At one time The Budapest Times and its sister paper, Budapester Zeitung, were financed on a fully commercial basis, through real estate companies, car dealerships and restaurants etc. taking out paid advertisements. That form of revenue, however, dried up almost completely within a few months after the global economic crisis hit in autumn 2008, and there is still no sign of when it will recover.
Adapting to the crisis
The fact that both our newspapers still exist is because we managed to change our business completely within a short period of time. Although subscription revenues for our newspapers have increased thanks to their popularity, financing has shifted increasingly towards sponsoring (companies that do not necessarily need to advertise paying for their logo to appear in the newspaper or buying subscriptions that are sent to educational institutions, for example). Today, more than half of our costs are covered by funds from sponsors. There is no shame in that – theatres, museums and concert halls have a similar business model.
Serving your interests
One of our sponsors’ main motivations is to keep alive the last remaining German-language and English-language weeklies in Hungary as a valued part of the expat infrastructure, ensuring expats can still read about events in Hungary in their own language with coverage that is tailored to expats’ interests. Another reason is contributing to press freedom and the diversity of the media: an increasingly important issue today.
So far so good. Unfortunately, despite all our efforts to appeal to the expat community, in the past few years we have largely only been successful in persuading companies with a German-speaking background such as Audi, BASF, Bosch, E.ON, ELMÛ, Siemens, UNIQA and a number of others to support this part of the foreign-language infrastructure. The reluctance of non-German-speaking investors to support the continued existence of the newspapers has led to the unfair and unbalanced situation where German-speaking sponsors are paying for the reading pleasure of the English-speaking community.
Without such cross-financing, The Budapest Times would no longer exist. This is not a sustainable situation, in my view, as it creates enormous pressure by permanently pulling resources from Budapester Zeitung. Every community should finance its own infrastructure. For that reason I ask you to examine whether there is any room in the marketing, PR or CSR budgets of your organisation to enter into cooperation with our publishing company. That could mean an image advertisement, a product advertisement, a job advertisement or simply a logo presence. Taking out subscriptions for your organisation or to support the foreign-language teaching of a Hungarian education institute would also be a great help to us.
Indeed, we often find a sympathetic ear when speaking to expat managers who then go to bat for us, but end up hitting a brick wall when the process filters down through the ranks. For example, we invested a large amount of time in agreeing to an ongoing ad deal with a British multinational. The manager left the work to the marketing/PR department. Months later the deal died because the firm with the contract to make their ads could not do it in English, and neither the company itself which wished to advertise nor we were allowed to make the ads either. I’m sure you all have similar stories you can tell.
Since The Budapest Times was established almost ten years ago, we have proven ourselves to be a responsible and generous partner when it comes to giving publicity to charitable campaigns and institutions. At the same time, we maintain a sharp focus on both news and events relevant to the English-speaking community, whether English is your mother tongue or a bridging language. And we filter through the garbage. News you can find on the web, for example, is often inaccurate, misses the point, lacks relevant context, selectively excludes facts, is mistranslated or is downright biased.
Take an interest in your own interest
We draw attention to issues in everyday Hungarian life that concern expats and help to achieve change for the better by means of exposure. Your concerns – such as the treatment of foreign firms, diplomatic relations and what to do when you are not at work – are also our concerns. That will remain the case in the future. With our modest means, we will gladly continue to contribute to making life in Hungary smoother and more pleasant, for both expats and native Hungarians, alike.
However, we can only help if we are still around.
If you see any possibility to contribute, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or Managing Editor Allan Boyko at email@example.com (+36-1) 30 645-9103. I also welcome your comments and thoughts.