This week, my reading recommendations are mostly about the business side (broadly speaking) of online news. And then there is also a powerful piece about how mobile media transforms the way we are together. Enjoy.
This week (and the week before), much of the discussion has been about ad blocking. Since Apple rolled out it iOS 9 operating system, audiences have been able to block ads in web browsers on Apple devices, so ad blocking might soon become mainstream. This is a potential tipping point for the news industry since large parts of the digital revenues might vanish into thin air, making the already fragile business model of online news shake even more.
For this reason, I have dedicated this week’s round-up of what I think you should read next to ad blocking. Here goes, my reading recommendations for this week.
My list of reading recommendations this week, of course, mirrors the discussion about digital journalism’s role in journalism education that I have had the pleasure of taking part in. Most of it is in Danish, but international readers may get something from my blog post. Apart from that, there are pieces that relate to different aspects of current developments within journalism and its fringes – and a terrifically-written longform article about Donald Trump (one that actually got him in trouble at the GOP debate on CNN Wednesday). Enjoy.
What is the role of digital journalism in journalism education?
It is an important question, and it is one that I have discussed and thought about more than usually since yesterday. The occasion is an opinion piece by Signe Okkels on Journalisten.dk (the trade journal for Danish journalists) where she critiques the journalism study programs in Denmark for not taking the digital dimension serious even though the digital is probably here to stay. Okkels studied journalism at Roskilde University and her point of comparison is a nine-months program at University of Southern California. Her conclusion:
“The level of Danish journalism education must simply be improved, and that calls for a different prioritization of and attitude toward digital journalism.” (translated by me)
It would be easy to just dismiss the critique as anecdotal (“well, that’s just her experience”) and off the mark (what does Okkels know about the other journalism educations in Denmark, including the one I work at?). But I actually think that, to some degree, she has a point – and her piece certainly struck a chord among people in the news industry:
The people tweeting here are obviously ones who pay more attention to the digital and will likely place more emphasis on it than your average editor or journalist (for one thing, they discuss this matter on Twitter…). But that does not disqualify their points of view. On the contrary: they work with the tensions and conflicts that surround the digital in newsrooms on an everyday basis. They know what this is about. For that reason alone, it would be wrong for journalism educators to just discard Okkels’ piece.
I agree with much of what Okkels and her tweeting supporters say. At the journalism study programs, we can do better in integrating digital with everything we do. Or rather, we should stop treating digital as a distinct category and instead teach our students to work with writing, audio, and visuals across all media. Instead of teaching “television and radio”, we should teach “moving images and sound”. We should teach our students about emerging business models, social media skills, WordPress, scraping, and the basic principles of coding as integral parts of the existing curriculum. In many instances, we should get rid of the “digital” prefix – nobody talks about “analogue” or “electronic” journalism, right?
But the thing is – and this is where I respectfully disagree with Okkels’ assessment of current journalism education in Denmark – that we already do much of this. At least at the Centre for Journalism at SDU where I work; what the other institutions do, I cannot speak for. We do not do it all the time, and we do not do it everywhere. But in our “old” MA program, my “J-Lab” course on media innovation and concept development in a transformed media environment is now mandatory. And on the new MA program, which just started on September 1, digital is one of the three cornerstones: the students must make their own websites and publish on it, they learn to write and produce audio and video for whatever platform they choose, and they will spend half a year on a “digital project” in collaboration with media organizations. It is our explicit ambition that these students excel at being digital journalists when they graduate.
I do not mean to be self-congratulatory, because we are not there (wherever that may be) yet. Could we move faster? Yes. Should we move faster? Yes, I think so. Should we be more agile and adapt to changes faster than we do? Yes, of course.
It is one thing that universities are slow organizations with above-average institutional inertia. But Magnus Bjerg from Danish TV 2 raises an important issue in his tweet as does Pernille Holbøll from free daily MetroXpress: not very many students are actually all that interested in the digital. Their observation corresponds with my own experiences from teaching our students and what I hear from colleagues on other Danish universities. Sure, digital is fine and all, but what really matters is getting your byline on the front-page of the printed newspaper or in the evening news. In that context, it is sometimes uphill for educators who actually want to push things in a digital direction (but we can, of course, be better – I am not making excuses). That is also a serious challenge for the news organizations now and in years to come, no doubt about that.
I cannot help thinking that all of this connects somehow to another issue that journalism education at universities must deal with: the theory vs. practice issue. While most professors, themselves socialized in an academic system, are interested in giving their students as much knowledge as possible, most students are interested in practicing journalism and learning the tricks of the trade. They do, after all, study journalism in order to become journalists.
But as Kurt Lewin put it, “There is nothing so practical as a good theory.” A theoretical perspective can inform practice and distinguish the reflexive practitioner from the one who is just doing a job. I strongly believe that in times of rapid and profound contingency changes, practitioners are better off with more theoretical knowledge, not less. And I do not necessarily see a conflict between the theory and practice when they can be mutually informing.
You can, with all due respect, always learn to make a timeline with Timeline.js and embed it on your site, but seeing through the communicative structures of the hybrid media system is not necessarily something you can just do just as good without being familiar with Chadwick’s scholarship.
One example (anecdotal, I am afraid): in most of my under-graduate courses, I at some point present Habermas’ theory of the public sphere to the students. Even though I am quite explicit about my reasons for doing so, I cannot escape the feeling that only the smartest of the students actually grasp why this is important (it proposes one very influential framework for understanding journalism’s raison-d’être), and even they would rather be out there interviewing sources for their next piece of journalism… It will sometimes (often?) be years, before they get the “oh, that’s what he was talking about” moment.
The challenge is that theory is abstract, insights come slowly, and this type of knowledge often exists as a reservoir of understandings that help inform what one does but not always in an explicit or obvious way. Practical skills are concrete, they can be acquired on a basic level fast(er), and they are part of everyday professional life. I understand why students (and their employers-to-be) do not always appreciate the need for and relevance of theory here and now when they could improve their practical skills. (By the way, the tension is of course not new. In 1958, it was what kept the conflict going between Doris Day and Clark Gable in the movie Teacher’s Pet.)
But I think it will be a slippery slope to just focus more on the practical skills, even though they are in high demand, at the expense of the theoretical dimension. Rather, I think we need to re-calibrate the journalism study programs in line with what I have mentioned above. I think we are doing the right thing with our new MA program. And I think we as researchers and educators at journalism study programs could be better in articulating why theoretical approaches can be useful for the students and the news industry. American scholars like NikkiUsher and Mark Coddington are extremely good at this; we can learn from them.
The critique from Okkels and others has two dimensions, one that has to do with what we do (where I actually think we might be a little more digital than we are given credit for) and one that has to do with our pace of adapting (where I think we could be better). Within the structural framework of universities, we – and again, I cannot speak for other than myself and my closest colleagues – try to work with these issues in a way that does not compromise scholarly quality; as C.W. Anderson has argued, one of the unique features of academia is that we actually have time and are expected to think hard about our objects of study, which takes a lot of time. Sometimes the slow approach is the best way to generate new insight, even though it obviously clashes with rapid and radical transformations that take place here and now. I do not mention this as an excuse, rather as an explanation. And it does not exempt us from being digital enough in our teaching. We can do more in that area.
If I should wish for something in return, it would be that our students embrace the digital more than they do today. It is, in all likelihood, where many of them will spend their entire career, but it is all too rare that a critique such as Okkels’ is put forth.
Full disclosure: The Danish community of journalism educators is small, and the circle of people teaching and researching digital journalism is even smaller. For this reason, I know the people Okkels critiques and even consider many of them good friends. I hope this has not clouded my judgment on this matter.
Update, September 15, 2015: The discussion has continued today, and I have added the tweet by Pernille Holbøll above. Furthermore, Filip Wallberg and Mads-Jakob Vad Kristensen have contributed to the discussion on their respective blogs; their basic argument is that starting one’s own medium should be mandatory for all journalism students.
This week, we started a new study program at the Centre for Journalism, and since I am the Head of Studies of it, I have not had much time for extra-curricular, non-professional reading this week. That said, here are the best articles I did read – and if you only have time for one of them, I recommend that you read the top one:
It has been a busy week in the world of digital media where especially the leak of user data from Ashley Madison and its implications for privacy and the horrifying shooting of two WDBJ journalists on live television gained much attention.
