Steady: Ready, steady, go
“After the financial crisis, foreign investors started withdrawing from the region.” Lukas Fila, co-founder of Denník N.
The global financial crisis also impacted journalism in Europe. As old revenue streams began to dry up, the future of traditional news organisations began to look uncertain and many were left vulnerable.
This was the state of the news industry when five Slovak journalists quit their paper to build an independent news outlet from the ground up. To ensure it would be nonpartisan, they decided that it would be solely run by journalists. The result? A news source called Denník N: Denník means daily newspaper, N stands for Nezavislost: independence,
“Media experts in the country said that this is an absolutely impossible venture. We were really risking everything,” says Tomas Bella, head of online and co-founder of Denník N.
The dream was for their paper to be a news source that kept its impartiality and code of ethics intact without being susceptible to financial pressures.
For the co-founders to support this vision, they had to start thinking differently about funding opportunities. The most feasible option, and one closest to the spirit of their new paper, was subscription.
To make this possible, the Denník N team created REMP (Readers’ Engagement and Monetisation Platform) , an open source software and subscription platform to enable journalists to connect directly with their readers. By learning what the audience considers to be quality content, journalists can determine what their readers are ultimately prepared to pay for.
“We needed to understand the behaviour of people on the website and target them with marketing in a sophisticated way,” says Tomas.
Denník N now has more than 27 thousand subscribers through REMP, and 75 per cent of income comes from its own readers. As Tomas explains, “We were thinking there would be this big clash between the business side and editorial side, but we are finding there is a very strong correlation between what we think is the highest quality of journalism and what readers actually think is the best.”
This approach also improved how publishers would be able to manage their paying customers. REMP aims to predict which readers are most likely to become subscribers, so that publishers can focus their efforts with targeted marketing.The Google DNI Fund supported the Denník N team and the development of REMP across two rounds of funding, first in 2015 and again in 2017. The grant meant they could refine the software so that other publishers could adapt it for their own marketing and revenue strategy.
Tomas emphasises that this support was essential: “The DNI Fund made a big difference. We moved away from fighting for our own survival to actually thinking much bigger. This is something that can actually help other companies that are struggling with the same problem.”
This year, a brand new newspaper using the REMP software model is going to be launched in the Czech Republic. For Tomas, this is the ultimate validation: "This is extremely positive for journalism. My hope is that more journalists will actually have the courage to say this could be done in my market as well.”
Find out more about REMP and their work here