Sociopolitical website TOC is short of money but shutting down 'not an option', it says

Money is running low at the company behind sociopolitical website The Online Citizen (TOC) but shutting it down is "not an option", said Mr Howard Lee, director of The Opinion Collaborative Ltd, which manages the site. -- PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM
Money is running low at the company behind sociopolitical website The Online Citizen (TOC) but shutting it down is "not an option", said Mr Howard Lee, director of The Opinion Collaborative Ltd, which manages the site. -- PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM THE ONLINE CITIZEN

SINGAPORE - Money is running low at the company behind sociopolitical website The Online Citizen (TOC) but shutting it down is "not an option", said Mr Howard Lee, director of The Opinion Collaborative Ltd, which manages the site.

Mr Lee told The Straits Times on Wednesday the company has a business plan but declined to give any details.

Meanwhile, it is appealing for donations from the public to supplement its "extremely low" funds. No target amount has been set for the donation drive, said Mr Lee.

This is the second time in eight months that the company is calling for donations from the public.

Its current appeal, which went out on TOC on Monday, said: "Our funds are extremely low, as subscriptions have not been forthcoming and donations have dwindled."

Mr Lee said the company has reached a point where it is "running on fumes and passion" to sustain its operations.

The eight-year-old site will produce less content from this week, as the editorial team switch gears to focus on getting funds.

Mr Lee said on Wednesday he is "not expecting money to pour in". He was also not able to give an indication of the public response so far as he does not monitor the figures on a day-to-day basis, he added.

He, however, expressed the hope that the funds raised would help to at least cover the company's operating expenses, which totalled $37,673 last year.

In February, TOC had called on its readers and supporters to donate money to cover its expenses, about 70 per cent of which are payments to its editorial team, interns and article contributors.

TOC's donations peaked in 2011, but dropped after it was gazetted a political organisation the same year.

It introduced a subscription-based model earlier this year, promising exclusive content for $180 per year but it has not taken off.

So far, it has chalked up 50 subscribers, below the initial target of 600, said Mr Lee.

"It is fair to say that Singaporeans won't really subscribe for free content. The challenge is on us to find out how to make our content more palatable to our subscribers," he added.