The notion of using the Web as the common platform where many citizens can perform bit and pieces of some larger public task has found new support from the libertarian Cato Institute. With an eye toward giving citizens a way to monitor the sprawling federal budget, Cato issued a paper supporting a proposed Senate bill that would create:

“a single updated searchable database website accessible by the public at no cost, that includes for each entity receiving federal funding: (1) the amount of federal funds received in each of the last 10 fiscal years; (2) an itemized breakdown of each transaction; (3) the entity’s location and primary location of performance; and (4) a unique identifier for the entity and its parent entity.”

I think legislation of this sort as being akin to proposals from people in the blogosphere who hope to create teams of citizen auditors or call for open source journalism efforts to do group reporting on larger issues. All of these initiatives aim to use media tools toward their highest purpose — shedding light on matters of public concern.

Back to business. How to pay for it all remains the new media challenge as a recent report in Billboard Magazine makes clear. Billboard condensed the results of a Nielsen Analytics report titled the Economics of Podcasting that found more people downloading podcasts — but most fast fowarding through the commercials. Read the Billboard story for details, and thanks to Paid Content for the pointer.

Reading list. Le me call attention to a couple articles in the paper where I work by day to support this hobby. San Francisco Chronicle writer Heidi Benson wrote a lovely story Sunday about the business tactics independent bookstores are using to stay alive in a warehouse world. I think there’s great tips in there for any mini retailer. Court reporter Bob Egelko also wrote an update Saturday on the case of the freelance videographer whose tapes have been subpeoned by a Federal judge. I blogged about that case in a prior post. Look for “No laughing matter.”