But as this week’s list of my recommended readings shows, many other noteworthy discussions took place, and I in particular found a number of articles on the digital media economy interesting – plus, we learned why “No Diggity” by Blackstreet is a timeless song…
Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of being granted a visiting fellowship at the Centre for Research on Media Innovations (CeRMI) at Oslo University. I have touched upon this in an earlier blog post, and here is finally a proper post about the stay and the centre. The stay was in April this year (and lasted for about three weeks), so the account is in retrospect.
Jumping to the conclusion, I recommend everyone working within the field of media innovations to apply for the fellowship in the future. Not only is it an excellent opportunity in terms of scholarly development and inspiring discussions with some truly brilliant people – it is also a very interesting department with an ambitious research agenda that you get the chance to be part of. I would do it again in a heartbeat if I had the chance.
The Centre for Research on Media Innovations is located at the Department of Media and Communication at Oslo University and is headed by Charles Ess, whom one of his former colleagues at Aarhus University once (rightfully) characterized as “just about the kindest man on the planet.” The centre “explores how changing technologies and changing modes of usage and engagement with media bring about media innovation and transformation of the media sector”, and it is populated with some of the best within that field; be warned, you never feel like the smartest guy in the room there.
Every year, the centre welcomes a visiting fellow, and I was the first to come under this visitors program.
I applied for a number of reasons: many Norwegian media organizations are ahead of Danish ones I research in terms of adapting to the digital age, and I wanted to talk to them; I wanted to have the time and occasion to meet with some of the individuals who are leading within my research fields; and – perhaps most importantly – I simply wanted to be part of this centre, which does research in the front line of my field. Plus I think Oslo is a great city.
As a visiting fellow, you participate in the everyday of the centre and the department. You discuss ideas over the coffee machine, you struggle with connecting to the printers. You get your own desk in a large office for guest researchers as well as privileges to the university library. What you give in return is (as a minimum) a presentation at a research seminar.
I experienced everyone as extremely welcoming and interested in talking about my research and ways to advance it. A number of future collaborations were established, and I am confident more will follow. I met with people whose company I enjoy immensely, and who I will want to keep in contact with for years to come. And I got feedback that will no doubt shape and improve much of the work I am doing now and onwards.
The visiting fellowship is certainly something you should consider if you work within this field. However, if – for some peculiar reason – you do not want to go to Oslo for a period of time, be sure to consider some of the other activities of the Centre for Research on Media Innovations. For the centre also publishes the Journal of Media Innovations (which currently has a call for papers for a special issue on “Social Media Use and Innovations” out) and co-organizes the annual International Symposium on Media Innovations. Both are great venues for the continued conversation on how innovations and developments in media and technology influence culture and society.
Back from the NordMedia 2015 conference in Copenhagen. It is the biannual media researcher conference for the Nordic countries (in 2013, it was in Oslo), and this time (as in Oslo) it was a very good experience. Congratulations to my former colleagues at the Department for Media, Cognition and Communication at the University of Copenhagen for successfully organizing the conference – in particular, I applaud the efforts of Anne Jerslev and Christa Lykke Christensen, who served as chairs of the organizing committee.
On the conference, I presented two of the projects I am currently working on.
First, I had organized a panel on “Journalism and Social Media”, where Ulrika Hedman (Gothenburg University), Anders Olof Larsson and Christian Christensen (Oslo University and Stockholm University, respectively), and I presented our research on, well, journalism and social media. While the papers by Ulrika and Anders/Christian were empirical pieces with analyses of large data sets, my own paper was of a rather theoretical character, discussing the relationship between the private, the personal, and the professional on journalists’ social media profiles. It was very much a work-in-progress, but I expect it to be a finished article ready for submission to a journal later this year.
I know Anders from my visiting fellowship at Oslo University earlier this year, and Ulrika and I have kept on online conversation going for the last couple of years since our research interest into social media journalism are very closely connected (but for some peculiar reason we had not actually met in persons before the NordMedia conference – very nice to finally do so). For me, it was quite a “dream team” of scholars that participated in the panel, and the presentations certainly met my high expectations. All in all, I think the panel was a success – not least thanks to the insightful questions and smart comments from the audiences.
As social media have proliferated extensively over recent years, they now play an increasingly important part in journalistic practices and in the workings of news organizations. Having a de-centralized and distributed character, social media constitute a very different communicative structure than traditional mass media, which are built upon the logic of one-to-many communication. Hermida (2014), for example, identifies Twitter as an “ambient news network” because of the constant and multi-directional exchange of information, journalism, opinions, and social intelligence on the social medium. Furthermore, journalists are not the only ones on social media conducting journalism, and not all activities performed by journalists on social media are of a journalistic nature.
So, the established order of journalism is challenged since social media induce alternative, more personalized, ways of expressions and flows of public communication into the workings of the mass media system. The questions, then, are how actors, organizations, and institutions rooted in the “old” media system accommodate to the “new” media platforms, and how their routines and practices change because of them.
The panel brings together researchers from Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. It consists of three papers, which complement each other in approaching the how social media influence journalism and the ways news media and news workers work from different perspectives (participatory practices, “social media logics”, sociological role theory) and with different methodological frameworks (content analyses, case studies). Together, they address the multi-facetted responses to the challenges brought about by social media and the heterogeneous research that currently maps these developments.
I almost always find it enjoyable to attend conferences and present my work. But the NordMedia conferences are something special because they constitute an opportunity to see all the good colleagues from the Nordic countries – many of whom I have know throughout most of my academic career and almost consider my “research family“. So I am looking forward to the 2017 conference in Tampere, Finland.
Lee Humphrey’s excellent key note speak on “The Qualified Self” where she, among other things, argued that the sociality and (perceived) self-indulgence of social media is nothing new but rather goes back to the format of the diary in the 19th century. (I unfortunately missed Klaus Bruhn Jensen’s keynote on meta-communication.)
The planning of future collaborations with colleagues in Denmark and abroad. One of the strengths of the NordMedia setup is that it facilitates and encourages international comparative work, and after my meetings with some amazingly smart people, there are interesting projects in the pipeline.
Being elected chair of the Journalism Studies division of NordMedia.
In case you missed it, a research article of mine was recently published in Journalism Practice. The article is part of a special issue on “Cultural Journalism and the Media Reporting of Culture”, which is edited by my good colleagues Nete Nørgaard Kristensen and Unni From. It is, I think, an important special issue because the community of journalism scholars has tended to neglect research in journalism on arts and culture and instead focus on political journalism (not that political journalism is not important – it most certainly is). In an international context, this special issue is one of the first publications on the subject, and it will likely be a standard reference or go-to source for students, researchers, and practitioners alike in years to come.
The special issue will be out in hard copy in December, but the articles are already published online. And so, as a service and in the spirit of getting good research out there sooner rather than later, I have taken the liberty to put together an improvised table of contents here with links to the articles:
Because of the set-up at the publisher, people not employed by research organizations probably will not have free access to the articles (except of, perhaps, through public libraries); should you have trouble with accessing the articles, contact the authors directly and they will likely be happy to provide you with pre-print versions of their articles.
It has been a busy summer in terms of publications as two articles, which I have worked on for quite some time, have finally been published and I have spent a lot of time writing my Danish-language textbook on online journalism (due to serious sickness, however, the actual finishing of the book manuscript is again postponed).
Integrating perspectives from research into cultural and post-industrial journalism, this article presents a pilot study of websites with reviews of arts and culture conducted by amateurs. Such websites constitute a popular space for cultural criticism, and one that challenges traditional hierarchies within journalism. The article maps which Danish websites conduct arts and culture reviews, asks what features these websites have that facilitate public discourse, and measures the actual discussion on the websites. While academic diagnoses of the state of the online public sphere have generally been discouraging, this article argues that this is partly due to a strong focus on politics rather than on culture and illustrates how the cultural public sphere of online reviews constitutes a heterogeneous space for a public discussion about arts and culture. Furthermore, it shows that some amateur reviewers have highly specialized knowledge of culture and, on that basis, argues that the emergence of this type of critic might represent a qualitative strengthening of cultural criticism.
In the article, we present a study of audiences’ attitudes toward and willingness to pay the subscription, which Danish omnibus newspaper Politiken launched on its news website politiken.dk in May, 2013.
