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Why The Local France will soon be asking you to become paying Members

In April The Local France will begin asking regular readers to pay a small contribution to become Members. Editor Ben McPartland explains why the change is taking place.

Why The Local France will soon be asking you to become paying Members
Photo: AFP/The Local
“Wait, you're asking us to pay to read The Local now…!”
 
“Hold on, I've been reading it for free for five years and now you're asking me to pay to read stories on The Local France?”
 
These are the kinds of inevitable and understandable reactions from regular readers I know are coming my way in the next few weeks.
 
There have been similar surprised reactions from readers of the many news sites around the world that have introduced paywalls in recent years, including our sister sites in Germany and Sweden.
 
As an editor of a news website, the thought of introducing a paywall (I'll explain how ours will work shortly) goes against your instincts.
 
I have spent five years trying to get as many people as possible to read our articles (and more than ever are doing so – January 2018 was a record month with over a million unique visitors). The idea that in future we will restrict certain articles to only paying Members doesn't sit right with me.
 
But then I am only an editor and the reality of the industry is that a click or a unique visitor doesn't on its own pay the bills. If we want to continue to grow as we have done over the last five years we need to ask readers to contribute directly.
 
We are working in an environment in which big global companies like Facebook and Google have snapped up a huge proportion of global advertising. We still have some brilliant advertisers, and will continue to value those relationships, but like most other media we also need other more stable forms of income.
 
More and more people are using Ad blocker software and Facebook has just changed its news feed algorithms so many regular readers can no longer see our stories.
 
Advertising alone can never reliably fund the kind of service we as a company and I as the editor of The Local France, want to offer you, our readers.
 
 
We also want to look deeper at issues affecting our international readers who live in France, whether it's the process of gaining French nationality  or why becoming French doesn't work as a solution for all Brits anxious about Brexit.
 
 
 
We've tried to put the record straight about France and the French and to argue that they are not actually rude and that some of the old clichés must be dropped. We've also debunked some outrageous claims about our host country.
 
 
We want to do more and we want to do it better.
 
But everything we do costs money. We pay for the journalists, the office rent in Paris, the laptop computers that frequently cave in under the pressure of trying to cover France, we pay for news articles from Agence France Presse and we pay for photos.
 
We want to pay for more in the future including more freelance contributions from readers and special events that we will invite members to.
 
Becoming a Member of The Local means more than just getting more to read. We also want to build a new, collaborative relationship between us and our readers. 
 
Having paid members will put more power at The Local with our readers. We want members to help guide us on what stories or issues we need to cover and to help us cover them. We'll be feeding back our Members' input into our editorial decisions, to help you determine how we can serve you best.
 
And we'll be redoubling our efforts to speak up for the international residents of France when they need our help.
 
From my point of view a major positive about asking readers to pay is that the responsibility will make us improve what we do. But also if we can reduce our reliance on advertising we won't need to chase the clicks like pretty much all sites do these days. We can concentrate on the stories that matter.
 
Now of course I don't expect you to be convinced by these words. I know that we will only convince you to take the step of signing up by writing article upon article that you will want to read. The responsibility to persuade you is wholly on us and we hope to be able to meet the challenge.
 
How will it work?
 
A paywall will be introduced that means after a certain amount of articles readers will be asked to become a Member in order to carry on reading.
 
That means occasional readers of The Local will be still able to read the vast majority of articles we publish for free although they wont be able to read certain more in-depth articles, which will be for Members only.
 
As for prices, at the beginning readers will be offered a discount price to sign up.
 
For example in Germany the first month's membership cost one euro. After that the regular monthly fee will be €5 or the cheaper option of an annual subscription will be €50. 
 
Now I know to some, €5 a month will feel like a lot of money to hand over for something that they were used to getting for free. That's understandable.
 
I prefer to look at it as 16 centimes a day to get around 10 stories a day on France and have unlimited access to our German and Swedish sites. That's not bad is it? It also gives you full access to our eight other news sites.
 
I hope you'll consider it.
 

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MEMBERSHIP

Join us: Why The Local France needs your support

In 2019 The Local France aims improve our coverage of France, the French and how the country works. And we need help from readers.

Join us: Why The Local France needs your support
Photo: AFP/The Local

In April 2018 The Local France followed in the footsteps of our sister sites in Sweden and Germany and launched a Membership scheme.

We had reached a point where the dominance of Google and Facebook meant advertising could no longer provide the resources to keep the site running and growing so we asked readers to support us financially by becoming Members.

It was a positive change because it meant we concentrate less on clicks and more on essential content for readers.

Being a Member gave readers unlimited access to the website and also enabled them to read certain in-depth articles reserved just for Members. 

So far nearly 3,000 have signed up to support The Local France. We are grateful for their backing. You can join now for just €6 for the first three months.

 

This has enabled us not just to continue our coverage of the important news events in France but improve it.
 
We've brought on board veteran France correspondent John Lichfield, a former foreign editor at The Independent, as a news columnist to provide opinion and analysis on the big stories. You can read his latest piece HERE.
 
His brilliant coverage of the Yellow Vest movement and the violent protests made him what another foreign correspondent called “THE voice” on the gilets jaunes.
 
 
In recent months we have also taken it upon ourselves to put the record straight when the foreign coverage of France is wrong, on everything from Brexit to new driving laws.
 
 
We have forged close ties with key campaigners for Britons in France such as Remain in France Together and reported on all the changes and upheaval the UK's EU divorce could bring to Brits here in our special BREXIT section.
 
 
We have also put your questions to some if the key Brexit players on the French side including Europe minister Nathalie Loiseau and MP Alexander Holroyd.
 
We have upped the number of advice articles to help foreigners living in France, covering themes such as how to avoid being conned, changes to driving laws, income tax, health care and very importantly how not to get shot during the hunting season.
 
For our American readers we have looked at how they can find work in France and also where in the country they all live.
 
And on request of readers we introduced a regular French Word of the Day and have a new feature where our news articles include useful French vocab to learn.
 
We have also done more to feature our readers on the site. We have a new series of articles with readers in France offering their tips on everyday life such as which phone company to go with, which French supermarket to shop at and what to do if you suffer from depression in France.
 
Our readers are experts on life in France so we have asked them to answer some of the many questions we get asked such as “how bad really is the paperwork here?” and “how good is the food ?”
 
It hasn't all been easy and we apologize to those affected by technical gremlins when signing in. We are working hard to solve these issues and we have recently set up a Help Centre for members.
 
Overall we think we do a good job but we want to do more. We want more expert columnists explaining France. We want to spend more time exploring the problems that foreigners have in France and most importantly providing the answers. We want to cover the important news in more detail and we want to respond to the questions our readers have.
 
But we need support. Please consider becoming a Member and getting more involved in The Local France. You can join for just 6 euros for the first three months, in other words seven cents a day.
 
Thanks and kind regards.
 
Ben McPartland, Editor of The Local France.
 
 
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