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Online Magazine Tries New Revenue Model

latterlyLatterly, a new online magazine launched Nov. 18, aims to revive narrative journalism without relying on advertising. The publication would be based solely on contributions and reader subscriptions.

Readers can subscribe for $3 a month or $8 for three months, as well as make a donation to Latterly’s crowdfunding campaign. The magazine promises to invest 100 percent of its revenue back into its journalism for its first months. It says it can do so because it doesn't have to answer to investors or advertisers, unlike other magazines who are concern with online traffic. Latterly claims this is why those publishers struggle to keep afloat and sometimes pay their journalists an unfair wage.

The people behind Latterly are Ben Wolford, who worked for The New York Times and Newsweek, and Christina Asencio, a human rights lawyer specializing in refugee and immigration issues. The couple, soon to be married, refers to narrative journalism as art and not as content, and promises they won’t care about clicks or pageviews.

Wolford understands narrative journalism is expensive and not everyone’s cup of tea. In a recent interview he gave to Catalina Albeanu of journalism.co.uk, Wolford recalled his days working as a freelancer, "The editor was telling me 'look, you've got great story on your hands, but people don't have the bandwidth for it.'” Wolford disagrees and believes he found a way to share these stories, “I think a reader-funded model is more suited for this type of journalism."

Albeanu reports that in its first edition, Latterly will have a story about about divers in Laos salvaging an aircraft after a plane crash, to which Wolford says "I don't see any reason why readers globally can't pay attention to what's happening in Ukraine and Syria and read this human interest story out of Laos."

It’s hard to say if Latterly’s business model will be able to sustain itself, breaking away from traditional revenue models based on pageviews and advertisements. But media makers will want to see if Latterly can accomplish what it says is its prime mission--keeping narrative journalism alive--and whether others will be able to follow suit.