Should I pay to join The Local France?
That's the question I hope readers will ask themselves today and over the coming weeks.
Our site, which has been free up until now introduced membership on April 10th. It's fair to say the news is still sinking in with many readers. But we are very grateful to the hundreds who have already signed up.
Essentially this means that to continue having unlimited access to the site as well as being able to read the members' only “Premium” articles we will publish we're asking you to pay a contribution.
Although occasional readers will still be able to read a number of articles each month for free.
Currently you can sign up for monthly membership for just €5.99 for the first three months and then €4.99/month thereafter. Or you can opt for annual membership for €49.99.
Since the beginning the aim of The Local France has been to give readers the essential news that keeps them up-to-date and informed with what is happening in the country. We also try to debunk those foreign media stories about France that don't ring to us.
We've also tried to explain France to readers. Whether it's why they strike so much, why the word “Bonjour” is so important, or why Marine Le Pen never had a chance of winning the last election.
We have also tried to explain life in France for those who live here or are thinking about making the move. Whether it's the distinct working culture, the tax laws, the dining etiquette or just how to drive on a French motorway or take a train.
We also try to help readers with the essentials they need whether it's buying a house, getting French nationality or writing a good CV in French.
If we are not trying to inform you then we hope to entertain you even if it is at my own expense.
Some readers have commented that our news stories are available elsewhere. Indeed they often are and according to the many foreign correspondents I know in Paris, it's often because news media around the world are keeping a close eye on what we do. Of course we get very little public credit for this although I do get the odd pint bought for me.
For me The Local France is about being able to get everything you need to know about France and the life here in the one place.
So from my point of view membership is a positive step. Asking readers to pay brings a responsibility that 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 to our regular readers.
Also having paid members will put more power at The Local in the hands of 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.
We'll be redoubling our efforts to speak up for the international residents of France when they need our help. One subject we will cover in the next few day is the problem of foreigners being conned by other expats.
But some understandably say “why can't you just make money through advertising?”
The problem is 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 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.
In short we believe membership will help us give you what you need to know about France.