While some media outlets chase the newest platforms and technologies, Dutch independent journalism site De Correspondent is benefiting from publishing books written by its journalists.
Milou Klein Lankhorst, editor at De Correspondent, explained that journalists often go on to write books after honing their craft at a news organisation, but the media outlets they worked for usually see little financial return on their investments in the writers and their specialisms. Instead, revenues from the new books flow to outside publishers and agents.
De Correspondent, which prides itself on its investigative reporting and in-depth analysis, believes that news organisations themselves can turn book publishing into an additional revenue stream to fund future investigations.
"It is a logical next step in our journalism – a win-win," said Klein Lankhorst, speaking at the World Publishing Expo in Vienna yesterday (12 October).
"Many journalists dream of writing a book one day, so why not have them publish it with people that they're working for on a daily basis, rather than them pursuing their dreams with an outside publisher?"
De Correspondent published its first book, Utopia for Realists, in 2014, and sold it directly to members from its own online store, as well as through retailers and direct sales at public events or speaking engagements.
It has since published four other books from its writers: You have something to hide, an investigation into why privacy is the most endangered human right of our time; Why garbage men earn more than bankers, an in-depth debate on inequality of wealth among different professions; Free money for everyone, a discussion on the possibilities of basic income for all and a working week of fifteen hours; and Operation Armchair, telling the story of the Dutch Radar Research Station, which built eavesdropping equipment for Americans in the Cold War.
De Correspondent is primarily funded through subscriptions from members, having raised a record-breaking $1.7 million through crowdfunding to finance its first year of activity. The platform now counts more than 40,000 members as part of its network, and building a community around its journalism is an important part of the team's goals.
"We invest a lot in our relationship with our readers and by having our own online shop, they know that what they are paying is being handed directly to our platform. And they know we will invest that in new stories for them," said Klein Lankhorst.
"That's another way we can be in touch with our readers. When someone orders a paper book directly through us, we send it from the newsroom, giving the authors the opportunity to sign all the books personally, which makes a real difference to our members."
De Correspondent has also developed a speakers’ agency, which coordinates all talks, debates, and public readings by its journalists.
This represents an additional source of income for the platform, and brings authors in contact with readers interested in their work.
These events can also bring a lot of publicity and expand the reach of the organisation, as the journalists, now authors, give interviews to other publications or have their books reviewed by media outlets.
"A book is easy to brand, so we make them recognisable to our identity at De Correspondent. We use the same font, colours and style as we do online," she said.
"Our correspondents discuss ideas with members, and together come up with great research projects which can involve the readers," she said.
"Once a set of ideas is formulated, a book is a way to bring the topic to a wider audience, and is a show piece of the journalism we write online. A book is the result of years of investigation and research."
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