Monday, February 8, 2010

"The Mark" gets funded; will it be Canada's version of "Demand Media"? Gives writers "voice", but no pay

The Mark, a Toronto based online news site, announced today they had received first round funding from a group of investors led by Innovation Grade Capitol. David Ceolin, the lead investor, is quoted as stating that "The Mark is building a portfolio of content-based services that have scalable, sustainable revenue potential and don't rely on advertising or subscription."

So what is this mystery business model that has attracted investment?

The Mark may be compared (in a way) to the U.S.'s Demand Media, a firm getting much attention for their low pay to freelancers. The Mark seems to go one step further -- they don't pay at all.  "What we do shouldn't be confused with exercises in citizen journalism, for the lack of a better descriptor," Ali Rahnema told The Canadian Journalism Project's Tim Currie late last year . "We're doing, to use other jargon, opinion aggregation."

According to their press release "The Mark publishes multimedia news commentary written by and featuring a hand-picked community of more than 600 great Canadian thinkers and doers working around the world in politics, business, science, technology, sports and the arts. Media observers have described The Mark as a smarter, Canadian version of the Huffington Post." 

Writers for The Mark are "invited" to contribute material, have has the material appear online unedited. "We provide the platform for them to do that. So far, it's proven to be far more valuable to them than the $50, $100 they would get from publishing it in another platform."  While writers maintain ownership of their work, The Mark gets the right to distribute it.  Essentially, The Mark avoids the upfront costs of both reporting and editing and concentrates on marketing and distribution. 

(I contacted The Mark to discuss their business model but received no reply.)