Four years ago, something remarkable happened in the newspaper business. Where all newspapers worldwide were struggling with bringing content to the web in a way that would not kill their primary business of selling newspapers, or compete wih mobile apps that were blurping short news messages sometimes within minutes after it was happening, sponsored by adds in the newsfeed. In the Netherlands, a crowdfunding action was started to build a movement for radically different way of approaching news. Not the daily hype that would be old news the next day, but only long-reads from professional journalists in a completely add-free, digital only form.
Within 3 weeks, more then 19.000 people paid 1.7 M$ upfront and provided the starting capital to build it, attract journalists, webdesigners, researchers and support staff. For a small country like te Netherlands, this was a huge number and within a year “De Correspondent” was launched. They now have over 60.000 paying members who get 3-4 long reads each day on a diverse range of subjects.
This did not go unnoticed in the professional news industry and since then, more and more newspapers realize people are indeed willing to pay for quality content and publishers are putting up paywalls for their internet presence. But there is another difference. The Correspondent is very actively engaging their members in discussions and research as the combined knowlegde of their members is orders of magnitude bigger than a small team of journalists. The quality of the comments under every article is very high, never anonymous, and members that can substantiate their professional background get a more prominent place in such discussions.
In a time where journalists are under attack as “enemy of the people” or being locked up or worse, it is vitally important that independent journalism is safeguarded. Ultimately, they are the only force to keep the balance in a democracy and keep tabs on politicians. Where news is making us more cynical by the day, we need an antidode for stereotypes, prejudices and fearmongering. The Correspondent is not just writing about problems, but also on possible solutions. I have been a subscriber since the start and it is the first site I open in the morning, every morning.
The Internationl version
After a year of preparations, today The Correspondent is starting an international crowdfunding campaign, aiming to raise 2.5 M$ before December 14. This is not going to be a translation of the Dutch platform, but it will have its own staff of correspondents from across the globe and using the same founding principles you see above. You can take a free look to get an impression of their work. Not only is the journalism first class, it is one of the best designed websites I have ever seen. When you like what you see, become a Founding Member, it is a platform worthy of support.