is the same kind of voluntary energy the Web unleashes to fuel Wikipedia and open source software in other trustworthy settings, only on a community scale.
- The software will also include civic engagement tools that invite readers to join with others and work for constructive community change, making it easy for communities to find and express their voices—and strengthening their civic infrastructure.
In short, the co-ops will be democracy-strengthening community institutions—of, by and for their communities.