Letter from the Editor: Should news be free? Am I a dreamer to want the whole world to read about Romania - unrestricted?
Romania Insider’s editor in chief Andrei Chirileasa discusses access to information and why he thinks content should be free for everyone. He reveals the work behind the scenes in what is a day in and day out activity that keeps readers informed, as well as his bet with colleagues over our "free content for everyone" campaign.
If you are reading this website, you are perhaps interested in Romania in some way. You may have read other articles on Romania Insider and maybe found interesting or useful information. Or maybe it’s the first time you’re here. Many of our readers like to share our stories with colleagues, friends or family, at home or abroad. It is handy for them to find balanced articles as there’s scarcity of reliable news in English about Romania.
Sure, some people may use Google Translate and go to Romanian-language media to get informed. But here’s the thing: there’s more to our news than just raw information in English that any translator could put together. That’s because we sort every day through dozens of news sources, press releases, reports, public records, and other sources to bring you, our Readers, the most relevant information, in a plain language you can understand, and bring you some context as well.
It’s the hidden work, behind the scenes; it’s the amount of background information we have after having worked for years in the media, it’s the context information we offer and the “why is this important” part. Selecting topics, checking sources, selecting and verifying information, creating texts, packaging with images, packaging all in different newsletters, researching for interviews and features, holding interviews, processing the material after… It’s all behind the scenes.
We put our best efforts into all of the above for our news, interviews and feature stories. We select what we believe our readers need to know about the things that happen in Romania every day, about interesting people and initiatives, about places worth discovering. We do this because we want to keep readers informed and spread the word about Romania so that more people find out about what we think is a hidden gem on the world’s map.
I like to think about Romania-Insider.com as a small beacon that signals Romania’s place in this infinite ocean of information that is the internet. And the signal we send is represented by dozens of articles each day.
In the ten years since Romania Insider was born, we have published close to 50,000 articles. We currently write and publish about 100 articles each week, more than any other source of English news dedicated to Romania. These include business news and analyses, politics and social news and analyses, but also articles about culture, events in Romania, places to visit, interviews with expats, company managers, local entrepreneurs, useful tips for first-time visitors and opinion pieces. Things that our Readers need to know. Things that the world needs to know about Romania.
And we do this guided only by our journalistic principles and our experience. No political influence and no commercial influence of any kind. We are truly an independent newsroom. Yes, we also make mistakes sometimes, we correct them openly; but there is no hidden agenda behind our articles.
Now imagine that one day you don’t find this content anymore. Or that you click on a headline and you get to a locked article (you may even have experienced that recently on this very website).
Now we are at a turning point. As you may know from the letters written by my colleagues before, it’s now increasingly harder for the media to survive only on advertising, especially for small independent media such as ourselves. In order to continue, we need some sort of support from our readers, which is why we launched a membership program. However, there are more ways to go about this: we can lock articles and ask our readers to pay to be able to read them or we can leave the content free for everyone and ask for support from those readers who are able to offer it.
Business model changes, especially those which involve changing the habit of long time and hard earned readers, leads to heated discussions and difficult decisions between newsrooms and marketing & sales. I will not hide the fact that we also have had such intense talks in recent months.
The version where all articles are locked behind the paywall can be attractive as it can bring faster results and is more straightforward; and it seems to work well for huge international publications. But, while I do believe that the articles we write are a valuable source of information and are worth paying for, I still don’t prefer this option.
I believe even more in unrestricted access to information and spreading the word about Romania to as many people as possible. I want Romania-Insider.com to remain a beacon of free and reliable information about Romania. I want the articles that we write and publish every day to have as many readers as possible because I think this is the only way our work can make a difference in the society. For me, this makes our editorial efforts worthwhile: the long days, the evenings covering breaking news, the daily editing, being on call during the weekends, putting together newsletters daily, weekly and monthly.
Still, some of my colleagues believe I’m a dreamer and offering our content for free won’t help us survive anymore. They think that our readers won’t pay to help us unless they get something concrete in return, such as the key to unlocking our articles. That the free-for-all article strategy has no future and that we won’t be able to survive with it.
But I believe they are wrong and I need your help to prove it. I think that you, our readers are just as interested in making a difference and spreading the word about Romania as we are. So, if you find our free articles informative, useful, reliable, and worth sharing, please help us continue to write them by becoming a member. (and for the sake of benefits, once a member, you’d read the website ad-free and receive a bunch of premium newsletters that my colleagues and I put together).
If you believe that our goals and value match yours, you can also support us by advertising with us or recommending us to companies that want to get their messages out there for the whole world to see.
If you want to give us feedback on our work, you can fill in this survey. We are always looking to find what our readers think and improve their experience with Romania-Insider.
I promise you that I will continue to fight for free articles for everyone and I know that you will help me prove I’m right!
Andrei Chirileasa, editor-in-chief, firstname.lastname@example.org
(Photo - Romania Insider)