We live in a bizarre world. The sheer amount of news published every day in digital media means that the title means more than the content, and production of click bait fake news is a viable (and profitable!) business option. “Post-truth”, the word of the year 2016, makes us even more aware of the digital news crisis. Webnalist is a Polish news portal that suggests a new solution to this problem. Their website offers high-quality news articles from renowned journalists at a very small cost.
“The project was born out of despair,” said Grzegorz Lindenberg, one of the Webnalist co-founders. “The quality of texts on the Internet is rapidly decreasing, and traditional media keep cutting their staff and firing good journalists.” Looking for inspiration, the founders discovered a Dutch platform Blendle; its readers can buy single newspapers articles without paying for a subscription. Tweaking of this idea led to the development of Webnalist.
The author of the Webnalist concept is Marek Górski, a copywriter at a famous marketing company. Together with Mateusz Dołęga, a serial entrepreneur and an IT specialist, and Grzegorz Lindenberg, a living legend of Polish journalism and co-founder of the largest newspapers in Poland, they launched the first prototype of Webnalist in November 2016.
Webnalist is actually a self-publishing portal for all journalists who focus on quality rather than quantity. The readers pay for single texts, choosing only the topics that matter to them. At the very beginning of their Webnalist experience, they are offered a few texts free of charge. All payments, diminished by a small manipulation fee, are handed over to the text authors. During the current phase of the project (gathering a reader base) authors receive an advance payment for their articles.
The main objective of the platform is to deliver high-quality texts. Before an article is published, it undergoes the traditional editing and revision process. Texts are sufficiently long to cover their subjects in depth (typically above 8 minutes of reading time) and politically neutral. The Webnalist team also plans to include a fact-checking procedure in the future.
Webnalist was created in cooperation with Google within the Digital News Initiative. The project received a 50 thousand euro grant for the initial development phase. This funding allowed them to create a prototype and verify their business model. As it turns out, Poles are eager to pay for high-quality news; the portal has already gathered 6000 registered users (5% of all visitors) and sells 100 – 200 articles a day. At the moment, Webnalist focuses on scaling their business – they are looking for external funds that will let them finance next functions of the portal, such as a notification system, and maximize their marketing efforts.