Here’s the abstract:
After more than a decade of giving online news away for free, legacy newspaper organisations in many Western countries have recently begun charging audiences for access to online journalistic content. Focusing empirically on a Danish case, this article uses one survey (n = 1054) and two focus groups to examine audiences’ attitudes towards paying for online news. The analysis suggests that audiences’ general principles regarding paying for online news influence their willingness to pay more than the size of the subscription fee. Furthermore, the analysis shows that younger audiences’ willingness to pay increases if they can combine content from different news providers and thereby individualise their news products. The latter in particular can have practical implications as it presents a way forward for economically challenged legacy newspaper organisations, but it might also compromise the democratic ideals of journalism.
The article is, ironically, published behind a paywall, but I can send you an early version upon request.
* Students often do a lot of good work in their master theses, and it is in the final instance paid for by the tax payers (through the Danish system of free access to higher education) who can also use it for something, but it rarely reaches a larger audience than the people who have an obligation to read it – the author, the examiners, and the mothers or partners who cannot say no to proof-reading the final copy. With this article, I am happy to have helped some of the high-quality student-conducted research get out to the public.
As I wrote last week, I will try my best to post every Friday a list with links to the best things I have read online during the week (or at least the things that I enjoyed reading, even if I disagree with them). Pressing “publish” in a moment, I continue to fulfill that ambition, and I hope my lists will be useful for other than myself as well. As always, the topics are what interests me – but primarily, it has to do with media, all things digital, and current affairs. And as always, the articles are not necessarily published within this week (there is some old stuff on the list below).
This post is somewhat an experiment for me and (hopefully) the first in a long series. It is more an outline of good intentions than the fulfillment of them – that will (hopefully, if I am persistent enough) come down the line.
The thing is, I read a lot online, but then later I forget where it was that I read that great article about topic X… In order to help myself remember and keep track of the great resources out there, my aim onwards is to round up on a weekly basis the best online readings from the last week. This might also be of interest for other than myself, which is why I put it on my blog instead of just in a notebook, and as I will post it on Fridays, this could be your list of what to read during the weekend.
The articles are about what interests me (and hopefully also the people who read this blog): all things digital, the news media, journalism, research, innovation, technology, society, etc. There are no fixed categories, but these topic tend to be what constitute my reading diet. On some weeks, the list will be short or even close to non-existing, on some it will be long. And do also note that the articles on the list may not have been published the week I mention them – but that will have been the week I read them, and I still think they are worth reading.
So, here it is, my roundup of the best things I have read online this week (in no particular order):
My paper ”Media Policy Responses to the Convergence of News Media Sectors in Denmark” was part of a 13-paper panel on cultural policy organized by Kate Mattocks (City University London) and Lisa Marx (University of Geneva). Mattocks and Marx did a very good job in putting this panel together, and I think everybody learned something from the presentations and discussions.
The most important discussion arose after the section where I presented (but not because of me, I must emphasize!). Here, Clive Gray from Warwick University served as discussant, and instead of offering feedback on the presented papers (which is the normal approach in that situation), he took one step back and asked why all the papers were studies that explored some small instance of cultural policy in some concrete setting instead of asking larger questions about what cultural policy is for, what it is in the first place, and what is actually at stake in the contexts of the studies. I cannot remember the exact way he phrased his critique, but I think it is fair to say that he would have preferred more work that offered critical reflection on these questions than the papers in the panel had done so far.
Gray is right that we might be prone to focus more on “small” empirical studies, where we subject some piece of policy to intense scrutiny, and thereby miss the bigger picture – namely the question about what cultural policy really is, what its consequences are, and how different actors with different interests use the very concept of culture in very different ways. “All uses of the concept of culture can be both attacked and defended”, Gray asserted in his own presentation; cultural policy is a contested area where opposing views and interests compete for discursive hegemony as well as practical influence.
I know Gray intended to be provocative and kickstart an important discussion, so I will just put it out there for the record that while I agree with his overall point, I also think that we should avoid neglecting the value of empirical studies of even very small cases; the larger discussion about “culture” is important, but if we do not have a firm grounding in empirical data and interpretations of them, we risk disconnecting the normative discussion from the facts. But I do not disagree with Gray that we need more critical thinking about the very idea of culture and the implications of using that concept in the ways that we do (Raymond Williams famously called culture “one of the two or three most complicated words in the English language“).
What I think would be a most interesting direction to move forward, however, would be to apply Gray’s ambition of addressing the bigger questions to the very tendency of smaller studies.
Rather than lament the absence of papers that asks grand questions about what culture and what cultural policy is, we should ask why 12 in 13 papers in the panel was of an empirical nature. Is it because it is considered easier to do empirical work than to develop theory? Is it because the “publish or perish” paradigm of higher education organizations grants primacy to this type of academic activity, which is often faster to do and can result in more journal articles (which, again, is particularly important for junior scholars who do not yet have tenure)? Is it because we cannot all think the big thoughts?
And is it really a bad thing – or is it necessary for the theoretical development of the field to have these empirical studies to rest upon?
So, while we look forward to the 3rd International Conference on Public Policy in 2017, it might be fruitful to start theorizing not only culture and cultural policy but also the current tendencies in cultural policy research.
These weeks have been very good in terms of getting funding for future research.
First, I am part of a research project called “From Ivory Tower to Twitter: Rethinking the Cultural Critic in Contemporary Media Culture“, which succeeded in landing 6.2 m DKK from the Danish Council for Independent Research. The collaborative project is headed by Nete Nørgaard Kristensen from the University of Copenhagen and aims at exploring current changes and transformations in the practice, authority, and status of cultural criticism and critics. It is a project, I and some of the other participants have been working on for a couple of years, actually, in different constellations (e.g., in the international research network Cultural Journalism in the Nordic Countries) and in connection with a coming special issue of Journalism Practice (more on that in a later post), but this large grant is a game-changer in terms of pushing this research agenda forward.
In addition to Kristensen and myself, the research group consists of Unni From (Aarhus University), Helle Kannik Haastrup (University of Copenhagen), Erik Svendsen (Roskilde University), Troels Østergaard (The Danish School for Media and Journalism), and one PhD fellow.
Both of the projects deal with subject matters, which are already on my research agenda, and so the new funding does not fundamentally change my priorities. What they do is that they improve the working conditions and offer new possibilities – and they also allow me to go back to Oslo for an extended period of time, which was most rewarding for me last time.
So, happy times and bright outlooks. Have a nice summer, everyone.
As a part of the visit, I was interviewed on Twitter about my research yesterday. (The interview was conducted by the centre’s official Twitter profile but with Ida Karine Gullvik at the keyboard.) Here, I have put together the whole interview so it can be read as one conversation rather than a number of scattered tweets.
Enjoy – and join the conversation.
Once again it is time for the CerMI twitter interview! This time with esteemed fellow @AskeKammer
So, here it my list of 15 people on Twitter, every (Danish) journalism student should follow – either because they might know where the profession and the media business is heading or simply because they often say something meaningful of interest:
Furthermore, parts of the theoretical introduction is commissioned as a book chapter for publication next year. I’ll post more on that here on the blog later.
If you want the printed-book version, it is for sale at Publikom at the price of 172.50 DKK (approx. 32 Euros/31 USD). For some reason, they haven’t added the dissertation to their online catalogue even though they sell it, so you’ll have to send them en email.
A piece of good news from the publications department: my new research article “Online news: between private enterprise and public subsidy” has just been published by the leading academic journal Media, Culture & Society. The article is co-authored together with Stig Hjarvard from the University of Copenhagen and examines the current economical state of the Danish press in light of recent developments with digital business models and changes subsidy frameworks and is part of a special section (edited by Philip Schlesinger and Alex Benchimol from the University of Glasgow) on media systems in small nations.
Here’s the abstract:
The Nordic countries’ media systems are exemplary of the democratic corporatist model, and newspapers have occupied a very prominent position in the political public sphere supported by wide circulation and a political will to subsidize the press and still keep an arm’s length distance. During past decades, these features have come under pressure due to – among other things – the spread of digital media. In this article, we explore two current structural economic challenges to legacy newspaper organizations in Denmark. The first challenge regards the implementation of subscription on news websites since 2013. The second challenge concerns the revision of the Danish press subsidy law in 2013–2014. The introduction of a ‘platform neutral’ subsidy law could be interpreted as a first step toward rethinking the entire press subsidies system. Taken together, these developments pose serious challenges to the printed press: on the one hand, no viable business model seems ready to replace the old one; on the other hand, a reorientation of the regulatory system, which subsidizes the press, seems under way. Despite the global nature of ongoing transformation (digitalization and commercialization), national particularities continue to influence developments and reflect continued support for the democratic corporatist model.
