OUR SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS MODEL
At PressPad we would love to provide free accommodation for all for young journalists who have secured work experience or internships but cannot afford to undertake it. Believe us, we tried. During our 2 year pilot (April 2018-2020) we matched just under 50 interns for a total of 109 weeks of placement all without a single penny changing hands.
Unfortunately because of a small team and non-existent funds we had to turn many away and risk wrapping up PressPad for good. This is when we decided that if we were to exist for many years to come and help dozens more, we had to come up with a plan to make this project sustainable and help it grow so we can help more than just 50 interns every 2 years.
So we set our sights on the next best thing: affordable accommodation with many pathways for support. This means that from September 2020 onwards from week 3 of hosting will have a cost. Short internships of 1 or 2 weeks will be free for all involved. Our intention has never been to price people out. So we are working hard to make sure that our business model ensures that people who can’t afford this cost have access to support from us and others to cover it.
The decision to provide affordable and not free accommodation is not just a practical one of survival. It’s also linked to our Stick-and-carrot theory of changing culture and expectations. Some organisations have month long internships where young people are basically unpaid junior members of staff. We believe this has to change. Some organisations put interns up in expensive hotels costing them £150 A NIGHT. What we think make us better than hotels is that our hosts are also journalists who provide can mentorship.
So, what does affordable mean? At the moment in London we have calculated this the cost of hosting at £150 a week after the first two weeks. Weeks 1 and 2 are free* and ensure that short term placements and work shadowing opportunities are open to everybody.
After a lot of number crunching, and comparing ourselves to hotel, hostel and AirBnb prices we figured out that £150 a week is the lowest we can go without sacrificing all the safety checks we think are crucial, and covering our running costs.
There will always be less costly options than PressPad. Hostel rooms booked ages in advanced can be super cheap, but maybe not as safe (we’ve heard horror stories). Most internships or short placements don’t give young people months to plan, and sometimes long term accommodation requires a deposit which can also price people out. Renting out a family friend’s room can be cheaper but not everybody has that as an option.
We hope that our unique mix of affordable accommodation (with access to a lot of support) plus mentoring provides a new solution for aspiring journalists from all walks of life to go for the internship of their dreams.
*We would love your thoughts on this policy. We know organisations rely on ‘legal’ but unethical unpaid two-week ‘work experience’ placements. We want to see organisations paying their interns or – failing that as things stand – at least their interns’ accommodation.
WHO PAYS FOR WHAT?
There are 3 ways that interns can cover the cost of PressPad hosting. We will work non-stop to make sure that we prioritise helping interns who need our help. The cost can be covered by:
- Applying for a means-tested bursary* (more info below on how this is calculated) were we cover the cost
- Using a ‘PressPad credit’ discount code from a supporting media or educational organisation where their employers cover the cost
- Paying directly – ONLY if they can afford to or are being paid enough to cover the cost. We’ve been in touch with media orgs who NOT ONLY want to pay their interns but also cover their accommodation through us to make sure they’re sorted and get to meet a cool journo.
THIS IS IMPORTANT: We will prioritise matching people who need our help the most. This is so those most in need and excluded from current access models i.e those on the bursaries, will have first dibs on available hosts. This means in the case of host shortages, which we doubt will happen given the trends to date but we can’t be certain about, those who are proven to come from low socio-economic backgrounds and geographically remote locations will get preference.
MENTORING IS A PLUS
While we cannot beat Auntie Ellie’s spare room, or the cost of a room on a year long contract (that you need a guarantor, contract and a sublet to take the other 11 months of the contract!), what we do offer that those options don’t, are experienced journalists who can be guides and mentors through a new, intimidating adventure. We will also make sure interns have access to PressPad events and online networking.
ANOTHER IMPORTANT POINT: Interns and other journalists using the site are not paying to access the mentorship of top journalists. They are paying for accessible, cheap, safe and affordable accommodation that HAPPENS to be with a journalist. In 2020 PressPad will be launching a virtual mentoring network so if you want to talk to a media professional and get advice for free – and you don’t need help with accommodation – we will connect you.