The answer is: no one.
Seems strange to say, but despite our impressive readership, our international awards and our recognition from the media around the world as an authority on Central and East European affairs, Central Europe Review has never received any institutional funding or investment from any source.
We've made some money on voluntary subscriptions, and we've earned a bit from advertising, because people realise what a valuable audience our 15,000 weekly readers represent. But we've never had more than a few thousand dollars in the bank.
After 18 months of operation, you'd think we'd have exhausted our meagre resources, but we keep expenses incredibly low, and we have remained in the black since the beginning. We think we've really hit on to something here: "shoestring journalism at its best" as someone commented to me recently.
However, not having any money is preventing us from reaching our full potential. We have fantastic ideas for new spin-off publications, we'd like to be able to pay contributors to attract new talent in specific subject areas, and we'd like to turn our weekly into a daily. But all of these plans remain on hold until we find the investment we need.
Since the very beginning of CER, we have been talking to potential investors, but we have never found the right combination of money and editorial freedom to suit us. In a sense, we're in a good position; having a stable financial situation allows us time to choose our investors carefully.
The idea of institutional or corporate sponsorship is most attractive for us. CER could serve as an excellent customer magnet for an institution or business active in Central and Eastern Europe.
This is not an investment opportunity for someone expecting to see a return on his or her investment within 18 to 24 months. The Internet content business is a long-term proposition, just as all new publications are; online or offline, it takes years to turn a start-up publication into a money-spinner.
Still, I think we are in a better position than most.
Recently, I was in New York, attending the Online Journalism Awards, sponsored by Columbia University and the Online News Association. CER was a finalist in the category "General Excellence in Online Journalism," and someone pointed out to me that CER was unique among our fellow finalists (salon.com, thestreet.com, insure.com and CNET News.com). We were the only finalist in that category—and, I daresay, in any category—that wasn't burning through hundreds of thousands if not millions every month.
Our budget is only a fraction of theirs, and yet, here we all were on the same podium. Quite clearly, we are doing something right.
Now is the time for CER to secure modest investment and expand its operations. We are a top site for news and information in Central and Eastern Europe, and we are recognised for top-quality journalism worldwide. That we've accomplished for pennies; we could take it much farther if we had the dollars.
Interested? Feel free to contact me.
Andrew Stroehlein, Editor-in-Chief, Central Europe Review