The article is published behind a paywall, but I can send you an early version upon request.
This week, a superstar toured the Danish media organizations: Jimmy Maymann, the CEO of the Huffington Post. I had the privilege of attending his talk at the Centre for Journalism at the University of Southern Denmark (where I work) and of spending nearly one hour in an exclusive conversation with him and Gerd May and Filip Wallberg from Fynske Medier (an organization I’m currently researching).
Maymann, who is born and raised in Denmark, has a convincing case for what news organizations should do in order to make it in the digital age. While most of the news industry struggles (some even for survival), the Huffington Post thrives. The company currently has 10 national editions outside of the US, has more than 100 million unique visitors per a month, and is making money. In 2012, the Huffington Post was the first online-only medium to win a Pulitzer Prize.
From my point of view, there are a couple of reasons why Huffington Post performs extremely well.
They use data – a lot. It’s not that they only produce the journalism the readers want, such as slideshows of puppies and celebrities in awkward situations, but the presentation and the timing of the content is highly informed by user metrics. All journalists have dashboards to follow how their stories perform and are expected to use that information. Headlines are tweaked through A/B testing (or actually rather A/B/C/D/E/… testing).
They understand digital media. And have (so far successfully) thrown a large part of their chips into the baskets of social media, video, and mobile, and they acknowledge the importance of search-engine optimization even of the micro-level of the individual journalist’s everyday work.
They have momentum. They are expanding internationally (and enter the Indian market later this month). The Huffington Post is one of the places to be in the media business right now, so they are able to attract the best journalists whose mindset match the organization’s.
They get a lot of high-quality content for free. According to Maymann, the Huffington Post currently have around 80,000 blogs where, for example, experts and politicians contribute with content. That’s a very good base for generating traffic.
They “fail fast”. In its organizational mindset, the Huffington Post is intent on testing things – and that means that sometimes, things don’t work as well as expected. What the Huffington Post does right here is to accept such failure quickly, adapt to it, and move forward with that lesson learnt in the organization.
During the first two days of his visit in Denmark, Maymann had (recounting from my memory) at least six or seven professional engagements where he would talk about the success of the Huffington Post. In one sense, he’s an evangelist in a media business under pressure. ‘Evangelist’ comes from the Latin word ‘euangelion’, which means ‘good news’, and so an evangelist is, in the original meaning of the word, a bringer of good news.
If anything, Jimmy Maymann is considered by the Danish media a bringer of good news. He represents the hope that the current demise of media organizations can be turned around and that they can succeed. This perception of him – combined with the general tendency of Danes being interested in other Danes who have made it big abroad – means that Danish media have had a lot of interviews with Maymann on the news business, career, and entrepreneurship.
Ekstra Bladet uden for citat – a recent documentary about Danish tabloid Ekstra Bladet – illustrates just how much influence Maymann (direct or indirect, willingly or not) has on the Danish media business.
Like all other print newspapers, Ekstra Bladet does not find itself in a good situation these years, and it’s struggeling to find out what to do. However, the documentary shows, on the basis of more or less only a one-hour meeting with Maymann (where he lays out the reasons for the success of the Huffington Post), editor-in-chief Poul Madsen and a couple of colleagues in the newspaper’s top management quickly decided that much of what Huffington Post does should also be the way forward for the newspaper. Video, mobile, and social media become central components in the new way of doing things. So strong is the belief in Maymann’s approach – or the willingness to believe – that one inspirational meeting was enough.
This anecdote is not unique to Ekstra Bladet. More or less every Danish media organization wants a piece of the Huffington Post and Maymann, of learning what they do.
What Ekstra Bladet and other Danish legacy media must remember is, however, that they are not in a position to just copy-paste the Huffington Post’s way of doing things. They operate in another market with a quite small language community, the employment and union structure and tradition in the Danish labor market is radically different, and – most importantly – they cannot just import the necessary mindset and culture from another organization.
There is no quick fix to the challenges currently facing the news industry, no matter how convincing the bringer of the good news is.
Disclaimer: I have not yet watched Ekstra Bladet uden for citat myself but have had this sequence retold by several people.
Blendle is a digital “magazine stand” where users can buy individual articles from Dutch newspapers and magazines through a micro-payment program. It’s often referred to as the “iTunes for News” as you pay for what you actually read. The price per article is between 0.10 and 0.80 Euros. Launched in April 2014, Blendle has grown rapidly and currently has approximately 130,000 registered users, 20 percent of whom convert to paying users (you get free access to articles for 2.50 Euros when you sign up).
The blogpost-like announcement on Blendle.nl frames The New York Times and Axel Springer buying their way into Blendle as a way of broadening the start-up’s scope of operation internationally – and today, you can even sign up for news when you can become a customer (“We can notify you when we’re coming to your country”). This dimension is, obviously, a most important part of the story.
But I think there’s more to the acquisition than just that.
What neither The New York Times, nor Axel Springer have (to the best of my knowledge) is a micro-payment program. They have things in store for people who wants to subscribe to their journalistic products online – but they don’t have an offer for the occasional reader who is just interested in reading only one or two articles beyond what is allowed in metered models and similar arrangements. Buying parts of Blendle – including its knowledge of what works and their functional systems – might be a step towards expanding the giants’ online operations in that direction and reaching out to this kind of audiences, who are more interested in noncommittal single copy sales than in the binding relationship of subscriptions.
Update October 27, 2014: In the discussion that followed on Twitter after me publishing this post, a number of good points and clarifications emerged:
1) Claes Holtzmann asked whether The New York Times and Axel Springer’s new-found belief in micro-payment wouldn’t jeopardize their use of the metered model. He is, of course, right. If The New York Times, for example, gets full steam ahead into micro-payments, it will have a hard time maintaining its current (functioning) subscription model. My point, however, is not that it will adopt micro-payment in a larger scale – rather that it might also offer micro-payment options to some extent. For example, the large archive of the 163-years old newspaper probably contains stuff that it will be able to monetize this way. That would be a sort of “long tail” approach. And it’s important to remember, that things don’t have to be old to be part of the long tail; on the contrary, large news organizations can use it as a strategy to get a little (which is better than no) return-of-investment on articles with only a little readership.
2) Mads-Jakob Vad Kristensen correctly pointed out that this was also about The New York Times and Axel Springer buying access to Blendle’s knowledge about consumption patterns of news. He, too, is of course right. I should have mentioned that in my original post – but instead of rewriting it, I’ll just direct everyone to Mads’ own blog-post “Blendle belønner læsere af dårlig journalistik” (it’s in Danish). He writes it better.
3) Søren Pedersen noted that the “Blendle model” cannot possibly generate large revenues to publishers. I think the jury is still out on that one (though there can be no discussion that large audiences are needed), so I’ll just mention that of the revenues generated through Blendle, the original publishers get 70 percent, Blendle 30.
On Saturday, one more Danish news website went from free to fee and launched digital subscription. The news website in question is that of Kjerteminde Avis, which is a hyperlocal one that serves the public of Kerteminde in the north-eastern corner of the Funen (approximately 24,000 citizens).
The outlook for the subscription model bringing economic salvation to the pressured local could be better, but American research as well as the development i Northern Norway can lead to cautious optimism.
Being founded in 1879, Kjerteminde Avis has a long history. However, the last couple of years have been characterized by a transition to web-only publication, frequent shifts of editors-in-chief, and serious economic challenges; last year, the news website asked its readers for donations in order to make ends meet. The news website carries ads, predominantly from local businesses.
Donations and advertising, however, seem not to have been sufficient, and so the time has come for implementing proper digital subscription. In a situation of intense economic stress, that decision is understandable.
The news website aims at reaching 1,600 digital subscribers. That’s approximately seven percent of the population, and it’s an ambitious goal. Even if the news website succeeds in reaching that goal, however, it will be difficult to make the news production in Kerteminde economically viable. According to an earlier article in Kjerteminde Avis, the costs of producing the news website is a little more than 60,000 DKK per month. 1,600 subscribers and the current level of advertising will find only barely cover that expense. It will be an extremely tight budget where there’s no room for unexpected expenses or editorial development.
