Frank Underwood is an optimist, says his creator

The show’s creator, for his part, has claimed he doesn’t have a cynical view of politics: Dead bodies and callous plots aside, Frank Underwood is an “optimist at heart,” Willimon insists. “He says, ‘Forward progress. Momentum. Do something instead of nothing.’”

Says House of Cards-creator Beau Willimon in an interview with Politico. I didn’t see that coming (I thought House of Cards served more as a cynical response to The West Wing – proving how politics has changed).

But as Politico says: the gridlock American politics is in, makes you wish for a getting-things-done-guy like Underwood.

Even when he’s surrounded by dead bodies?

Spanish Jep Gambardella

‘Jep Gambardella lives and he’s a Spanish architect’

Whenever you travel to Barcelona, think of the man who designed Terminal 1, architect Ricardo Bofill, and the beautiful ‘Cathedral‘ he has created out of a cement plant (a project that started in 1973).

When my friend Justus Bruns alerted me to this video, he said ‘Jep Gambardella lives and he’s a Spanish architect’. I like that angle.

Photo by Robert Delvac of mr. Bradlee working at his typewriter on Aug. 3, 1956.

Focus on the big stories, no-one will remember the small ones

Paul Lewis is The Guardian‘s Washington correspondent and got the advice from late Ben Bradlee (editor in chief of The Washington Post during the Watergate scandal) to ‘focus on the big stories. No-one will remember the small ones.’

Although it’s probably hard to recognize big stories from the very start, and small stories can grow out to become as big as Watergate,  I do think this is wise advice.

In these days of focusing on instant recognition (I often check how many tweets my last published story generated), it serves you and journalism better to unplug now and then and take the time to work on something bigger. Something that might not be retweeted at first, but will have a larger impact on the long run.

Focus on getting direct traffic (like Netflix does)

On the must-read Monday Note blog, one of its authors describes how Facebook and Google now dominate media distribution and why – as a publisher – you shouldn’t solely rely on them (they’re uncontrollable and the users they’re sending you aren’t loyal). He ends with a good recommendation: improving the recommendations on your own site and thus getting more people to directly access your publication:

Taken to the extreme, some medias are doing quite well by relying solely on direct access. Netflix, for instance, entirely built its audience through its unique recommendation engine. Its size and scope are staggering. No less than 300 people are assigned to analyze, understand, and serve the preferences of the network’s 50 million subscribers.

This is one of the greatest priorities at De Correspondent, where we’re building a new front page, filter methods and collections for stories. We believe we can provide a unique insight in the subjects we cover by connecting our previously published (and quiet timeless) stories.

(with the small difference that our budget isn’t as impressive as Netflix’)

Getting your readers in the right mindset (like Ozy does)

A friend alerted me to Ozy, a daily curation web site, backed by Laurene Powell Jobs. What I like about this site is that they – albeit a bit pompous – describe in an inspiring way how you should read their site.

First: they call their daily briefing ‘The Presidential Brief‘. It’s their ‘take on what the most powerful person in the world gets with their morning coffee’. This is exactly the sentiment most readers have in the back of their mind when reading a daily brief, the idea that they’re hitting the streets well-prepared. Just like the president.

Screenshot of Ozy.com
Screenshot of Ozy.com

Second: the distinction within the brief between ‘Important’ and ‘Intriguing’. At my former job as digital editor of NRC Handelsblad, we tried to do something on nrc.nl with the labels ‘The most important news’ and ‘The best of the web’, but I think Ozy came up with more powerful labels.

The labels on nrc.nl
The labels on nrc.nl

I do think their site is a bit overwhelming when it comes to the visuals. I’d prefer a more sparse look, to reaffirm the idea behind a presidential brief. But still, Ozy it’s a good example of how to prep your visitors for reading your site.


