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Survival is Success: Journalistic Online Start-Ups in Western Europe

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All around Europe, new journalistic ventures are launched on the internet even as legacy media like newspapers and broadcasters are often struggling to adapt to a new communications environment.

This report is the first to systematically assess how they are doing. Based on analysis of nine strategic cases from Germany, France, and Italy, it shows that the economics of online news today are as challenging for new entrants as they are for industry incumbents.

Though internet use and online advertising is growing rapidly across Europe, it is not clear that this alone will provide the basis for new forms of journalism.

Two challenges loom particularly large for all the ventures examined here. First, the market for online news continues to be dominated by legacy media organisations. Second, the market for online advertising is generously supplied and dominated by a few very large players.

There are examples of journalistic start-ups that have managed to break even despite these challenges, but they are in a minority. While many new initiatives are inspiring in their journalistic idealism and impressive in their technical inventiveness, most struggle to make ends meet financially.

The start-up scene in Europe is still at a stage where survival must be seen as a form of success in itself. The report shows clearly how the opportunities to achieve sustainability differ in important ways from country to country, underlining that what is needed is more than mere imitation of initiative launched in the United States or elsewhere.

Moving forward, journalistic entrepreneurs will have to match new forms of internet-enabled journalism with business plans tailored to the particular context each start-up operates in.

This comparative analysis of new journalistic pure players in Europe and the New Wave of French start-ups is both brilliant and original. “Survival is Success” manages to capture both the ever-changing effervescence characteristic of constantly evolving new forms of digital journalism and at the same times hones in on the underlying constant that is the ongoing search for sustainable business models for the future.

Alice Antheaume, Associate Director of the School of Journalism at Sciences Po, Paris

If you want an insight into the range of challenges facing journalistic start-ups across Europe in the age of social media, this is it: an impressive and unique piece of work.

Ian Hargreaves, Professor of Digital Economy, Cardiff University and former editor of The Independent