Journalism startup raises business model questions, $1.7M in crowdfunding

Unbeknownst to most American news consumers, an online journalism startup in Holland known as De Correspondent launched a fund raising campaign on national television and made over $1.7 million in over a week.

The two masterminds behind this startup aren’t news rookies either. Rob Wijnberg is the former editor-in-chief of one of the country’s leading national daily newspapers. His partner Ernst-Jan Pfauth is the former editor of the NRC Handelsblad website, the very same newspaper Wijnberg oversaw.

This is basically watching “the homepage editor and the managing editor of the New York Times starting their own online magazine — and launching the crowdfunding project on Oprah, with Glenn Greenwald sitting by their side”, to quote Ingram.

This financial crowdfunding success is impressive even if these men had the aforementioned advantages within a country of about 16 million.

In fact, the company plans to provide ad-free content to it’s 24,000 subscribers. For the annual price of an estimated $81.50, according to Omar Reiss who commented on the Gigaom.com story.

 
Some might consider having subscribers pay close to $80 dollars a year for news costly in exchange for an ad-free experience, but there’s much more to it than that.
“Each writer,who focuses on a specific area of coverage or theme rather than a “beat,” will have what De Correspondent calls their own “garden” or area where they can interact with readers.The goal of this, Pfauth says, is to “establish a lasting and meaningful relationship with our readers” and make use of their expertise as much as possible when reporting stories.”
 
These gardens sound vaguely akin to a social media platform. The difference, of course, being that the primary purpose is to pursue truth-telling coverage on newsworthy happenings as opposed to merely discussing the dying squirrel in your front yard.

Perhaps De Correspondent’s most impressive aspect is its pioneering presence amid the struggling traditional media industry.

 Journalism: A Work In Progress

The Pew Research Center reports that American newsroom cutbacks in 2012 put newspapers down 30% since its peak in 2000 and below 40,000 full-time professional employees for the first time since 1978.

The report suggests results like these reveal a news industry more undermanned and unprepared to uncover stories, dig deep into emerging ones or to question information put into its hands. And the public is certainly taking notice.

With traditional models of the press still relying on advertisers for most of its funds, finding a new model for steady revenue is among the ever changing progress of news companies experimenting and competing in the industry.

 

Whether De Correspondent successfully takes off and persists in a decade or less remains to be seen.

 

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