Sullivan has over 30.000 subscribers

We currently have 30,200 paying auto-renewing subscribers. Our monthly traffic is between 700,000 to a million uniques, our subscription renewal rate is 83 percent. We also have a pay-what-you want model above a certain baseline. The average subscription when we launched was $34; this year it went up to $39, but with fewer subscribers

Andrew Sullivans reader-funded publication is doing great.

Exploring the Frankfurt Buchmesse

I’m heading to the Buchmesse today, just caught an early train with my friend Daniël van der Meer. It’s a study trip for us, to see how the international book industry (net)works, but I won’t object if a German, French or any other foreign publisher wants to buy the rights of Rutger Bregmans book Free Money For Everyone.

Except for American publishers, we’ll try to conquer that book territory ourselves with a Kindle edition in early 2015.

Will write updates here about our adventures in Frankfurt! To end this first post, here’s a photo of how Daniël looks when he’s on a mission:


American press about De Correspondent’s renewals

We’ve had some great international coverage about De Correspondent these last days, because enough members renewed their crowdfunding membership (over 11,000 of a group op 18,933 people signed up for another year – read the announcement on Medium):

  • Columbia Journalism Review about reader engagement;
  • GigaOM pointed out three things traditional media could learn from our site;
  • And Nieman Lab declared that ‘we’re still going strong’ in year two.
De Correspondent gre

Lessons from year one of De Correspondent

Repost from MediumHere’s what happened to that world-record in journalism crowdfunding

In November 2013, GigaOm’s Mathew Ingram reported on the Dutch journalism crowdfunding campaign which led to the founding of our publication, De Correspondent:

It will be fascinating to watch De Correspondent, and see whether it can follow through on the incredible promise demonstrated by raising $1.7 million.

In the comments section, someone replied:

I give this venture 8 months. Seen this movie before.

I have to admit this comment made me nervous at the time. Would we be able to become a valuable publication? Would our crowdfunding members like the way we executed the idea in which they had invested? Or would we go down in history as merely a crowdfunding success?

Today, one year after our official launch on September 30th, 2013 , I’m thrilled to announce that more than half of our crowdfunding group has already renewed its membership and will stay with us. Continue reading

Save everything you’ve published online on your blog

Link to everything you create elsewhere on the web. And if possible, save a copy of it on your own blog. Things disappear so quickly, and even important work can slip your mind months or years later when you want to recall it. If it’s in one, definitive place, you’ll be glad for it.

Longtime blogger Anil Dash shares his 15 lessons from 15 years of blogging. You should read all his lessons but I wanted to highlight this one.

Except for the articles I’ve written during my time at The Next Web, I’ve always imported the blog posts I wrote for other blogs into this one (such as nrcnext.nl, spotlighteffect.nl and several old tumblrs). It serves as an archive of (almost) everything I’ve ever written, thus making sure I’ll never lose those musings and thoughts.

I advice you to do the same (if only for the feeling of accomplishment it will probably give you).

Founding a startup is messy, proves this honest podcast series

It’s weird how the human brain works: there are hundreds of thousands honest startup stories to be told, but I only listen to the glimmering billion dollar successes. I only compare my own endeavours with the ones of Zuckerberg’s and the Systrom’s, desperately reading their lessons to apply them to my own companies.

I remember being the first week of having conversations with investors – somewhere in 2012 – of one of the most insecure periods in my life. The anxiety and the insecurity these talks arose in me; I hadn’t seen any of that when acquaintances easily raised rounds of  a million dollars or more.

But of course, they’ve felt the same. It’s just that as soon as they raised that money, their companies became part of the global and sunny startup myth.

That’s why I love this new Startup podcast series by Alex Blumberg, who was a producer for This American Life and as co-founder of the business-economics series Planet Money. He wants to build a company for quality podcasting and shares his journey – conversations with his wife, awkward negotiations with his co-founder and a disastrous pitch session with Chris Sacca – with his listeners.

It’s intimate, recognizable and brave. Hope it helps you too:


Taking notes while exploring the future of publishing