Record-breaking startup De Correspondent may expand to U.S.

ernst-jan-pfauth-1
Ernst-Jan Pfauth at The Next Web conference in 2010. Credit: Anne Helmond.

Dutch news startup De Correspondent may expand its coverage to the United States soon, said publisher Ernst-Jan Pfauth last week during a panel discussion at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia, Italy.

De Correspondent now acts as agent for their reporters who are invited to speak at events and are considering documentary production in the future, he said.

Pfauth and De Correspondent are two of the best-known names in crowdfunding journalism. If you’ve read Through the Cracks before and haven’t heard of De Correspondent, then I’m sorry. We have failed you.

De Correspondent launched in 2013 and raised a million dollars in about a week. The campaign brought in $1.7 million overall to become one of the highest grossing crowdfunding journalism campaign in world history.

It didn’t hurt that the campaign was launched on national television by well-known journalists but neither did the promise of no ads, annual membership and a new, more collaborative approach to the relationship between readers and reporters.

Pfauth has been something of an open book when discussing De Correspondent’s successes and failures. On De Correspondent’s first anniversary last fall, he shared how they grew from 15,000 to near 30,000 members.

A new short guide to crowdfunding journalism was published last week prior to his appearance on the panel to discuss new business models in journalism.

Paraphrasing his article, Pfauth finished with these remarks:

“If you’re thinking about starting a new journalism venture or you want to change your existing company, I salute you and let’s talk about it over an espresso and please, please remember that you’re not starting a publication, you are starting a movement, and a great way to start for us and I think a lot of other people is with a crowdfunding campaign because you only owe it to your readers what you’re going to do next.”

Pfauth’s talk of a movement mimics Krautreporter’s Frederik Fischer, who spoke for more than an hour last week about a crowdfunding journalism movement happening now in Europe and Krautreporter’s lessons learned in recent years. Krautreporter and De Correspondent founders have been in touch since before the start of their historic crowdfunding campaigns, Fischer said.

If you’re a media geek like me and you like to watch panels talk about stuff, you can watch the full panel discussion on YouTube. In fact you could probably binge watch for the next week and barely make a dent in all the great presentations and panel discussions that took place at the International Journalism Festival.

Fortune Magazine’s Mathew Ingram and News Corp executive Raju Narisetti had poignant insights to share but in the Q&A portion, the crowd in Italy seemed most interested in the Dutch crowdfunded ventures De Correspondent and Blendle.

Alexander Klöpping from Blendle made a relatively convincing case for micropayments, a different kind of crowdfunding (at some point someone asked what’s in the water in Holland). Referred to by almost everyone as “iTunes for news,” Blendle allows readers to pay per article and has its own plans to expand outside Holland.

To the question of whether there’s something special about Holland, Pfauth said it was important that he and Klöpping were given the opportunity to experiment by their employers early in their careers. Klöpping said his business couldn’t exist if Dutch publishers weren’t willing to take a chance.

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Khari Johnson
Khari is founder and editor of Through the Cracks: Crowdfunding in Journalism. He also writes about bots and artificial intelligence for VentureBeat. He has built news startups in the U.S. and Europe for the last decade.