However, Kjerteminde Avis can find support in an experimental study from 2012. Here, Cook and Attari compared news users’ attitudes to the launch of digital subscription when told, respectively, that the subscription was justified in terms of building profits or of securing the survival of the news website in question. The results of the study suggest that users are more likely to accept digital subscription when the news medium communicates that it’s caused by questions of survival.
In its campaign leading up to the launch, Kjerteminde Avis has mentioned its dire economical situation repeatedly.
Furthermore, the small Funen news website can find comfort by looking north. In the Northern parts of Norway, hyperlocal thrive to such an extent that you can speak of a divided media marked.
On the one hand, there are the large newspapers published by national and transnational corporations. And on the other hand, there are small, hyperlocal newspapers that are only published to a very geographically limited audiences and that are owned locally. In their constellation, size, and target groups, these newspapers are very much like Kjerteminde Avis. In a study of this divided media market, Holand argues that the success of the hyperlocal newspapers is caused by support from the local community as well as public subsidies.
And that leads me to the reason why there could be hope for Kjerteminde Avis. The two sources for revenues used by the Norwegian newspapers are namely also the ones that it pursues: the support from local citizens (in terms of subscription) and local advertisers, and support through public subsidies. Later this Spring, the Danish Agency for Culture will announce who gets these subsidies in 2014, and Kjerteminde Avis has applied.
A few years ago, I interview the then editor-in-chief of Kjerteminde Avis for my PhD dissertation. He compared Kjerteminde Avis to the small village in the Asterix cartoons – the village that kept on fighting despite bad odds and a changing world order. The odds have not improved since then, and the hyperlocal news website might not get any more second chances it the economy does not get better (or at least stabilized) now. But as the research shows, that might not be impossible.
This post was written before the launch of the digital subscription on Saturday. However, Saturday afternoon, Kjerteminde Avis announced that it had reached 150 paying subscribers.
This post was originally published on Paywall Watch. A Danish-language and slightly edited version was published on MediaWatch today.
Today, in an article in MediaWatch, Politiken announced that it’s going to adjust its digital subscription. Politiken currently has a metered model with free access to 25 articles per month and two types of subscription: one that costs 44 DKK monthly, and one that costs 66 DKK and also includes membership of the Politiken Plus shopping program.
With the adjustment announced today, the 44 DKK option is closed so that all subscribers must pay 66 DKK per month. Furthermore, the number of free articles will be reduced (even though it remains unclear just how big that reduction will be). The MediaWatch article does not specify when the adjustment will take place.
It’s hardly surprising that Politiken adjusts their digital subscription model this way. There are two reasons for this.
First, the difference between what Politiken and Berlingske, their most comparable competitor online, offer has been quite large. They both use the metered model, but while Politiken would monthly give away 25 article before charging 44 DKK, Berlingske only give free access to 10 articles before charging 79 DKK. The fact that there has been almost as many digital subscribers to Berlingske (who charges more for quantitatively less) indicates that Politiken could actually tweak their subscription model to the organization’s own benefit.
Second, The New York Times did the same. According to people within the organization, Politiken largely based their digital subscription strategy on that of the NYT, and almost exactly one year after the NYT launched their paywall (on April 12, 2012 – it was launched in March, 2011), they downsized the number of free articles from 20 to ten. In short, the strategy was to initially test the market and make the customers used to paying for online news – and then adjust the subscription model to one that would be commercially viable for the news organization. This modus operandi has now been reenacted by Politiken, the difference being that the Danish news organization conducted the adjust only eight months after the initial implementation.
Today, Århus Stiftstidende announced that they had softened their hard paywall and switched their digital subscription to the metered model. In the future, users will have access to 10 articles free of charge each month before they are charged 79 DKK. This concrete subscription model is similar to the one used by Berlingske, the main news website of Berlingske Media that also owns Århus Stiftstidende.
That change was already announced last September and is not surprising as the news website has suffered severe traffic losses from the implementation of digital subscription back in November, 2012. Compared to October, 2012, the latest statistics from Danske Medier Research/Gemius (December, 2013) shows
a 62.7 percent drop in users (from 78,104 to 29,157),
a 71.1 percent drop in visits (from 575,402 to 166,153), and
a 72.4 percent drop in page views (from 2,754,062 to 760,804).
With such numbers, it’s hardly surprising that the hard paywall is now softened and replaced by the metered model. The question remains how free access – though limited – to content on the news website will affect traffic statistics.
It’s certainly a question I’ll return to later here on the blog; from a research perspective, Århus Stiftstidende how constitutes a most interesting opportunity for following and measuring in real-time the consequences of adjusting digital subscription.
These years, the news industry is in a transition period, moving away from the online business model based on offering news free of charge on their news websites. Instead, different subscription models are introduced across the board – on national as well as regional and local news websites. This transition is of most importance to the news industry as it is of vital economic importance for the news organizations that they manage to generate some sort of revenue from their online presence.
However, the knowledge of the consequences of this transition from free to fee is, at best, limited. There seems to be a lot of gut-feeling and guessing involved in the pricing of online news, and it is hard to pinpoint exactly what constitutes a reasonable number of subscribers. This paradox (between high importance and low knowledge) is at the core of my current research project on the digital business models of the press.
In connection with this project, I’ve now launched a new website called Paywall Watch. It will be a site for mapping and documenting the implementation of digital subscriptions on news websites, and my hope is that it will be a most useful resource for researchers, students, analysts, and practitioners within the news industry. The inspiration for the site is to websites is the online work conducted by Dr. Piet Bakker at his blogs Newspaper Innovation and Newspaper Statistics. On those sites, he continuously, meticulously, and thoroughly maps developments and statistics related to two quite specific areas – free dailies and newspaper readership, respectively. The ambition of Paywall Watch is to do the same, only with subscription models on news websites.
For now, the site will focus on Danish news websites only. It’s a question of resources, really, but hopefully it’ll expand its scope and have an international dimension. There is also a blog section which I expect to use down the line; but for now, my focus is on the mapping and documenting effort.
Update January 21, 2014: Two of the most important Danish sites with news on media and journalism have articles about Paywall Watch today. Click here for the articles on Journalisten.dk (actually a blog post written by me) and MediaWatch.
I’ve got a new post on Danish media site MediaWatch. It’s about how the most successful journalists build a personal brand that allows them to operate more freely than organizational actors are usually able to. Paraphrasing Mark Deuze, it mentions that their business model somewhat resembles that of music stars such as DJ Tiësto.
The post is in Danish and requires subscription. But exclusively for the readers of my blog, it’s also (as always) available here:
Journalister bliver i stigende grad løsttilknyttede, kreative medarbejdere. Det stiller krav til deres evne til at brande og kapitalisere sig selv, skriver Aske Kammer, adjunkt ved Center for Journalistik, SDU.
Journalister skal bygge deres egne brands og markedsføre sig selv på sociale medier. Det har vi hørt gentagne gange de seneste år. Nu understreger en aktuel sag fra de højere luftlag i den amerikanske mediebranche imidlertid, at der er tale om mere end blot en floskel.
Sagen har været relativt ubemærket i dansk sammenhæng men går i al sin enkelthed ud på, at den unge, amerikanske stjerne-skribent Ezra Klein efter sigende har truet med at forlade forlade The Washington Post. Her bestyrer han bloggen Wonkblog, som er en blanding af statistisk journalistik, analyse og holdningsbårne klummer, og som har særdeles gode besøgstal. Og så er han en gudsbenådet skribent – klar i mælet med en personlig stemme, skarp, kritisk, overvældende produktiv og har i skrivende stund 411.303 followers på Twitter.
Sagen er imidlertid den, at avisens ledelse efter sigende ikke har villet give Klein friere tøjler til at opbygge et nyt site med mere af det samme – men uden for Washington Posts ejerskab (avisen ejer Wonkblog). Kleins modtræk lader til at være, at han forlader avisen for selv at køre sitet, som han – vel at mærke – angiveligt allerede har sikret solid økonomisk polstring.
