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Back when I was a boy, starting out in newspapers, there was this extraordinary thing called print advertising. Combined with cover price revenue, newspapers were (not all of them, but some) profitable. That paid for a lot of journalism, essential in a properly functioning democracy.
The internet then turned the media model upside down and inside out. We hacks were slow to realise what this meant. Facebook and Google hoovered up the ad dollars, which meant a lot less money to produce journalism. This development has turned out to have – how can I phrase this politely? – a less than wholly positive effect on civil society.
A tiny team of us in London started Reaction in 2016 as our small journalistic response, a reaction if you like, to see if we could create a high quality site that appealed to readers wanting some sense made of political turmoil and a fast-changing world. With the help of leading writers and loyal readers (thank you) it’s grown since then. We provide commentary, analysis and explanation, in an irreverent spirit. It is fun to produce. We hope it is fun and informative to read.
Last year, we started selling subscriptions.
Why do that? You will remember that I mentioned the steep decline of advertising around news at the start of this. If advertising cannot pay for journalism to be produced, then there is not really an option other than people who enjoy it, or who need to understand what is going on, paying for it. There is no magic solution.
The vast new enterprises – mainly in the US – that took a different approach are now running up against the reality that selling ads against “clicks” and “page views”does not produce enough of the money they promised their investors. They raised hundreds of millions of dollars on a promise. Now, the revenue isn’t there. They are laying off journalists and having to explain to their investors why the business model they advocated has had it.
Reaction is a small business, with plans to get bigger and a terrific young team. We’re growing organically, in for the long term, a step at a time. More readers subscribing means we can do more.
That’s why we have a half price introductory offer running this week. Usually an annual subscription to Reaction costs £48 for a year.
Sign up and you get…
My weekly newsletter on politics.
Olivia Utley’s brilliant, expanded daily email.
Unlimited access to the site.
Invites to reader events.
Iain Martin, Editor and Publisher, Reaction