Case study: netzpolitik.org (Germany)

The name of the publication and / or company

netzpolitik.org

Established

2004

Web Address

netzpolitik.org

Form of the company

Part of Newthinking Communications GmbH (LLC)

Describe your site or business in few words.

Netzpolitik is a (German) blog about how the internet changes politics and how politics changes the internet. Themes that interest us are for example data privacy, copyright law and other issues dealing with internet policy. On the other hand we advocate for more transparency and citizen participation so that people can better influence and change political processes.

Staff numbers

Who’s creating the content

Content creators, paid full-time

1

Content creators, paid half time

1

Content creators, unpaid

15

Are some of the content creators citizen contributors or interns?

“At the moment we have 15 to 20 people contributing to Netzpolitik. Of these content creators I am the only one working as a full-time employee. In addition, we have one employee working half-time and we also have one intern. The other 15 people write when they feel like it. Most of these 15 people, who are unpaid content creators, write only two or three articles per year.

Basically all the contributors are friends who I trust and with whom I have worked previously on different political issues. Through Netzpolitik they can comment on various political processes and get considerable publicity for their views. Through Netzpolitik our contributors accumulate reputation which they can then use to meet their own ambitions. For example, a lot of journalists and politicians read Netzpolitik and that alone provides motivation for writers.”

How is your time divided between doing business and content?

“I try to devote as much time as possible to writing articles, but unfortunately things don’t always work out like that. Sometimes I need to travel a great deal because of the speeches and lectures I give and at these times I can’t attend to Netzpolitik properly. On average, about two-thirds of my working hours are allotted to doing content.”

Markus Beckedahl typically makes 12-hour working days, which translates to 8 hours content-related and 4 hours business-related work.

 

How they make money

Revenue models and sustainability

Would you say your business model is sustainable?

“I established Netzpolitik-blog, basically, at the same time as my media company, Newthinking Communications. This gave me the freedom to invest time on blogging even during the long years when we didn’t have any advertising on the web page. Luckily Newthinking Communications has grown and become sufficiently successful for me to be able to focus my attention principally on Netzpolitik. That said, the blog has always brought positive attention to Newthinking Communications; on account of Netzpolitik we have gotten new clients and it has even enabled new business models to emerge, like the formation of the blogger-conference Re:publica.

Netzpolitik and Spreeblick, another notable Berliner blog site, organised the first Re:publica blogger-conference in 2007 with attendance of 700. Following a steady annual expansion this year’s (2011) Re:publica had about 3.000 attendees.

As Beckedahl founded Newthinking Communications in 2003-2004 the company had two employees. During the years the firm has grown substantially having currently a personnel of almost 30 people. Newthinking Communications is specialised in open-source strategies and its three main areas of work are: 1) organising events, 2) offering consulting services and 3) developing open-source web-solutions to its clients. Thus, in the business totality of Netzpolitik and Newthinking Communications, the economic relevance of the former is modest.”

How much is your yearly or monthly revenue?

4.000 Euros / Month

Where does your revenue go?

Beckedahl notes that all business billing generated by Netzpolitik is channeled through the accounting of Newthinking Communications.

“All the revenues go entirely to Newthinking Communications. Netzpolitik has about 3.500-4.000 Euros expenditures monthly, which essentially means the salaries for 1,5 employees (i.e. Beckedahl and one half-time employee). The lectures and other speaking events I do as a representative of Netzpolitik could generate up to 8.000 Euro per month, but the revenues from these assignments go to Newthinking Communications. This is because for years Newthinking has been financing Netzpolitik without getting any revenues in exchange.”

How much do you pay to your contributors?

“In essence, we don’t pay anything to our contributors. They contribute to Netzpolitik because of the attention they get from the audience.”

What about profit?

“If there is any profit from Netzpolitik it goes to Newthinking Communications.”

Netzpolitik is marketed by the media-marketing arm of Zeit Online (Die Zeit is a German nationwide weekly quality newspaper). Since April 2011 Zeit Online has been testing with Netzpolitik vertical online advertising, meaning Zeit Online markets ad-mixes that include spots on the pages of Netzpolitik.org in addition to other online and/or offline publications. The collaboration with Zeit Online brings, on average, 3.500 Euros monthly ad-revenues to Netzpolitik.

On average Netzpolitik.org has circa 30.000 daily readers. During some especially ignited political debates readership could rise up to 50.000 per day. The advertising revenues and microdonations from Flattr bring enough income to cover the salaries of 1,5 employees. Netzpolitik receives through Flattr about 400 Euros worth of donations per month.

The administration of Netzpolitik.org is done “in-house” by Newthinking Communications.

What kind of advertising you sell?

Ad Networks, Cost Per Impression (CPM), Sponsorship

Do you see your publication as your main product?

“For me, personally, Netzpolitik is the main product. For Newthinking Communications it is not. For Newthinking it has always been a by-product, regardless of the fact that Netzpolitik has become slightly profitable. Netzpolitik functions undoubtedly as an advertisement for Newthinking Communications, but at present Netzpolitik is also a profit-center. One must also keep in mind that back in the beginning of our activities Netzpolitik was a crucially important “signboard” in providing attention for us. The site has also been a way of attracting interest of talented people who have then later become staff members in Newthinking Communications.”

What would be the most important thing on your road to sustainability?

Generally speaking, you have to develop a proficient advertising basis and as your advertising revenues grow you need to invest in hiring more editorial staff to create distinctive journalistic content and, finally, hope that this creates a benevolent cycle.