In retrospect, I’d rather not have started up my solo business in the year 2009. But at least I had a job. I was writing and presenting daily ANP news in Engilsh. We’d just streamlined our process for a daily 13.00 airtime, when I heard we’d been canceled. In fact, there was a problem with the invoicing as well. The problem was basically that my boss’s entire media business had gone bankrupt, and he didn’t tell anybody. Remember XM News? Exactly. That guy still owes me money.
Clearly, there was still demand for Dutch news in English, because people kept asking me about it. ‘When are you going to translate the Dutch news again?’ At one point I thought, ‘Why not do it on my own?’ Maybe I could get a subsidy! I’d applied for a subsidy once, and I learned a lot. Specifically that I never want to apply for another subsidy.
I was approached about crowd-funding. I even tried doing a Twit-vid series on Twitter to make some demos. I went back to ANP and worked on a pilot for a Dutch News in English app. I tried going to AT5 and helping resuscitate their ‘Amsterdam Today’ series. AT least someone in the city of Amsterdam recognized the need for Dutch news in English. They’d take a bunch of AT5 news items, subtitle them in English and slap on a few English-as-second-language voice-overs to tie it together. It was unwatchable. Some topics were indeed interesting for internationals, for example Amsterdam’s response to the Weed-Pass law. But then they’d switch to some typical, arcane story about replacing a bike lane in de Jordaan. I offered to do all 3 jobs in one. I’d pick the stories that really matter. I’d translate them into English, and I’d do a voice-over to string it all together. We were getting somewhere, and then they lost their subsidy.
We decided to do things differently the next time. We went to expatica.nl. We told them we wanted to offer free content in exchange for exposure on their platform, and then we’d go after sponsors. Expatica had just tried their own video content and been burned. ‘We can’t pay you anything,’ they emphasized. We clarified: we don’t want you to pay us. We just need you to take the free content and use it. ‘Okay…’ they said, as the gears turned in their heads, and they looked at us with deepening suspicion. ‘But when are you going to ask us for money?’ We’re not. We just want to make this project work! Our strategy is just like the Dr. Seuss t-shirt: ‘Do what you love and the money will follow.’ We’re doing it. ‘Behind Dutch Headlines’ is a labor of love. If we ever get paid, so much the better. If we never get paid and we have to stop, then at least we can say we did it. But honestly, if we never get paid, I’ll still keep doing it.