December 3, 2023

European Ventures Seek to Fill a Void in World News

As a result, readers seeking international news are increasingly spoiled for choice — especially if they read English, the common second language of many Europeans and the favored tongue for many of the new outlets.

Worldcrunch, a Web-based start-up in Paris, offers English translations of newspaper articles from around the world. Presseurop, another new site edited from Paris, does something similar for European newspapers, translating articles into 10 languages, including English.

The Huffington Post, one of the most popular American news aggregators on the Web, has Europe in its sights, saying it plans to introduce a British edition soon. In Brussels, a site called Europe Today aggregates news from across the region, gathering snippets from a variety of European sources and translating them into English. Its founders want to start a pan-European newspaper — in print, no less.

Why the flurry of activity? European readers seeking international news in English could already choose from a variety of sources, including The Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal Europe and The International Herald Tribune, which is the global edition of The New York Times. British newspapers and their Web sites are available across the Continent. Other publications, like the German magazine Der Spiegel, long ago introduced Web sites in English.

“I’m not so sure there is such a big market that needs to know what is happening in Berlin or Athens or Paris, all at the same time, and those that do already have several choices,” said Piet Bakker, a journalism professor at Hogeschool Utrecht in the Netherlands and author of a blog called Newspaper Innovation. “If you ask people in Europe what kind of information they want in a newspaper, local information almost always comes out on top.”

But the people behind the ventures say there is room for new entrants, as they aim to fill underserved journalistic niches or to replace coverage that has disappeared. They also want to develop new business models or tap financing from new sources.

English-speaking media have thought “they can do it all themselves,” said Jeff Israely, editor of Worldcrunch. “Now it’s becoming clear they cannot. Professional journalists are being brought home from foreign bureaus, and that is not going to be reversed.”

Mr. Israely, a former correspondent for Time magazine in Rome and Paris, had no job last year after Time closed much of its European operation.

He founded Worldcrunch with Irene Toporkoff, a former chief executive of the French unit of, and investments from three French Internet entrepreneurs. The site, which set up a beta version last year, made its official debut last week.

Using freelance journalists, Worldcrunch plans to publish several dozen English translations of articles from newspapers like Le Monde, Die Welt and La Stampa every week. While most of the papers are European, Hurriyet in Turkey and The Economic Observer in China are included, and Mr. Israely said he was seeking more global partners.

Some of the partner publications, like the French business daily Les Échos, have English-language sections on their sites where they post the articles Worldcrunch has translated.

Worldcrunch is exploring revenue-generating ideas, including selling the translated articles via syndication networks, Mr. Israely said. The income would be shared with originating papers.

“We don’t want to kill traditional media,” he said. “We are a start-up that relies on them.”

Revenue is not something that Presseurop has to worry about, for now. The site was set up in 2009 with financing from the European Commission in Brussels, which was worried by reports of growing skepticism about the European Union in member states.

While Presseurop compiles its contents from some of the same newspapers as Worldcrunch, its mission is more focused — to “bring the European Union to life,” as its Web site puts it.

“Europeans are interested in what happens in their close neighbors almost as much as what happens in their own country,” said Gian Paolo Accardo, deputy editor of Presseurop. “There is also growing interest in what happens at the European level. Yet the media tend to cover national topics more.”

Christofer Berg, co-founder of Europe Today, said young European expatriates, who move among European capitals with an ease that their parents never felt and communicate with one another in English, were poorly served by news outlets. Mr. Berg, a Swede, said he got the idea for Europe Today while he and a friend were studying in Paris. He now lives in Brussels and is an assistant to a member of the European Parliament.

These readers find the American- and British-owned papers that are available in Europe not Continental enough, he said.

“We just want to give that mobile, educated European individual something to read, because it’s not out there,” he said.

Mr. Berg said he and his friend, Johan Malmsten, a management consultant, have invested “tens of thousands of euros” of their money in the project, which was set up in 2008. They are looking for substantial additional investment to finance their vision of creating an ink-on-paper publication with its own journalists.

In anticipation of moving into print, they plan to change the name of their Web site to The European Daily.

For would-be publishers with a pan-European vision, there is a cautionary tale: the story of The European, a London-based newspaper created by the Fleet Street baron Robert Maxwell in 1990. Under new owners, the paper was closed in 1998, seven years after his death at sea, as sales dwindled and losses piled up.

Still, the name of Mr. Maxwell’s creation has retained its allure. A German journalist, Alexander Görlach, created a Web site two years ago under that name, offering news analyses and opinion. The site, originally published in German, recently added an English version.

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