Firstly, apologies for the lack of Total Split service in the last few days. I have been working hard to get everything ready for the launch of Total Croatia News, our latest (and most ambitious) project, which will go live next week. After a short break, Tracey is also back in the saddle next week, so full Total Split service will be resumed, and with interest…
Total Croatia News is almost there, and I am looking forward to the challenge of provide a (hopefully positive) daily stream of articles about all aspects of Croatian life and from all over the country, as well as Croatian communities abroad. Our first interview was published in leading portal Index.hr yesterday, and I was genuinely shocked and greatly encouraged at all the messages of support and offers of help that hit the inbox after publication. Thank you all, and if I haven’t responded yet, it is because I am a little overwhelmed.
You can read an English version of the article below, and here is the original Croatian version on Index. Join us! If you would like to make a contribution in this experiment in citizen journalism, we would love to hear from you on [email protected] Or follow Total Croatia News on Facebook. Thanks for your support, and we look forward to seeing you on this exciting journey into unchartered territory.
Over to Index…
After more than 11,000 articles promoting life and tourism in Dalmatia, Hvar-based British blogger Paul Bradbury is turning his attention to perhaps his most ambitious project yet, a daily news portal for Croatia in English.
Bradbury, whose work on Total Hvar, Total Split and Total Inland Dalmatia earned him the FIJET 2014 Marco Polo Award for best international promotion of Croatia at the National Society of Journalists last December, plans to launch Total Croatia News early next month.
What is Total Croatia News and why do we need it?
Total Croatia News is an attempt to fill a much-needed gap in the Croatian media scene. We have now been EU members for two years, and apart from the work of our colleagues Croatia Week, who do an excellent job reporting on the Croatian media, and some reporting on Dalje, there is almost nothing online in English about news in Croatia. Interest in Croatia is growing, and there are many great news stories about Croatia to report, and I am looking forward to the challenge.
Is there a place for a new news portal on the media scene and tell us something about the targeted audience?
If the portal was in Croatian, I would not attempt the project, but there is so little media information in English that I think there is place, yes. We want to promote the positive about Croatia where possible (not always possible when dealing with the news here…), as well as highlighting the success stories. I was at the Korean Embassy recently for the anniversary celebration of the Croatian – Korean club, for example. Some amazing work is being done, in both directions, and that work deserves to be shared with the world.
Our audience target is threefold. Initially of course, we will be looking to attract readers from the diaspora and foreigners interested in news about Croatia, but we also hope that by offering something a little different and living by the Total philosophy – Give People What They Want – that we will be read increasingly by locals. This was the case with Total Hvar, with many islanders commenting to me how much they appreciate the comprehensive reporting of life on Hvar, even some who do not even speak English. We will have a big focus on business, and if reporting on the numerous Croatian business success stories in the international language of business helps attract investor interest, we will be more than happy.
Will you produce the original material or will it be just the news from the Croatian news portals?
It will be a combination of the two, but our emphasis will be on original material as much as possible. We are very open to collaboration with national and local media with an interest in an online presence in English. We will of course be scouring the Croatian media and reporting on some of that, but we will also be producing plenty of original contact and topics. The Korean story above is one such example. The amount of original news will obviously be linked to how many journalists we can employ.
How will you distinguish/differentiate yourself on the market?
Apart from the language issue, I believe we will be different by actively working to create the news, rather than lazily reporting on the words of others wherever possible. TCN is also an experiment in citizen journalism, by which I mean we are encouraging people all over Croatia (and the diaspora) to report on relevant news where they are. It is an idealistic project, and we hope people embrace it and help us to grow it. We have a very healthy early interest so far, much more than I was expecting. Although we will cover Croatian politics, the site is non-political, and that could be a refreshing change for many in this very political society.
Tell us something about the team that’s behind Total Croatia?
Well, apart from this fat English blogger, we will have two bilingual full-time writers, one an experienced journalist with extensive knowledge of Croatia, the other an American living full-time in Dalmatia. If our funding plans come off, we will be looking to add to that team very quickly, but I am honoured to have already received quality contributions and offers of help from a variety of great sources. These include Andrew MacDowall, a freelance journalist who writes for The Guardian and FT about the region, Cliff Rames in New York, the pioneer of international promotion of Croatian wines, leading Aussie blogger in Zadar Sarah-Jane Begonja, one of the country’s most respected gourmet experts, Zoran Pejovic of Paradox Hospitality. And several more. We are also partnering with various national media outlets both as a source of news and a strengthening of our brand. We actively encourage cooperation not competition.
Will there be a different approach in reporting the news from Croatia? Maybe a different angle, a positive one?
The aim is to be extremely positive, as we have been 99% of the time with our Total projects in Dalmatia. I see TCN as a force for good, and an opportunity to promote the very best of Croatia. I am delighted that my photo heroes Romulic and Stojcic – surely the most talented photographers in the country – have agreed to work with us, and we will have a Photo of the Day through their lenses, exploring this great country in all its nooks and crannies. That is a great promotion opportunity for Croatia. As I am officially the worst photographer in the country, having Mario and Drazen on board is a huge bonus.
In your experience, what’s the main difference between Croatian media and media abroad?
The politics! I don’t think I have lived in any other society where the appointment of a kindergarten director is a political appointment, or where local tourist board directors have more to do with political loyalty than actual ability or passion for the job, and this is reflected in the media. The quality of Croatian media could be a lot better, and while the British media doesn’t always get it right, I laughed for a week when I read that my volunteer editor at Total Hvar had not only met the Queen, according to the Croatian media, but she was also the only Croat ever to be received at Buckingham Palace. She has never been to the palace or met the Queen… We do not always get it right, but we do try and source and reference as much as possible.
How did you prepare for what’s ahead of you and what are your expectations?
My main expectation is abuse, and lots of it. I have long ago learned that a foreigner having an opinion about Croatia, even when it is positive, will attract lots of negative comments. Dealing with anonymous abuse and even death threats is a fact of daily life, and one reason the site will not have a comments section. As for my expectations, I really have no idea. Naively perhaps, I hope that enough people will embrace the site and want to support it so that we can move it to the next level. But one thing I have learned after 13 years here is to expect the unexpected…
Are you planning on starting “with a bang” or are you gonna start slow and see what’s best?
If you are willing to provide the fireworks and Champagne, we can have a VERY jolly party… There will be a press conference, more details to come. We plan to launch in July.
What are the short-term/long-term plans?
We will see! I am interested in the reaction, and we will be guided in part by that. I had a very productive week in Zagreb recently, meeting ambassadors, businesses, PR companies, media outlets. I was asking for advice and gauging interest, and I was greatly encouraged by the very positive reception. I would like to move it forward, working with anyone who wants to work with us.
Long-term, things are finally branching out nicely. We are in discussions to expand our Total tourism promotion services to other parts of Croatia, as well as starting the same project in Munich. A life between Munich and Hvar sounds quite appealing… The more people who want to be involved in a positive way, the better the product we can make to portray Croatian life and business internationally in a positive light. I would hope the project will be well received, but this is Croatia…
Our site will go live next week, but for now we have a Facebook page where people can contact us.