Debate on economics of pay-to-read independent journalism

Kevin Drum at Calpundit.com has some interesting musings on a business model for independent journalism.

I’m slaving away on the book proposal as well as pitching articles to magazines, which is why you’re not hearing much from me, but Calpundit.com has a decent little debate going in his comments section on a business model for independent journalism that David Appell and yours truly are working at.
In essence, Kevin is speculating on a kind of eBay for independent journalists, in which story ideas are pitched to readers and then the writer entertains bids from readers. Or, as Kevin puts it: “Readers could suggest stories and see if there are any reporters willing to follow them up.”
It’s an interesting thought, but I have no idea how to make it work technically. I’m sure some hot-shot programmer out there could encode the new rules of the freelance economy into an online service. But the two real questions are, can the writer make enough income from this to make it worth his or her while and will the readers get the quality that rivals what they can get from “mainstream” media.
I’ve been doodling a bit on a business model for Back-to-Iraq, but this is an idea I hadn’t thought of. (I don’t really have an entrepreneurial brain, sad to say.) Thoughts from you guys? Opinions?

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