Opinion: Online journalism

POSTED: 02/12/13 12:13 PM

Online journalism is moving in a new direction at high speed. With the start of DNP – De Nieuwe Pers (The New Press), the successor of the failed free daily newspaper De Pers, readers have the option to take a subscription on individual journalists.

DNP went online in the night of Sunday to Monday in the Netherlands as an app that is available via Apple’s Appstore. The servers were assaulted and were initially unable to handle the 20,000 downloads they had to process. At six o’clock on Monday morning the problem was fixed and users were able to download the app again.

Readers are able to subscribe to individual journalists, like for instance war reporter Arnold Karskens. The price per journalist is €1.79 ($2.40) per month. Three quarters of this money is for the journalist. The complete online paper costs €4.49 ($6) per month. Compared to buying single issues of a newspaper in St. Maarten at $0.50 a pop, the online newspaper is 50 percent cheaper.

The journalists that are working for DNP manage their own news channel and they are free to post stories, columns and news reports. They are also doing their own marketing, so if they are going on vacation they have to inform their readers. The writers are free to sell their stories to other media.

DNP also offers a platform for new talent, but young writers will run a risk: without subscribers they won’t make money.

The Huffington Post is the example of successful internet journalism. The American website record 1.2 million page views per month, it has several international editions, received 54 million reader reactions in 2012 and it attracted 9,000 bloggers. The Post won a Pulitzer for national reporting with a series about war veterans. The internet conglomerate AOL bought the Post in 2011 for $315 million.

In the Netherlands two other startups are making their mark in online journalism. In December Bert Brussen and Mark Koster launched The Post Online. Rob Wijnberg, the departed editor-in-chief of nrc.next is looking for 15,000 subscribers for his website that had The Fifth Power as working title until recently.

These new and ambitious online news media have one thing in common, NRC Handelsblad noted: the journalist must be his own brand. Boring and dry reporting is out, experts with a voice of their own who write personal and colorful stories are in.

DNP wants to be optimistic and original, The Post Online wants to create its own news and Wijnberg prefers a more reflective approach, away from the daily delusions.

Established newspapers are also jumping on the online bandwagon, but in a different way. NRC Handelsblad launches an app for a 5 a month subscription to a selection of articles and the Volkskrant will present a Plus-section on its free news site. The whole newspaper will come online for subscribers while incidental visitors are able to buy a day or a month pass.

It will be interesting to see how DNP is going to fare with its paid online content. So far this has been a minefield for traditional media, even though an increasing number of publishers put their content behind a so-called pay-wall. Making money online with stuff that is freely available elsewhere remains a challenge, to say the least, though it is clear that the market for paid online content is there – as long as it is original and as long as it meets high expectations.

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