Kwik News began its life as a small start-up idea, but during the development process there was always an underlying tension between the ideals that I wanted to achieve and the reality of operating as a business. This tension was only resolved when I took the decision to release it as a non-profit initiative. I would like to briefly cover how this decision was reached and a few of the possible consequences. Be aware that what applies here may or may not be applicable to your own project, rather it is based on my own perspective.
The central pillar of this project was about providing people with a broader view of the news they consume and to bring useful tools to a wider audience. It is also an attempt to improve the interface between the reader and the publishers. In achieving this, I also hope to make a small statement about what would be possible. The initial plan included making a sustainable income at the same time.
However, when running a website as a business, it is inevitable that the users will eventually need to “pay” in some form. Such a site will need to implement some means of payment. For indirect methods, such as advertising, this starts with the simple need to accommodate the ads on the pages. From the users’ perspective, they will then need to carry the burden of longer loading times and potentially being exposed to various forms of online tracking. Following the release of the European Union's GDPR regulation, it was noticed how much faster certain sites loaded for the 'EU' version where much of the advertising had been removed [1, 2].
Alternatively, if a more direct model is employed, in which users pay for an access or extra content, then there will be other intangible costs placed upon the site. With a paywall in place, the site will see a reduction in its the reach of possible users, depending on the limitations imposed . Generally this would be fine, however for Kwik News such an outcome would be incompatible with providing an inclusive service where all the tools are equally available.
It was not easy to find a balance between the business needs and the goals of this particular project. Deciding to go non-profit meant that I could focus on providing the service without limitations, allowing the site to reach the widest possible audience and to do so without compromising the users.
Specifically the project gains:
- Independence: It is not tied to business considerations and has the freedom to explore possible features.
- Sustainability: It is not subjected to the vagaries of the market.
- Inclusivity: Available to anyone with internet access, and can expose less known media or niche news sources.
These gains come at the cost of reducing the overall resources that would be available to the project, both in the terms of finance and future development time. However, I believe that the challenge of making the site as efficiently as possible will be a rewarding task itself.
When considered as a whole, I feel that this was the right decision to take.