Der er, som mine forsigtige formuleringer også afslører, mange usikkerheder og ubekendte i historien. Men selv hvis detaljerne viser sig ikke at holde vand, cementerer den ikke desto mindre på en tendens – nemlig at succesfulde journalister i stigende grad udgør et personligt brand, der fanger (medie-)interesse.
I særlige tilfælde er dette brand af en sådan kaliber, at den enkelte journalist kan skabe sig en karriere uden for den enkelte organisation. Klein er et eksempel på denne type journalist. Den amerikanske statistiker og skribent Nate Silver er et andet og mindst lige så bemærkelsesværdigt
Silver er statistik-nørden, som ved det amerikanske præsidentvalg i 2012 korrekt forudsagde resultaterne i samtlige delstater på sin blog FiveThirtyEight på The New York Times netavis.
Denne forudsigelse sikrede Silver øjeblikkelig berømmelse, og bloggen, hvor den løbende blev opdateret og justeret under valgkampen, var et vigtigt økonomisk aktiv for avisen; ifølge en artikel i det anerkendte magasin New Republic var op til hver femte besøgende på The New York Times’ netavis lige inde omkring Silvers blog i dagene omkring Obamas valgsejr.
Silvers historie rummer en klar parallel til Kleins. Da The New York Times i 2013 ikke indvilligede i at tilføre Silver yderligere ressourcer, så han kunne udbygge FiveThirtyEight-bloggen, rykkede han nemlig teltpælene op og tog den med til sportskanalen ESPN, hvor han nu analyserer baseball og amerikanske valg. Det er et tab for The New York Times – men ikke nødvendigvis for Nate Silver.
Pointen er, at hans personlige journalistiske brand er af en sådan værdi, at det rimeligt uproblematisk kan klare sig uafhængigt af medieorganisationerne. Hvis mediet ikke vil lege med, afsluttes samarbejdet.
Brandets værdi opstår gennem en kombination af indholdsproduktion af høj kvalitet og en sans for personlig branding og forretning; da det eksempelvis stod klart, at Silvers forudsigelse var korrekt i alle delstater, tweetede han med en kæk bemærkning en henvisning til sin bog på Amazon, hvorefter salget steg med omtrent 850 pct.. Det vigtige er kvaliteten, men markedsføringen af den er medvirkende til at sikre en skare af læsere, som trofast følger den enkelte journalist.
Vi kender også tendensen fra Danmark, hvor en person som Rune Lykkeberg (kulturredaktør på Politiken, red.) vel nok er en af de skrivende journalister, der pt. har det stærkeste personlige brand.
Men også journalister som Line Holm Nielsen (Berlingske, red.) og Kaare Sørensen (Jyllands-Posten, red.)er gennem bogudgivelser, højt-profilerede artikler og en særdeles offensiv tilstedeværelse på især Twitter godt i gang med at opbygge et personligt varemærke, som rækker ud over henholdsvis Berlingske og Jyllands-Posten.
Tendensen til, at journalister skaber deres eget brand er imidlertid ikke blot udsprunget af personlige ambitioner og de nye teknologiske muligheder for at positionere sig (eller score kassen). Den er også et udtryk for en tilpasning til strukturelle forandringer i mediebranchen.
Her er midlertidige ansættelser og projektansættelser blevet normen i et i stigende grad usikkert arbejdsmarked, hvor grænserne for, hvem der arbejder journalistisk, også er under udviskning. I et sådant arbejdsmarked er personlig branding og profilering en naturlig reaktion, ligesom det at være involveret i mange projekter på én gang er det.
Det har fået den hollandske medieforsker Mark Deuze til at bruge DJ Tiësto som et billede på den måde, journalister bør arbejde for at sikre sig en plads i fremtidens mediebranche.
Den hollandske dj tjener nemlig ikke kun til dagen og vejen gennem sin musik. Tværtimod har han gennem en stor og differentieret produktion (musik, koncerter, merchandise, etc.) og en flittig tilstedeværelse på eksempelvis sociale medier positioneret sig som en vigtig del af et netværk, hvor en stor gruppe mennesker er interesserede i det, han laver. Han har så at sige både skabt en butik og kunder til selvsamme butik.
Hvis vi drager en paralle til journalistisk arbejde, så handler det altså for den enkelte journalist om at slå sit navn fast med høj kvalitet (gerne på en række forskellige platforme) og kapitalisere på det på alle tænkelige måder.
Så i fremtiden vil den succesfulde journalist altså ikke være den, der skriver eller producere til ét medie, men derimod den som kan omstille sig, producere indhold til en række forskellige private og organisatoriske platform, markedsføre sig selv og – i udtrykket allermest bogstavelige betydning – sælge varen.
In Danish newsrooms, a saying goes that “we don’t produce a newspaper in order to make money. We make money, so that we can produce a newspaper.” The idea is to signal how publicist considerations are more important than commercial ones in a news organization, and how selling news is only a means to undertake news production.
In recent years, we have, however, witnessed a change in that perception. Newsrooms as well as journalism research have increasingly been oriented towards the economic framework of news production. It’s a shift in focus which is caused, to a large extent, by the economic crisis of the news industry – and it is also the subject of a recently published special issue of academic, peer-reviewed journal Journalistica, which I have edited. The special issue corresponds with my current research into the digital business models of the press and also ties in with a seminar I arranged back in 2012.
The headline of the special issue is “Journalism in an industry“, and the theme section consists of one introduction and five research articles:
Aske Kammer: Introduktion: Journalistik i en industri [Journalism in an industry; in Danish]
Jonas Ohlsson: De svenska tidningsstiftelserna: Partipressens sista bastion? [Swedish newspaper foundations – the last stand of the party press?; in Swedish]
Astrid Marie Holand: Et delt mediemarked: Prosesser som fremmer små aviser [A divided media market; in Norwegian]
Jens Barland: Innovasjon av inntekter: Journalistikk som bygger kunderelasjoner [Innovation of revenues; in Norwegian]
Ingela Wadbring: Journalists care about commercialization
In addition to the theme section, the issue also contains a number of articles (mostly in Danish). The journal is published open access, so all articles can be read free of charge. Enjoy.
Update January 11, 2014: Some of the research articles have resonated with people “out there”. Piet Bakker’s article received a very nice mentioning on the Nieman Journalism Lab website, while Jannie Møller Hartley’s article on hierarchies in news organizations (article not in the theme section) was discussed on the dSeneste blog (Danish).
This December, I’ve counted down to Christmas by tweeting one (in one instance: four) great piece on journalism, news, or the media each day. I’ve used the hashtag #24onjournalism and hope my followers have enjoyed this little countdown nearly as much as I’ve enjoyed putting it together.
If you’re not familiar with Twitter, or you just want the full overview of the content of this Christmas calendar in collected in one place – here you go:
Now, I’m happy to be able to announce that “Terrorisme i realtid: 22. juli 2011 i danske og norske netaviser” [Terrorism in real-time: July 22, 2011, on Danish and Norwegian news websites] has just been published in academic journal Norsk Medietidsskrift. It’s the second research article of my PhD dissertation on news on the web.
Here’s the abstract:
In cases of emergent crises, news media undertake an important societal function by providing the public with timely and correct information. Using the terrorist attack in Norway on July 22, 2011, as case, this article analyzes how Danish and Norwegian news websites cover emergent crisis in real-time. First, the article analyzes whether this coverage made use of the affordances of news websites (instantaneity, multimodality, interactivity, and hypertextuality). Second, it analyzes the accuracy of the coverage. The conclusion is that the real-time coverage both used the affordances and was accurate, suggesting that digital journalism managed to undertake its societal function during the terrorist attack.
The article is in Danish, but an early, English version can be mail available upon request.
I’ve been off the blog for quite a while. One of the reasons is that I’ve been quite busy – for example with changing to a new job. So, this blog post will be a very short description relating to what I’ll be doing over the next three years.
Monday last week, I started in a new position as Assistant Professor in Digital Journalism at the Centre for Journalism at the University of Southern Denmark. As I’ve written my PhD on web-based journalism and have a particular interest in the intersection between digital media and journalism, this position is nothing short of perfect for me academically.
I’ll be working on two research projects mainly:
The first project, which I’m starting these days, is about the digital business models of the press. To what extent is digital subscription implemented? What is the consequences in terms of audience traffic, revenue and profit generation, and the continuing organizational adaptation to the digital environment? The scope is Danish but the implications are international.
