The founder on Open EURACTIV: fit for competition & partners

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Christophe Leclercq, you are EURACTIV’s founder, we hear about competition in Brussels, how do you see it?

We always welcome competition. It keeps us on our toes, is good for media scrutiny, and enlarges the market (both in readership and in revenue).

Actually, it’s not as if EU reporting never innovated. First, the Brussels press corps keeps evolving. Secondly, there have been many attempts by media groups to “go European”. On a blog post, I counted 20 attempts, some are still trying. The Financial Times tried a network in four countries, with vast resources, it was not profitable. I regret the disbanding of European Voice. Backed by The Economist – it had good chances to be successful (but less readers than EURACTIV). Some other attempts were really houses of cards, falling after a few years. This is also true for the EU’s efforts to create its own media (missing independence and sustainability). Thirdly, specialised media have grown, especially online. The market remains smaller than in Washington, but they are surprisingly resilient.

How do you define the role of EURACTIV in this media landscape?

We are neither a Brussels-centric media, nor a national media but a hybrid network of 12 teams, a bridge between these two worlds. Using good journalism, plus online technology and languages.

Our values are essentially three: efficiency and transparency, and multilinguism. Indeed, 100 people work under the EURACTIV brand, half of them in the editorial team – 51 to be exact. Most work in 12 capitals, not at the centre. They source and publish original news, and localise EU level news. As a specialised media, we are a tool for professionals, helping them be efficient, and shedding light on the Brussels bubble.

However, policy decisions are multi-point, chiefly in the capitals. And to enhance EU transparency, this information should remain free of charge. The vast majority of our readers are in 12 capitals, reading us in their mother tongue. (François Hollande lit en français. Angela Merkel liest eher auf deutsch).

Can one make Europe more exciting? Would it still work?

Yes, creatively, not destructively. Rome was not built in one day. Let’s talk indeed of politicisation and personalisation. The EU is a soft power, multicultural and decentralised. Very different from the US, or Russia and China. In Europe’s history, we had many attempts to dominate, and then wars: we now focus on understanding differences, and cooperating. EURACTIV, in its values, in its teams, reflects this Europe.

The last effort to engage widely was the election campaign between Spitzenkandidaten. It worked institutionally but none of the top job holders became household names.

That’s why – in addition to EU watching – the EURACTIV network focuses on countries, and on stakeholders. Our trusted style is not aggressive but balanced, showing different positions, supporting a real debate.

Is EURACTIV subsidised by EU institutions? Is it pro-European?

EURACTIV is in the private sector, and clearly independent. Our readership surveys demonstrate it, and our diversified business model supports it. Our sales department does also bid for a few EU communication campaigns. And Fondation EURACTIV initiated an R&D project on policy visualisation, with some EU support.

None of this makes EURACTIV a subsidised media, public clients represent less than 10% of our revenue. As we stand for transparency, we publish many of our figures, just see our infographic under the keyword ‘Open EURACTIV’.

As for our stance on European integration; we are naturally European, born European. This is different from the Anglo-Saxon press. For us, the EU and even the euro are not question marks but realities, with plenty of interesting issues. But our 23 nationalities in the EURACTIV team do include some great American colleagues, and my own wife is British.

You talked of keeping EURACTIV on its toes, what’s new at your media organisation?

Yes, we have four novelties for you. First we just completed the integration in one structure of our Brussels, London, Paris, Berlin teams. There is now more systematic translations back and forth with English. What’s important in Berlin, Paris or London is typically important in Brussels and vice versa.

Secondly, we have launched, ahead of the British elections. Thirdly, we have redesigned EURACTIV in English, French, German. It’s now more visual, better for mobile, while modernising our policy sections. There is more than our own journalistic work: we lead for bloggers and contributors of opinion pieces, this website will host even more content from partners.

And there’s the fourth news. There are different ways the national press uses our articles. Spontaneously, there are citations of our journalism, thousands every year. In addition, we are developing content exchange with one or two top media outlets per country. They are interested in our deep analysis, and our multilingual footprint. For example, we exchange articles with The Guardian, on environment and on development. We just added two more media partners: La Tribune in Paris, and Der Tagespiegel in Berlin.

There will be more news soon so watch this space!

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