What a democracy needs in order to function can be seen through what is lacking in failed democracies. High on the to-do list of aspiring autocrats is suppressing freedom of expression, censoring journalism and generally turning media into a mouthpiece for their own propaganda.
Maintaining a free public sphere is crucial for democracy. Fortunately, this is working well in almost all Western countries. But even as citizens of Europe or the USA, we must constantly work to protect and maintain a free public sphere. Not least because confidence in the media is in decline, fake news and right-wing extremist publications are on the rise and many publications are finding it difficult to finance their work.
In other words, we need independent media and independent media needs our support: those blogs, podcasts, Youtube channels, newsletters and magazines that are independent, authentic and not dependent on advertising revenue. Why?
We need a colourful media landscape to ensure that a broad spectrum of opinions are represented. This is necessary for ensuring that different thoughts and opinions can be heard and discussed.
We need independent media to keep a close eye on those with power.
Relying on the big media houses alone won’t get us there. We need diversity and publishers that are not co-financed. We also need small, niche media and local reporting.
Independent media doesn’t have to be chained to third parties, such as advertisers, and their wishes.
For example, if you have a travel blog or podcast: Do you prefer to report honestly about the places you've been to, or about the places a tour company would want you to write about? Wouldn't you rather use your own words than spike your texts with search engine keywords?
Media makers and creative people who are free of demands from third parties can concentrate more fully on their work and their community. (Let's be honest: Nobody really likes advertisements.)
The most important thing now is to find new answers to the important questions: How can independent media finance themselves? How do they manage to concentrate on their actual work when they’re struggling with funds? How can they build a trusting relationship with their community? To do this, we need to break new ground. Offering memberships is one way to do just that.