Trevor Lothrop is an American that has been living in Cluj, Romania for 3 years after traveling to Romania since 2008 and decided to volunteer in an NGO. Two years after working in healthcare IT in the States, just as a way of changing gears, he adventured to Romania for a year and volunteered at an NGO to experience something new.
One thing led to another and he ended up along with 3 other people starting PressOne Media which basically consists of PressOne.ro (the website) and PressOne Quarterly where we publish our stories that are depicting modern Romania and selling in the United States and Canada for anybody who’s interested in Romania – ex-Romanians who now live in America since a lot of them left in the ‘90s or early 2000s that have no idea what it’s like today.
How did you decide to launch the US print edition?
In the U.S., almost every country has a magazine in English depicting what life is like now in those countries for people to stay interested, but Romania did not have one. A lot of Romanians that I meet especially in America, would like to get back at some point – they have a sort of connection to where they’re from, which is normal. A way to give back to Romania is through this magazine, PressOne Quarterly, which will, in turn, help fund our media business here in Romania.
We kept the digital edition for Romania and the print format for the United States audience – where it’s $50/year for a subscription and you get 4 magazines as an appreciation for supporting independent media. We want people to understand that through their subscription they’re basically funding the investigations, the team, and independent journalism in Romania which like any country right now is struggling to survive. So it’s a way of giving back and also a way of sharing to your friends or other people in North America what Romania is about.
But the print magazine is not only read by Romanians, just an example: one of the people who order the magazine is a Romanian guy who works for P&G in Cincinnati, Ohio. His wife and kids are American and so by them being able to read this magazine or by having it around is a way of getting in touch with a culture that is much different than the one you’ve had described to you. It’s trending with who cares about Romania – obviously, the major portion of that will be Romanians but at the same time, there are a lot of Americans that care about Romania.
Are you using the same stories you publish on PressOne.ro or are you writing something special for the print edition?
A little bit of both but mostly stories from PressOne.ro and we’ve translated them into English which was not previously available. The stories that we put in the magazine are not available on the English section of our website. If you are Romanian and you are living in Romania the magazine is not for you because you can go on PressOne.ro and you can read the stories. It’s more about putting it in English and having it in North America so people can get an idea of what’s happening in Romania today.
What we really want to do is to select stories especially around people who are succeeding in modern Romania. Sometimes they are positive stories, sometimes there are realities but it’s about showing what is happening today, in 2017, because this might seem unimaginable to somebody who left in 1998. I mean if you look at Cluj or Bucharest or any Romanian city and you haven’t been back since 1998 you’re going to be blown away by what’s happening in these cities and what Romanians are able to achieve considering the circumstances. It’s more or less saying that you can do succeed in modern Romania, you can succeed and here are some stories about real people who are doing just that. We also have some more cultural pieces as well that are not necessarily about people.
As a rough number, for the first edition that was launched in December last year, we had 1,000 magazines. Half of them were gone pretty fast ….
How do people get to know about Press One? What is the reader’s profile?
What we did was to go to a lot of the major cities in the US and connected with the Romanian-American groups there. There’s lots of communities like in Chicago – 100,000 Romanians, or Seattle or Los Angeles. We went to these communities and handed out a few magazines just get the word out there since this is basically our target audience.
As for the PressOne.ro, we had 1.6 million unique readers throughout 2016 which is pretty good considering the population. Around 65% of our readers are between the ages of 18-45. A lot of them are working professionals and they browse the website in the morning when they get to work get and on their desktops from there.
Can you share a campaign or activity that you’ve done at PressOne.ro that produced successful results?
I can tell you that at PressOne, in general, our biggest campaign so far that has been the most successful is our morning newsletter. That’s been very popular: we have over 3,000 subscribers but an open rate of almost 50% every day and from the 50% we have a 20% click rate on the newsletter.
In terms of actual marketing, we spend very little on marketing – we grew organically via Facebook. I know in the future we are going to have spent more on marketing and we are going to start taking some support from people who respect independent media and 2017 is probably the best year for that. If you consider the fake news scandals you start questioning everything that’s free and you end up concluding that if you want good journalism or you want something of quality, you’ll have to pay for it just like you’d do with any other product.
What other means of monetization are you looking to implement in the near future?
I think we’re going to go more towards sponsorships – not in an intrusive way like you see on most Romanian websites, but a very clean “Supported by X Company” label for each section/article. We’re pushing the idea that you need independent media and by having various companies supporting honest journalism so we can build a sustainable model for Press One.
Of all of our articles published in 2016 (around 700) the average time spent on an article was over 5 minutes. As a company, not only are your supporting independent media, if you have a story like The Genius which was our most popular story (read 300,000 times and the average time spent on that story was 20 minutes), by having the logo elegantly placed in that story you just got great exposure and a positive brand association.
Our main goal this year is to come up with ways to encourage people and companies to support independent media in Romania. It’s a challenge which we’re happy to take on.