Media Hack Collective

Funding public-interest data projects with user revenue

Media Hack Collective is a data journalism start-up that joined SAMIP to develop its business operations. The team built on the success of a coronavirus data dashboard to create new partnerships and funding opportunities, as well as a test case for generating user revenue.

Media Hack joined SAMIP in December 2019 to focus on revenue development. The data journalism start-up is run out of the home of co-founders Laura Grant and Alastair Otter, specialising in data visualisations, data-driven story-telling, and data training for newsrooms.

Media Hack’s coronavirus dashboard, a data portal they launched in the early days of South Africa’s Covid-19 pandemic, soon became one of its most successful projects. In five months the dashboard had more than 2.5 million views from nearly 600,000 users; global news agencies such as Al Jazeera and the BBC drew on Media Hack’s data visualisations to report on the impact of Covid-19 on South Africa; the project also greatly increased the profile of Media Hack’s work and services.

The team had built the dashboard as a public service, but Media Hack used the significant interest to test the potential for user revenue to help sustain it going forward. Working with SAMIP, Media Hack ran a crowdfunding campaign in August that raised its target of R30,000 in just 30 hours, and went on to net over R60,000 ($US3,600) in user donations in 30 days. Media Hack plans to use this as a case study for other organisations to use crowdfunding as a revenue source for data projects.