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2021-09-21

Where is Europe's News?

Why are there no pan-European news agencies?

Sure, there are English-language newspapers and magazines that feature a section on "Europe": the Economist, the BBC, the Guardian—but these are British news agencies before anything else. On the other side of the channel, national newspapers like France's Le Monde, Germany's der Spiegel, and Italy's ANSA also report on European affairs but always through regionally fogged-up glasses.

Europe needs high-quality news that is European first and national second. That is because news is the substance of public discourse, and a healthy public discourse is prerequisite to a stronger Europe.

That's important because the world needs a strong Europe to set an example in the fight against climate change, to counter an aggressive Russia in its East, and to buttress against the Chinese Communist Party in the event that America isolationism continues to resurge.

So we need European news.

It's now, for the first time since Napoleon, that a European news agency has become possible. This is for two reasons:

  1. Language. An entire generation of Europeans is entering adulthood with a common tongue. The EU speaks English much more fluently than it used to (compare any set of grandparents and grandchildren).
  2. Changing definitions of "European". The open borders of cyberspace have changed the feeling of being European—many of this latest generation feel more solidarity with contemporaries across the border than compatriots across church aisles.

For these reasons, European news has an able and eager audience.

In the last few years, we've seen the first entrants try to meet this latent demand. "Are We Europe?" is a quarterly magazine that offers "borderless journalism from the next generation of storytellers." "Into Europe" is a YouTube channel that publishes video essays on European news and topics. The most successful example is probably that of "TLDR News EU" at a quarter of a million subscribers.

Still, something's missing. "Are We Europe?" is more a long-form humanities pastiche than concise source of European news. Unfortunately, most of us just don't have the attention spans. That's something "TLDR News" understands much better (it's in the name). But both "TLDR News" and "Into Europe", though they have wonderful content, produce only videos. Today's consumer expects wider ranging media such as interviews, articles, and email newsletters Ă  la Axios.

That's where Romulus comes in. Romulus's mission is to provide Europe its much-needed news content. It's starting with regular YouTube videos, which it supplements with interviews and guest-written articles. And there's an ongoing newsletter giving regular updates on what's happening across Europe.

Romulus is still early-stage, so it's too early to say whether they will really pull off creating a novel news agency. But I think they can do it for three reasons:

  1. Team. Founders Elmer Hoogland and Renier de Bruin have had lots of practice. While at Room For Discussion (RfD), the University of Amsterdam's interview platform, the two interviewed the likes of Pete Hoekstra, former US ambassador to the Netherlands, Feike Sijbesma, CEO of chemical corporation Royal DSM, Harold Goddijn, CEO of TomTom, and, Jordan Peterson, yes the JP. They're well-connected and have the know-how.
  2. Idea. Elmer and Renier understand that a news company today can't look like the New York Times Magazine. It has to be more like Axios—sleek, multimedia, extremely to the point (whence this liberal usage of bullets and lists), and data-driven. With their technical backgrounds, the founders know that news companies today have to be technology companies. And they are flexible enough to act accordingly.
  3. Execution. Not paralyzed by the typical European perfectionism, Romulus's team knows that what matters most is the amount of content. Moreover, their extensive networks mean that Elmer and Renier can outsource a lot of writing to third parties. With interviews, they can quickly churn much more content than hand-crafted videos. And by sheer dint of will-power, they will transcend the limits of the typical Dutch work-life balance to sacrifice short-term well-being for long-term world domination1.

For those reasons, I think Romulus deserves a chance—and by chance, I mean your support. You can give them a newsletter sign-up or subscribe. Best of al it's for a good cause—you get informed and Europe gets your participation.


Footnotes

Footnotes

  1. While at RfD, Elmer broke the record for most interviews ever conducted by a member. Not to be a boastful brother or anything. ↩


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