THE BLOG
04/11/2013 10:19 GMT | Updated 23/01/2014 18:58 GMT

Niche Websites, Blogs and Magazines Should Come Together to Create Journalism That Can Make a Difference

"Tired with mainstream coverage and the rise of 'churnalism', we will aim to uncover the heart of the issues, delivering quality, in-depth articles that analyse and expose the truths that have been lost amid the waves of media management and press releases that oppose the once great art of journalism."

This is not a unique mantra among Britain's burgeoning band of well-intentioned news and current affairs websites. Faced with the mass market model of traffic-driven tyranny, where speed and volume supersede accuracy and depth, going solo is an increasingly popular alternative for those fed up of writing for clicks rather than a cause.

While that noble opening spiel was pulled from a website vowing to shake-up coverage of sport, equally grandiose statements of journalistic principle can be found in the 'About' sections of countless unheralded URLs, all enriched with idealism and a dedication to the kind of investigative, quality journalism that is difficult to define, but instantly recognisable.

The medley of today's media is unprecedented. While Britain's biggest publishers find themselves in similarly unparalleled levels of turmoil - shrinking revenue, the threat of state regulation, and a growing tendency to aim their guns at each other - the range of outlets beneath them is fragmenting like light through a prism.

The number of blogs worldwide rose from 36 million in 2006 to 181 million by the end of 2011. WordPress, the most popular tool for online publishing, has seen its number of sites rise from 60 million in April last year to a current total of 72 million. Look around at various media awards, and you'll see a new mix of names and titles tussling with the nation's traditional elite; the launch last year of the British Journalism Awards sought to recognise the blurring boundaries between media brands, with the likes of Exaro, Business Green and The Blizzard among those honoured for outstanding journalism.

While journalism has always enjoyed a thriving underground element, one sector's growth and another's demise has converged to give products produced by media hipsters more of a glossy finish. The internet's click-of-a-button publishing continues to get easier through better and cheaper tools, while hordes of journalism students provide a chipper and cheap (free) workforce for the duration of their study, all convinced their respective voluntary endeavours will pay dividends in the long term. Plus, as the traditional powerhouses cull professional journalists, these redundant staffers find themselves with the same problem as those aforementioned students coming out of journalism school - the established watering holes are getting drier, and they best find another place to drink.

Befitting a typically liberal profession, the innovation born from such hardship is making the media richer. Take The Conversation, a journalistic venture that features articles from the brightest minds in academia and the research community, or Ones to Watch Media, which brings together the best student journalism from across the country. The articles on Shout Out UK chime with a vigorous and clear constitution, as do the likes of GKBC and Verita.

While these sites' ideas and articles may be worthy of wider consumption, the problem lies in engaging readers already saturated with content. Mail Online alone publishes as many as 600 articles every day - a volume and variety large enough to satisfy the daily reading of any news junkie - without even considering the alternative offerings from the BBC, The Guardian and the Telegraph. In a climate where space is so scarce, it is little wonder the likes of the Extremis Project and ThinkBrigade - two comparatively well-backed websites that epitomised journalistic ideal - have fallen by the wayside.

As even Glenn Greenwald and eBay founder Pierre Omidyar have acknowledged as they prepare a new $250 million news venture, stories deserving of a Pulitzer Prize are futile unless a news site's overall offering is enough to attract and retain a reader's attention. Yet as a billionaire internet entrepreneur accepts the monumental resistance faced in disseminating online journalism, hundreds of talented people plough on, persevering thanklessly with solo projects worthy of recognition but without the resource to achieve it. Even though this dogged determination is admirable, to ignore the countless others furrowing along the same path in pursuit of the same journalistic dream seems entirely counterproductive.

It makes perfect sense that the two most successful, sustainable media start-ups of modern times are The Huffington Post and the Drudge Report, as both use an abundance of content as their base - HuffPo is a platform for bloggers to reach a wider audience, while the Drudge Report acts as a curator of the thousands of articles published by the world's big hitters. Initiatives such as the Youth Media Agency, which supports projects run by journalists starting their career, and The Showcase, which curates and publishes articles from sources outside the mainstream, are good examples of the collaborative approach necessary to instigate real influence.

The attitude and aptitude is there among large numbers of independent and small groups of journalists striving towards a quixotic pinnacle, but the dream will only become reality if different websites and publications come together. Given the vast majority are already pulling in the same direction, the marriage shouldn't be too difficult.