The story of KlinKlin, the first crowdfunded news startup in Bulgaria

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“We need your help to fight back controlled information flow. The Revolution Will Not be Televised! “, the Klinklin team said in their promo video.

A team of journalists, reporters, designers and bloggers had been working on the project six months prior to the site’s official launch in April, founder and editor Kiril Bespalov told Through the Cracks.

From the start, the plan was to turn to crowdfunding, but KlinKlin staff and the Bulgarian public at large don’t have much experience in the matter, Bespalov said. 

“Here we are talking about crowdfunding, however.. what is the Bulgarian experience with managing such campaigns? The answer would be: Thrilling, new and the outcome is as unpredictable as Bulgarian spirit itself. We are curious to see how this unravels,” he said. 

The launch of the news website received ample coverage from National Bulgarian Television and a well-known local business newspaper Capital and the crowdfunding campaign months later attracted the attention of Bulgarian bloggers, alternative radio show hosts and Facebook users.

Despite the ability to attract attention, Klinklin only collected $2,850, about 10 percent of a $28,000 (or 50,000 Bulgarian Lev) goal. The quest for more money is ongoing as the venture continues to seek donations on their website.

No matter the results of the campaign, KlinKlin did accomplish something. To Bespalov’s knowledge, KlinKlin became the first news startup in search of seed money to crowdfund.

People have lost their faith in journalism, Bespalov said, adding that propaganda, control and censorship are rampant in Bulgarian media.

The 2015 World Press Freedom Index by Reporters Without Borders Bulgaria ranked 106 out of 180. Bespalov believes it’s the right time for KlinKlin to emerge and “shake the oligarchs who have been using their media empires to calm down the revolutionaries like us.”

Also a potential factor in the campaign’s shortcoming:  KlinKlin has only been active for a few months and has not yet proven itself as trustworthy or reliable. Bespalov is confident that with his years of experience of working in Bulgarian media and also the skills and expertise of his crew will make progress.

“In Bulgaria we have an expression: ‘To break the plaster’, which means to stop being comatose, to free yourself from self-limitations, to open up, to wake up. Our campaign and our media’s aim is to open minds. It is not an easy job but it is worth the try, “ Bespalov said.

The name of the news magazine KlinKlin carries a similar spirit. It Bulgarian it means “hair of the dog that bit you.” Bespalov explained the meaning and it’s relation to the news website: “The mass media needs to be cured by another media and that’s us!”

To understand the Bulgarian media landscape and Klinklin’s prospects to evolve as an independent news outlet, we talked to the Managing Director of Media Development Center Asen Velichkov.

Velichkov called Klinklin a niche experiment “to check if there is enough audience in Bulgaria willing to pay for quality information online.”

“To be honest for the moment I am not the biggest optimist both for the audience and for the ability of the team to produce such content since they lack experience a bit. But they are highly motivated and enthusiastic and I will follow their experiment hoping it will be successful,” he said.

If successful, Velichkov said the enthusiasm and inspiration brought on by the KlinKlin team could make journalists in Bulgaria less dependent on government or business interests.

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Ekaterina Basilaia
Ekaterina Basilaia is currently based in Antwerp. She has worked in various print and online media. She believes in the power of Internet and information that keep the people forward.

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