Germany's Mr Startup launches his own HuffPo

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the_european-logo[Germany] Serial founder and investor Lukasz Gadowski constantly taps new online markets. In his latest venture, the entrepreneur from Berlin ( who is best known for his part in the success of Spreadshirt, StudiVZ, Brands4Friends and many German startups) now has plans to emulate Citizen Kane and become a major league publisher.

The European is the name of his new online publishing venture for debate and opinion. More than 20 high class journalists will be using it to cover global issues. This could end up being the European Huffington Post (at least, for Germany).

Articles sit alongside personal contributions from political heavyweights like European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, German car producers association’s president Matthias Wissmann or bishop Margot Käßmann.

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Right now articles will be published in German, but an English version is planned for later. When the authors deal with tricky subjects like Afghanistan, Guantanamo or the state of the European Union it’s not to break news but to explain what the issues are. News can be found all over the web for free, that’s why it’s so difficult to make money from it. The European therefore positions itself as “first online magazine”, in the words of chief editor Alexander Görlach. The website aims to be an Economist or Slate Magazine for the internet generation which barely reads on paper anymore.

That’s not necessary a secret sauce for big revenues – but three weeks after launch Gadowski and Görlach, who each hold 50 per cent of the company The European Magazine Publishing GmbH, seems quite satisfied with their numbers. Without giving many details, they revealed to us that the first day had 5,000 readers and 30,000 page impressions. Follower numbers on Twitter, Facebook or StudiVZ are skyrocketing and the first month’s revenues from website sponsoring are three times bigger than originally scheduled in the business plan. Banner advertising is another revenue stream and later they may introduce a premium membership for €10 or €15 per month.

“Profit is not my key intention at The European”, says Lukasz Gadowski. The website of his VC company, Team Europe Ventures, lists the project as strategic investment while other companies are called lead or co-investments until they finally appear under exits. Of course he will strive for an exit as he does with all his startups, but an option could be a trade sale to an established publisher like Holtzbrinck. Meantime, break even is scheduled for mid 2010.

“Maybe The European is the future of publishing?”, Alexander Görlach muses. He aims to make it an independent market player which doesn’t need to be sucked up by an oldschool media house. At least The European is already quite different from the new media of our era. Other than all these WordPress blogs the website has its own esthetic, which looks more like a glossy paper magazine, and in contrast to the famous Huffington Post it even pays its writers. And from this writer’s perspective, the fees are quite good for an online publication.

Görlach is launching this new home for journalism during the most disastrous time for newspapers and a very promising one for online publishers. Good journalism can’t be had for free, he insists, it’s a craft which must be learned and paid. Not everyone can do it, that’s also his answer to the German bloggers’ Internet Manifesto which rocked the online world last month. Their declaration of dead of journalism is just not true, the 32 years old with two PhD titles remarks. It’s just a self perception of a small caste of bloggers who are much less important than they think, he says.

Of course he won’t make a lot of blogger friends with this kind of talk. The first German blogger reactions criticized The European for an elitist style and even a neo conservative spin in their articles. But as Görlach sees it, this is the “envy” of those who weren’t asked to write for The European. At least the website’s well paying advertisers like Volkswagen or Initiative Neue Soziale Marktwirtschaft, a large-scale industry thinktank, seem to like it.

And I daresay investor Gadowski is happy with such a backing.

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