In the same week that we founded The Local in Germany, exactly a decade ago in March 2008, another website had some big news. Facebook, a popular social networking site with a million active users in the German-speaking countries, released a German-language version of its site. Germans would now be able to “anstupsen” their friends, instead of poking them.
The site's translation, in true collaborative fashion, had been carried out for free by its own users.
“Including English and Spanish, the addition of the German version of Facebook means the site is now available in three languages,” The Local reported at the time.
Fast forward a decade and much has changed. Facebook has gone from being a collaborative site in search of a business model to one of the most powerful, wealthy and controversial companies in the world. Along with Google they have also snapped up a huge portion of global advertising – largely at the expense of publishers like The Local.
You'll notice that The Local still carries advertising. Indeed, we are proud to work with some wonderful brands, many of which tell us that advertising on The Local is by far the most cost-effective form of advertising they have.
But in this environment, advertising alone can never reliably fund the kind of service we want to offer you, our readers. Our journalists know Germany, speak (at least) two languages and are dedicated to helping foreigners in the country understand the politics, the culture and the challenges of living here. We believe that this is worth something to our readers.
This is why from next week we will be asking our loyal readers to become paying Members.
In return for a small amount every month, we will give you greater depth, with insights into the big issues facing Germany. You'll still be able to read a few articles every month for free, but after that we will ask you to pay. Some more in-depth articles will be for Members only.
We will also provide more help, with articles on the practical challenges of living here – everything from how the diesel ban affects you to how to become a citizen.
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. It puts the power at The Local where we want it to be: with international residents of Germany. We'll be feeding back our Members' input into our editorial decisions, to help 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 we also want to give you new opportunities to network in real life.
We think that for five euros a month, being a Member of The Local gives you something special, and will ensure that The Local can keep getting better at covering Germany for the international community, long into the future. We hope you will consider joining us.