Paid content online is a dead end, say the founders of Rue89 and Demotix.
-If you want people to buy your content, you need to provide a lot of added value and that is very expensive. The paid content will never cover you expenses, says Pierre Haski, one of the founder of the French online-only news site Rue89.
Online Journalism Blog follows the Digital News Affairs conference in Brussels, and going to media conferences can be quite depressive these days. Even more refreshing then to hear the founders of Rue89 and Demotix with some fresh and brave ideas for the future. Demotix is a brand new citizen-journalism website and photo agency, started in January 2009 by Turi Munthe and Jonathan Tepper. Rue89 was started by four blogging journalists from Le Liberation in 2007. Rue89 has today 20 staffers, an impressive achievement for a journalism startup.
– The old media world is crumbling, and you can’t use the old methods for new media world, says Haski.
Common for the two websites are interesting combinations of business models. Both of them started with “love money”, investments from friends and family. Rue89 is now, in addition to external investements, combining three revenue resources: online training for journalists, building websites (for NGOs, etc) and a new “wall” with micro advertising. Haskin says Rue89 is hoping to earn money next year. Demotix is still brand new, but they have already signed subscription agreements with several mainstream media for image delivery. At this point, Demotix has 3500 citizen journalists contributing images from more than 90 countries.
– We’ve experienced that it is easier to sell images from citizen journalists to mainstream media then text, says Munthe.
The ever shrinking foreign desks in international media was one of the reasons behind the creation of Demotix. According to journalist Nick Davies and his book, Flat Earth News, only four of the American newspapers have a foreign desk, the rest relay on Reuters, AP and a few other newswires.
– Journalists are not where it happens. Everyone is copying the newswires, says Munthe.
– As one of very few agencies, we could provide images from the war in Gaza, because we had local people shooting pictures for us, Egyptians and Israelis. They were competing among themselves to contribute the best pictures, says Munthe.
The blogging journalists at Liberation could have tried to change things from inside the newspaper, but they decided to start from scratch with Rue89. For them, Rue89 was a way out of two crisis – the general economic crisis within media and the lack of trust from readers.
– Internet was a way to bypass those two crisis. We work for full transparency and to develop a community with our readers. When we managed to raise 1,1 million euros last year, we had a two day long debate with our readers in order to reassure them that we would stay independent from our investors. The community is our best asset, and they can defend our company. For me, this is huge and very positive change. I’ve worked in traditional journalism for 26 years and was used to readers who didn’t trust journalists. Now, I work at a place where people are happy to interact with journalists, says Haski.
Both founders are strong believers in quality journalism, and are sure new and stable business models will develop.
– I believe there is room for high quality journalism, both online and print. It is completely silly that online content is only quick and of low quality, says Haski.
– I also have hope for print. Just take a look at Monocle and see what they’ve been able to develope, adds Munthe.
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