We really had little idea what to expect when we made our first articles available to Members on our Sweden site last November. We were determined to develop a closer relationship with readers to forge the future together, but would anybody really be willing to pay for something they'd been getting for free since 2004?
We asked you what you would like to see more of, we dedicated more resources to our journalism, we held our breath and... you started joining.
I'm not going to lie, it was a massive relief. We're a small independent news organization surrounded by giants in a turbulent media landscape. Facebook and Google have gobbled up vast portions of the industry's ad revenues; we really needed our readers to back us. And you did, in greater numbers than we had anticipated, and for that we are immensely grateful. But this is just the beginning, and we still need all the support we can get. If you haven't yet signed up, you can do so here and qualify for a discount.
The Local Sweden's reporter Catherine Edwards at one of the Nobel Prize press conferences. Photo: Nele Schröder/The Local
Reassured by our first attempt, we rolled out Membership in Germany and France in the spring, followed by Spain and Italy this autumn. The result was the same: readers showed a (very welcome) willingness to pay.
For me the most positive aspect has been the development of a more collaborative approach to our journalism. Readers are much more visible on our sites than a year ago. We ask Members for tips on everything from citizenship applications to the best supermarkets, we offer advice on things like buying a home or getting a pension, and we are on the side of internationals in increasingly nationalist times.
In case you missed them, here are some of the articles that have prompted most readers to join us as Members in Sweden:
- A beginner's guide to buying an apartment in Sweden
- How to manage your pension in Sweden – even if you're not planning to stay
- In depth: Why is Sweden deporting its foreign professionals?
- How to navigate Sweden's crazy rental market
- The Swedish Teacher: 'sämre' or 'värre', what's the difference?
The Local's co-founder James Savage speaking at a Members' event in November. Photo: Nele Schröder/The Local
Earlier this month we were happy to see our work recognized as we won two awards in two days, one each for our editorial and commercial teams. It's no accident that the awards coincided with our Membership programme. Getting to know our readers better has improved our sites immeasurably.
Many thanks for your support,
The Local Europe