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Over a million kroner down the drain, as one of Denmark’s last independent university newspapers lays its digital version to rest
Friday 26 February will see the final death throes of the Copenhagen Business School (CBS) Observer’s digital news site. Its demise was announced on 17 February this year.
CBS in Frederiksberg is one of only two Danish higher education institutions with its own independent newspaper.
The paper is called CBS Observer and is published nine times a year in printed form, and, for the next few days at least, in a digital version at cbsobserver.dk
The digital version of the CBS observer was a short lived and costly venture. It was opened two years ago, funded by the printed paper’s budget.
In September 2008 it received an additional grant of just under DKK 1 million from funds at the disposal of the rector at CBS, for special projects.
The money was meant to keep the news site running until September 2010 but CBS management decided to pull the plug and stop funding early.
Rector Johan Roos, who joined CBS in the summer of 2009, became aware that the fund from which the grant was given was in the red. Several projects were put on hold, including the grant to the CBS Observer’s online edition.
According to editor Bjørn Hyldkrog the cost of the website to date has been DKK 760,000 in the form of the aforementioned grant, plus money taken from the printed newspaper’s savings to cover the cost of setting up the site and of an intern who wrote articles for the web.
»When the balance sheet is drawn up, we will be a half million kroner out of pocket,« he says.
In total, the cost of the doomed internet edition of the CBS Observer amounts to around DKK 1.25 million.
Prior to the decision to abolish the digital edition, the newspaper board applied for a yearly grant of DKK 2.7 million to continue running both media platforms.
However CBS management was only willing to continue the current level of funding – around DKK 2 million. They let the newspaper board decide for themselves where the cutbacks would hit.
CBS Observer conducted a survey among readers.
650 people took part in the survey, which showed ambiguously, that the content of the printed edition was more popular than that of the digital, while most readers would have preferred that the internet site survived rather than the paper.
The newspaper board then interpreted the results, based on their own inside knowledge of the editorial situation:
»We took the results of the survey very seriously. But the results did not show a clear and unambiguous preference to one side or the other, that we could use as a basis for our final decision. On the newspaper board we have an insight into the editorial situation and resources, to which the website users are not privy, and which weighed heavier than the results of the survey,« explains chairman Kurt Jacobsen in an interview for CBS Observer.
However, Kurt Jacobsen is still convinced that a combination of digital and print media is the best solution for independent journalism at CBS.