The end of Québec89

It was a good idea. Take the formula of France’s Rue89 website and adapt it for a Quebec audience with Quebec news. On Oct. 1, Rue89 and Branchez-Vous launched Québec89. Independent of either organization, the site would have three paid journalists, but would rely mainly on contributions from the public. Kind of like the Huffington Post model.

I was skeptical from the beginning. Three journalists (working on a freelance basis) just didn’t seem enough to develop the kind of critical mass needed for a website like this. And the stories they put out weren’t particularly inspiring. Many were just copied from Rue89. Others didn’t add much to the public discussion.

An exception was articles on the media by Patrick Bellerose, which I would occasionally link to.

It’s not that I was expecting the same from Québec89 as Rue89 had to offer. Even they knew that wasn’t feasible. But I was expecting … something. Something I had a feeling from the beginning wouldn’t be there.

With not much to see, the site didn’t generate much traffic. Having fallen far below expectations after six months, they’ve decided to pull the plug.

Some point out that trying to run such a website on the super-cheap (paying journalists $10 an hour, for example) was a flawed strategy from the start, and wouldn’t attract any quality content (which, in turn, wouldn’t attract any quality traffic).

I have to agree. Huffington Post and others can get away with paying people little or nothing because of the exposure they can offer. If you’re starting something from scratch, you need to spend money to give it the kind of quality it needs to get noticed.

Offering journalists $10 an hour, well, even the corporate community weeklies can do better than that, and nobody reads that stuff.

I don’t blame them for trying, even if it seems they wanted to create an entire news outlet using spare change from the couch. But let’s hope that future wannabe media moguls learn from this experience that just because it’s the Internet doesn’t mean you can make money – or journalism – out of thin air.

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