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"Subscriptions Motivate You to Write Quality Journalism." A Discussion with Tomas Bella from the Slovak Portal Dennik N About Monetizing Independent Press

27 November 2019
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On 19 November, the Independent Journalism Centre (IJC) hosted, at Media Hub, a meeting with the co-founder and head of digital of the Slovak newspaper and news website Dennik N, Tomas Bella. The journalists and media managers from Chisinau had the opportunity to discuss the monetization methods used by the portal, as well as the international trends of media financing.

Dennik N was founded by 40 journalists who left the national newspaper Dennik SME, after it was taken over by a financial group whose integrity was called into question. “Leaving the media institution where we used to work was simple. The difficult part was to build something new, following a model that would allow us to maintain our independence and to survive,” told us Tomas Bella. Thus, the team started a fundraising campaign, and then asked for the investors' contribution. To ensure its sustainability, Dennik N relied on personalized subscriptions, including paywalls, banners or fundraising for large-scale investigations or supplements.

The Dennik N editorial office focuses on writing long, quality articles. Only after three years of existence, it decided to launch a sports section and a podcast. Analytical journalistic products, which are different from what most of the media do, motivate readers to pay for content and subscribe. To customize these subscriptions, but also to quantify their impact, the portal uses REMP, a free tool developed by the team members.
 

“If you are guided by the number of clicks, you will be motivated to write clickbait articles. Subscriptions, instead, motivate you to write more quality journalism,” believes the reporter.
 
Tomas Bella believes that Moldovan journalists could replicate the success of Dennik N if they would carry out campaigns targeted to diaspora groups. Young people who left Slovakia, for example, are interested in subscribing their relatives to the newspaper or in donating for a monthly magazine that fights misinformation in the media, intended for pupils, so that ‘the meetings with close people do not transform into quarrels at the holiday dinner about fake news’.

Liuba Sevciuc, an investigative journalist and founder of the media project CU SENS, believes that the Dennik N model could be implemented in the Republic of Moldova as well. “Obviously, it should be adapted to our realities. Journalism that is supported by the people is the solution to get rid of moguls, party leaders and oligarchs who want to control the media. In order for this to happen, people should trust journalists and donate to independent media outlets,” believes the journalist.

Ion Preasca, the editor of the Mold-Street portal, believes that the addressed topic is a current matter for the independent media in the country. “The example of the Slovak portal shows that it’s possible to create an independent newspaper in a small market country. At the same time, without the support of the community and investors who do not interfere with the editorial policy, it’s practically impossible to develop an independent media outlet,” says the journalist.

This event is part of the ‘Media Enabling Democracy, Inclusion and Accountability in Moldova (MEDIA-M)’ project, funded by USAID, UK aid and implemented by Internews in Moldova. Its purpose is to promote the development of an independent and professional mass-media and to build a media sector that is more resilient to political and economic pressure.