Korea Technology Review2009. 7. 8. 16:47

UPDATE:  Three days after OhmyNews asked its readers to join the site as supporters, some 1100 readers have confirmed their financial contribution so far, with 4015 pledging the commitment according to an online counter posted in the dedicated page. 

Mr. Oh's tactic is well known among some American advocacy media circles, notably Pat Robertson, a conservative Christian televangelists. Fund-raising as a means for supporting a media organization has traditionally been a favorite strategy of many partisan and religious media. 

You wouldn't believe it is a pure coincidence that Mr. Oh had attended classes on the media management in Regent University before he launched his citizen media venture in Korea. No wonder the most enthusiastic early participants so far seem to be liberal types frustrated with the overtly conservative policies of the incumbent government. It is doubtful if OhmyNews' direct appeal to readers for a financial commitment will be successfully emulated elsewhere if your media is serving the non-partisan general audience. 

On another note, OhmyNews International has published a partial translation of Mr. Oh's open letter to its readers. 

OhmyNews is eyeing up to 10,000 supporters to join the site by the year-end, realizing a financial turn around by then. It remains to be seen, however, if the current momentum will hold up even after the initial buzz and enthusiasm starts to dissipate.  

OhmyNews Hopes 100,000 Supporters Will Save It from the Financial Troubles 

OhmyNews, a pioneering Korean citizen journalism site, lost KRW500M or about US$400,000 this year alone, Oh Yeon-ho, the founder and CEO of OhmyNews disclosed in an open letter published on its news site Wednesday. And he fears it would lose more money as advertisers keep slashing marketing budget amid the global financial crisis. 

Mr. Oh believes, however, if 100,000 readers join OhmyNews as supporters, paying KRW10,000 a month, it would achieve its financial independence without necessarily relying on advertising dollars. 

"For a citizen media to remain healthy and preserve its editorial integrity, it will have to earn at least 50 percent of its income from the sales of content or paid subscriptions. Despite our best effort, OhmyNews still relies on advertisers for more than 70 percent of its revenue." 

Launched in 2000, two years before the Presidential election, OhmyNews quickly rose to prominence by providing a voice for young online readers and mostly liberal political groups. The site has been largely credited for the successful campaign of the reformist president Roh Moo-hyun. Roh killed himself last May in a shocking move that surprised his supporters and political adversaries alike. He had to endure mounting pressure form his opponents, while the attorney's office grilled him with a highly controversial investigation on his alleged slush fund scandal.  

OhmyNews has gradually lost its standing for the past couple of years, as competing citizen media platforms started to attract its core young Korean readers. The recent global financial meltdown was another blow to its shaky financial structure. 

Despite its dwindling status, however, OhmyNews still enjoys strong influence among young Korean readers interested in the politics, and during the massive candle light protest last year against the import of the potentially contaminated US beef, the site demonstrated that it can always bite back with a formidable force. 

Since its inception, OhmyNews has relied on citizen reporters for more than 70 percent of its news content it publishes. At the content side, the site has already achieved its editorial independence. Can OhmyNews pull off another miracle in the finance side as well and stand up again as a sustainable media business? For more updates and developing stories, stay tuned to Planet Size Brain.    

Posted by PSB

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