The second project, which will start late next summer, is about journalists’ behavior on social media (Twitter) and how this (perhaps) affect the professional role of journalism. How do journalists manage the relationship between private, personal, and professional when speaking in social media rather than traditional ones? The scope is primarily Danish but with a considerable internationally comparative dimension to it.
In addition to researching, I’ll teach a few courses over the next couple of years, organize a PhD seminar called “Journalism in the digital age”, and write a textbook on digital journalism. Plus whatever exciting opportunities show themselves along the way, of course. Plenty of exciting work to do!
Når DR sætter Martin Krasnik til skyde skarpt mod sin egen chef om exitpoll-fadæsen, er det et eksempel på, hvordan medierne i stigende grad kæmper for at forsvare deres egen troværdighed, skriver Aske Kammer, ph.d. og ekstern lektor.
Den famøse exitprognose, som DR offentliggjorde ved sidste uges kommunalvalg, har fået megen opmærksomhed i medierne: Den ramte langt forbi det endelige valgresultat, kan have påvirket vælgerne og gav ikke mindst Socialdemokraternes formand fejlagtigt stof til en taber-tale
Men exit-fadæsen rummer også et andet perspektiv: Efterdønningerne er blevet endnu et eksempel på, hvordan medier og journalister i stigende grad kæmper aktivt for deres troværdighed.
Dagen efter kommunalvalget interviewede Deadline-vært Martin Krasnik DR’s daværende nyhedschef (og altså Krasniks egen chef) Jakob Kwon om sagen. Og Krasnik gik til stålet med særdeles kritiske spørgsmål.
Interviewet blev selvfølgelig nævnt på både sociale og traditionelle medier (det vanlige ”Sådan, Krasnik!”, osv). Men de mere principielle fortolkninger er blevet forbigået.
Journalistikken og nyhedsmedierne er magtfulde institutioner. De er borgernes primære bindeled til den politiske offentlighed, og kan (og skal) sætte spot på urent trav hos de formelle og uformelle magthavere.
I bogen ’Hvor kommer nyhederne fra?’ fra 2009 fremfører mediejournalist Lasse Jensen dog den kritik, at medierne glemmer at rette kanonen mod en vigtig magthaver: Journalistikken selv. Der skrives meget om mediernes strukturer, økonomi, osv., men meget lidt om selve journalistikken, skriver Jensen.
Det kan der være mange gode grunde til. Men det ændrer ikke ved, at det har været uklart, hvem (om nogen) der har vogtet vogterne. Der har naturligvis været Pressenævnet, men dets rolle og ikke mindst (mangel på) slagkraft har været en tilbagevendende debat i mediebranchen – og kritik fra politisk hold.
2013 har imidlertid budt på flere bemærkelsesværdige eksempler på, at journalist-standen vender det kritiske blik mod andre journalister:
Hos Zetland skrev Ida Nyegård Espersen en single om BT’s redaktør Simon Andersen, hvor sammenblandingen af private, professionelle og politiske interesser blandt journalister blev fremhævet.
I fagbladet Journalisten skrev Rune Skyum-Nielsen og Emil Ellesøe Ditzel i en særdeles kritisk artikel, hvordan Dan Tschernia angiveligt kørte TV 2 Lorry lige på kanten af reglerne.
I kølvandet på Krasniks meget omtalte interview med formanden for Trykkefrihedsselskabet, Lars Hedegaard, interviewede TV 2’s Poul Erik Skammelsen som gæstevært på Deadline Krasnik om journalistisk metode og rimelighed.
Og nu udspørger Krasnik altså sin egen chef uden at lægge fingrene imellem.
Disse eksempler er ikke blot interessante, fordi de giver et indblik i en kulørt, magtfuld og lukket medieverden. De er også interessante i en større sammenhæng, fordi de kan ses som eksempler på journalistikkens kamp for at fastholde sin legitimitet.
Når politikere og andre magthavere konstant udfordrer journalisternes arbejde, angriber det mediernes vederhæftighed. Jyske Banks aggressive strategi i forhold til DR’s dokumentarserie om skattefifleri er et aktuelt eksempel. Selvom det ligger i journalistikkens DNA stille spørgsmål til andres troværdighed, så tærer det alligevel, når der offentligt og ved gentagne lejligheder sættes spørgsmålstegn ved mediernes egen troværdigheden.
Som jeg ser det, kan de kritiske portrætter og historier om journalistikken, dens personer og virksomheder, forstås som et tegn på, at medierne er blevet sig dette bevidst: De er nødt til at forsvare deres egen legitimitet. De må åbne op og vise sig villige til at underkaste sig selv og sine egne den samme behandling, de samme krav om transparens, som de udsætter andre for.
På den måde er den kritiske journalistik om journalistik ikke kun samfundsrelevant stof, der forholder sig til en af de magtfulde institutioner. Det er også små fægtninger i kampen om, hvilken plads og legitimitet journalistikken fremover kan påberåbe sig
A very brief post just to draw attention to two recent pieces of work (both in Danish) by yours truly.
The first is the report “Nyheder om den anden side” on the coverage of socially marginalized people (alcoholics, drug addicts, prostitutes, homeless people, etc.) in local news media. The report was commissioned by the Council for Socially Marginalized People in Denmark, who wanted to know if local councils speaking the case for this group of people resulted in more coverage in the local press. The short answer: they didn’t.
The second one is an article (published on Kommunikationsforum) that outlines the current state of the Danish discussion on news websites’ paywalls. It argues that there are four positions in the discussion: 1) it’s okay to be charged for journalism, which is an expensive product, online; 2) it’s not okay – in fact, it’s against everything the digital media stands for; 3) it’s okay to charge readers online – we’ll just circumvent the paywalls and get the news for free anyway, and 4) it would be okay to be charged for journalism online if only the quality was better.
Another (and, honestly, more important) publication is due within the very near future. Stay tuned!
Ekstra Bladets nye web-tv-format ‘Paparazzi’ er endnu et eksempel på, at aviserne går ud over kerneydelserne for at hente læsere. Og kommercielt rummer 24-timers kendis-format interessante perspektiver.
Ekstra Bladets nye tv-satsning ’Paparazzi’ er et web-tv-format, hvor en kendt person i 24 timer følges af et kamerahold, hvis optagelser streames live på Eb.dk.
Det er altså et format, der lokker med at give et blik ind i den ægte privatsfære bag facaden. Som sådan har det meget til fælles med populære reality-formater på de kommercielle tv-kanaler – ikke mindst ’Haps! Du er fanget’ på Kanal 4 og Kanal 5, hvor værtinden Annette Heick lænkede sig sammen med andre kendte og fulgte dem i tykt og tyndt. Første afsnit af ’Paparazzi’ er næsten reality i anden potens; første “offer” er nemlig – meget symptomatisk – Mascha Vang, der i sin tid blev kendt ved at deltage i 1. sæson af ’Paradise Hotel’.
Det er på flere måder interessant, at Ekstra Bladet producerer et format som ‘Paparazzi’. Helt overordnet er det et tydeligt eksempel på, hvordan nyhedsorganisationer i disse år bevæger sig væk fra kerneydelsen og begynder at varetage medieproduktion i bredere forstand. Tiden, hvor en redaktion blot lavede dagens avis, og så var det det, er endegyldigt forbi.
Vi har i mange år set nyhedsorganisationer sprede deres aktiviteter bredt – ofte ud over områder, der ikke er strengt nyhedsrelaterede, men fungerer som annonce- eller trafikheste. JP/Politikens Hus har således andele i Bilzonen og har netop opkøbt hele Jobzonen, mens Berlingske Medias driver Sweetdeal, hvor kunderne kan få rabat på alt fra hårkure til kroophold.
Men det er alligevel noget nyt, at en avisredaktion udvides med en decideret underholdningsgren, som ’Paparazzi’ synes at være udtryk for.
Udvidelsen synes at give særligt god mening i et kommercielt perspektiv. Selvom produktionen af ’Paparazzi’ sandsynligvis er relativt bekostelig, er den for det første med til at cementere Eb.dk’s førerposition inden for dansk web-tv. Flere mediebureauer forventer, at netop web-tv fremover vil blive et fremtrædende element på netaviserne, og at det er her, annoncemidlerne i vid udstrækning kommer til at ligge.
