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A Swiss publisher is trying to attract a paying audience with an app sampling stories across publications
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Dec. 1, 2015, 12:16 p.m.
Business Models
LINK: medium.com  ➚   |   Posted by: Joseph Lichterman   |   December 1, 2015

In the two years since it began publishing in the fall of 2013, the Dutch news site De Correspondent has signed up 40,000 paying members, the site said Tuesday.

De Correspondent launched out of a crowdfunding effort in 2013, which saw about 20,000 subscribers pay €60 annually to support the site and access its journalism. It raised $1.7 million through that campaign. By last September, the site had signed up 37,000 members, but that fell by about 40 percent by the end of September when it came time for members to renew their subscriptions.

DeCorrespondent_subscribers

Since September 2014, the site has been growing at a rate of more than 1,000 new members per month, Ernst-Jan Pfauth, De Correspondent’s publisher and cofounder, wrote in a Medium post:

Our retention rate for people who joined at later stages is much higher, as the renewal process for all post-crowdfunding members proceeds automatically. We now enjoy annual membership renewal rates of 79% after the first year, and our monthly membership renewal rates have reached 89% after the first month. We are proud to have such a loyal group of paying members.

Though it’s dependent on paying readers, De Correspondent has been using its social media accounts and email newsletter to offer free samples that might entice readers to subscribe. The site actively shares stories on its own Facebook and Twitter pages, and members can freely share the stories as well. When readers come to the site from social media, they’re greeted by a pop-up asking them to join or subscribe to the email newsletter:

Once they’ve signed up, readers will receive the email newsletter from Editor in Chief Rob Wijnberg with a selected article from the past week. He emphasizes in the newsletter that the Correspondent owes its very existence to paying members. Last weekend alone, the conversion rate of newsletter recipients who become paying members was 1.8%.

With a population of just about 17 million, The Netherlands is a small and affluent country that’s seen a number of paid journalism startups succeed, but it’s unclear whether the approach would work in the much larger English-language market where there’s more of a variety of free options for readers.

Still, De Correspondent is going to make a go for it beyond The Netherlands. Early next year, the site said it plans to expand internationally. It’s begun translating some of its stories into English, and it’s hiring an engagement editor to grow its English-language audience.

“We are doing everything we can to continue to grow, and we would like to involve you, English-speaking readers, more and more,” Pfauth wrote. “We have starting translating select stories into English and will soon publish one a week.”

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