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Design: Leon Postma and Harald Dunnink (Momkai)

Why The Correspondent will be open about its financials

Lessons in transparency from a $4.5M ad-free news platform

Ernst Pfauth
Sep 27, 2018 · 7 min read

When members fund your business, they want to know how you’ve invested their money

Readers pay us, and we invest that money into journalism. That is our business model in a nutshell.

‘Here’s how we spent your money last year’

In these annual financial reports, we alway publish two pie charts: one that breaks down our expenses and one that breaks down our revenue.

Distribution of expenses, De Correspondent

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Distribution of revenue, De Correspondent

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Infographics: Leon de Korte

Why sharing our financials is also good for business

  1. We want to show our readers we can’t do this without them.
    Note that there aren’t any ads in the revenue pie chart. We are ad-free by design. We only want our readers as stakeholders, so we can focus completely on informing them in the best possible way. By showing our readers this revenue chart, we tell them: we can’t do this without your trust and support. By reminding readers of the crucial role they play in our very existence, we want to encourage them to start or keep supporting us. Our research shows that many members support us precisely for this reason — they see our independent journalism as a ‘public good’.
  2. We want to give readers insight into what journalism actually costs to make.
    If the audience doesn’t trust you, they won’t contribute to your cause. To earn that trust, it’s crucial that journalists give more insight into their trade. This isn’t just limited to, for example, explaining how anonymous sources work — explaining the business side of things is also part of it. The audience needs to know how much money it takes to pay an editorial staff, develop a platform, and provide a solid support system. Only then can they make a well-informed decision about whether journalism is worthy of their trust and support. One of my favorite examples of costs-transparency is the FAQ page of the popular politics newsletter What The F*ck Just Happened Today: What The F*ck Does It Cost To Run This?.
  3. If readers like and trust our business choices, they are more likely to either become a member or renew their membership.
    When members respond to our annual reports, they often laud our choice to invest more than 50 percent of our revenue in journalism itself, and that we have relatively low overheads. They mention this as a reason for their support.

My experience: this kind of transparency begets more transparency

When I worked at a legacy media company that didn’t disclose financial information to subscribers, I rarely received questions from readers about business decisions.

Financial transparency will also be a key feature of The Correspondent

In 2019, we want to launch a global membership campaign to start an English-edition of our publication. Like its Dutch counterpart, The Correspondent will be made possible by future members. But to find those members, we also need money up front.


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The Correspondent

The Correspondent is a movement for radically different…

Thanks to Jessica Best

Ernst Pfauth

Written by

Cofounder & CEO of The Correspondent. Working to bring our ad-free, reader-funded journalism to the US and beyond.

The Correspondent

The Correspondent is a movement for radically different news. Founded in Amsterdam, now bringing our ad-free, member-funded, collaborative journalism to the English language.

Ernst Pfauth

Written by

Cofounder & CEO of The Correspondent. Working to bring our ad-free, reader-funded journalism to the US and beyond.

The Correspondent

The Correspondent is a movement for radically different news. Founded in Amsterdam, now bringing our ad-free, member-funded, collaborative journalism to the English language.

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