Why, after 14 years of being completely free, are we asking loyal readers of The Local to become paying Members? Founder and Chief Publishing Officer James Savage explains.
When we started The Local in Stockholm 2004, we were driven by a desire to help people understand what makes Sweden tick.
We saw a Sweden that was often portrayed internationally as a utopian socialist paradise by sympathetic left-wingers, or a country permanently on the edge of societal collapse by those on the right.
Living here we saw that neither of these pictures was true, and thought that there was a market for a more balanced view of Sweden.
At the same time, we noticed in shops, at parties and on the bus, that lots of international people here used English in their daily lives. Unsurprising, as few people learn Swedish in school, and it can take a long while to learn it while you're busy working or studying. But, we wondered, how do these people connect with Swedish society? And who is serving them?
This is how The Local was born. Within two years we had hundreds of thousands of readers, a good few advertisers and were covering our first Swedish election from the inside.
Fast forward to 2018 and The Local is now doing something similar in nine European countries. In the years since we were founded our audience of mobile, modern pioneers has grown in size and importance. Advertisers increasingly understand why they should target them.
Yet the world of advertising is fickle at the best of times. We are proud to work with some wonderful brands, but advertising alone can never fund the kind of service we want to offer our readers. This is what I've been telling readers who have asked me why we've launched a paywall, or who wonder why, having launched a paywall we were still displaying ads. Through history, many media have had adverts, but few have depended on them completely. Likewise few have been funded by their cover price alone.
So asking readers to pay something is an essential part of The Local's future – and of the future of most media. In return for this support, we will give our paying readers more depth, with insights into the big issues facing Sweden and international people living here. For instance, we've been looking at the deportations
of highly skilled foreigners here, we've written a comprehensive guide
to Sweden's new laws and we've looked at whether the famed tax system really screws the rich
We will also provide more help, with articles on the practical challenges of living here, like how to write a CV
, become a freelancer
, buy an apartment, deal with problems surrounding the famous Swedish personal numbers – and make friends.
But becoming a Member of The Local is not a one-way street. This is about building a new, collaborative relationship between us and our readers – that's why this is Membership and not merely a subscription. We'll be feeding back our Members' input into our editorial decisions, and helping you determine how we can serve you best.
We're working with partners to offer you discounts on products and services chosen to be useful to people living international lifestyles. And as we launch The Local Club, we also want to give you new opportunities to network in real life. We held our first Club event
on February 20th at the stylish Hotel C Stockholm – for Members only, and there will be more to come. When we have speakers we will live stream the event so members who can't be there can still be a part of it. And as we launch in France and Germany, you will also be welcome to events in Paris and Berlin if you happen to be in the area.
We think that for 50 kronor a month, being a Member of The Local gives you something special, and will ensure that The Local can keep getting better at covering Sweden for the international community, long into the future.