I en branding-sammenhæng er det næppe helt tosset at satse på web-tv, der kan trække et større publikum til siden. Ifølge Ekstra Bladet selv har premiere-udgaven således været i kontakt med brugere over 250.000 gange, hvilket må siges at være ganske pænt.
For det andet kan de 24 timers optagelse klippes op og pakkes til en lang række mindre artikler, der hver især kan generere trafik på netavisen. Vel at mærke trafik, hvor publikum bliver længere på siden end ellers. Der er altså tale om en form for økonomisk ræsonabel synergi-strategi, hvor det samme indhold kan genbruges og præsenteres flere gange i forskellige indpakninger.
Og for det tredje sender Ekstra Bladet med et tiltag som ’Paparazzi’ et klart signal til de andre aktører inden for kendis-/sladder-mediemarkedet om, at det ikke er et område, man har tænkt sig at overlade til de kulørte ugeblade (der dog ligesom de trykte aviser taber læsere såvel som oplag) og blogs.
Det kan måske være nødvendigt med et sådan signal i en tid, hvor blogs i hvert fald internationalt synes toneangivende og stjæle sladdertrafik fra de etablerede medier, og hvor Danmarks førende sladderblad ’Se og Hør’ opruster digitalt med Ekstra Bladets tidligere redaktionschef Niels Pinborg som ny mand i chefstolen.
Jeff Bezos’ opkøb af avisen The Washington Post rummer et stort forretningsmæssigt og publicistisk potentiale for avisen, skriver ph.d. Aske Kammer.
Gårsdagens helt store samtaleemne i mediebranchen og blandt analytikere var uden tvivl, at internetboghandlen Amazons grundlægger Jeffrey Bezos havde købt en af amerikansk journalistiks mest legendariske organisationer, avisen The Washington Post.
Avisen er, som blandt andre magasinet The Atlantic meget fint beskriver det, en institution i amerikansk og international presse – for ikke at nævne det amerikanske demokrati. Nu ejes den af en af it-økonomiens centrale skikkelser, og det er måske slet ikke så dumt.
At en mand som Bezos køber den hæderkronede, men økonomisk pressede avis, har overrasket. Med Amazon har Bezos skabt sig en formue på digitalt salg (han vurderes at være god for 25 mia. dollar), men bortset fra et større indskud i Business Insider tidligere på året han har ingen baggrund i nyhedsbranchen og ingen erfaring med journalistisk produktion.
På den måde minder hans opkøb af The Washington Post på overfladen om den danske it-iværksætter Morten Lunds engagement i gratisavisen Nyhedsavisen i 2007-2008, selvom skalaen naturligvis er en helt anden.
Lunds aviseventyr kostede ham efter sigende godt 100 mio. kr. og fik ham i sidste ende erklæret konkurs (efter avisen var gået samme vej).
Men ligeså uventet, Bezos’ opkøb af Washington Post var, lige så kommercielt fornuftigt kan det meget vel vise sig at være – ikke mindst for avisen, der som alle andre aviser kæmper med at flytte omsætningen fra print til digitale produkter.
Overtagelsen kan få vidtrækkende konsekvenser for både The Washington Posts forretning og journalistik.
Det nok mest interessante punkt ved overtagelsen findes i mødet mellem det gamle avismedie og den nye it-/tech-økonomi, som vil blive fulgt nøje på direktionsgange både herhjemme og internationalt.
Avisbranchen har haft notorisk svært ved at omstille sig og finde en forretningsmodel, der for alvor kan fungere i en digital sammenhæng. Washington Post har i høj grad forholdt sig afventende og har først i juni i år indført en betalingsmur – længe efter mastodonter som Financial Times, Wall Street Journal og New York Times tog skridtet.
Mena avisens nye ejer, Bezos, står omvendt bag et foretagende, der i høj grad har været proaktiv på det digitale område og formået at gøre e-handel til en lukrativ forretning.
En af nøglerne til Amazons efterhånden bragende succes er evnen til at kunne målrette varer til kunderne. På baggrund af enorme datamængder om købsmønstre og avancerede algoritmer, er Amazon i stand til altid at anbefale en række bøger, som andre, hvis indkøbsliste ligner din, også har købt – og derved øge sandsynligheden for, at du også køber disse bøger.
Der kan sandsynligvis være en gevinst i at bruge en variation af denne form for effektiv data mining og kundeorientering i The Washington Posts online forretning.
Dermed ikke sagt, at erfaringer fra bogsalg uden videre kan overføres til journalistik. Der er en verden til forskel på at sælge bøger, som potentielt kan have et meget langt liv på markedet, og at sælge nyheder, hvis friskhed forgår anderledes hurtigt. Jane Austens bøger sælges stadig i store oplag, men gårsdagens nyheder er svære at tjene noget som helst på.
Både på The Washington Post og i avisbranchen generelt har den undersøgende journalistik åbenlyst lidt under fraværet af bæredygtige forretningsmodeller, hvor hurtige og billige nyheder er blevet en udbredt fremgangsmåde.
Hvis Bezos’ åbne brev til The Washington Posts ansatte står til troende, vil der imidlertid under hans ejerskab være ressourcer til både at sætte tempoet ned, når det er nødvendigt for at få den rigtige historie på den rigtige måde, og til at ”følge historien uanset omkostningerne”.
Det ligner en trosbekendelse til klassiske publicistiske dyder, som avisens journalister nu får rum til at efterleve.
Ifølge både The Washington Posts lange (og behørigt positive) portræt af sin nye ejer og andre kilder besidder Bezos en række karaktertræk, som for mig at se kan understøtte netop dette fokus på journalistisk revitalisering: Han er tålmodig og tænker langsigtet strategisk. Og han er tilsyneladende ikke bange for at køre med underskud i en længere periode, hvis det på længere sigt kan føre organisationen og forretningen det rigtige sted hen.
På dette punkt adskiller han sig fra en række af de holding-selskaber og kapital- og investeringsfonde, der de seneste par årtier har købt sig ind i nyhedsbranchen (blandt andet herhjemme ved først Orklas og siden Mecoms opkøb af Berlingske) for at få fingrene i de tocifrede afkastsgrader, som finanskrisen og den generelle flugt fra printmedier imidlertid efterhånden har gjort kål på.
På dette punkt adskiller Bezos’ ejerskab sig dog ikke i udgangspunktet fra det familieejerskab, The Washington Post har været under i fire generationer. Men man kan forestille sig, at Bezos måske vil være bedre end familien Graham til at forstå og imødekomme de udfordringer, der kan være ved at agere på et digitalt marked.
På den måde kan Bezos’ opkøb af The Washington Post give anledning til forsigtig optimisme for, at avisen gennem en kombination af avisbranchens publicistiske idealer og en it-milliardærs evne til at skrue en velfungerende digital forretningsmodel sammen kan blive et pejlemærke for en kriseramt nyhedsindustri.
How can members of the audience contribute to the production of online news? In two new videos (which are in Danish) called Digital kildeinddragelse, the online editor of Danish newspaper Information, Nicolai Thyssen, and I give some answers to that question.
The basic argument I present in the video is from one of the research articles of my PhD dissertation: audience participation in the production of online news can be divided into four different types. 1) Information privision. 2) Collaboration, where members of audiences conduct journalistic work. 3) Conversation, where there is a more social interplay between journalists and readers. 4) Meta-communication, where audiences focus on the very production of the news, highlighting issues of transparency, etc. That article is currently in review in both a Danish and an English version.
I’m in the airport – Arlanda, Stockholm. I’m on my way home from the last seminar of the Nordic Research Network in Journalism Studies, which has existed for almost four years and consists of journalism researchers from the Nordic and Baltic countries. The network is headed by Professor Sigurd Allern and is funded by Nordforsk, whose grant is, however, expiring.
The network has arranged seven seminars of which I’d already participated in three, and they have always been of very high value for me. I always learn a lot, often get inspiration for ways to improve and tweak my own research, and have more than once gotten a little intimidated by just how smart some of my colleagues are. This fourth seminar was no exception. The presentations in Stockholm were generally of a high quality, but I’ll highlight only the ones that made the most impression on me and that stand the clearest for me now as I’m waiting for my plane, writing this blog post:
Nina Kvalheim (Bergen University) presented interesting new data on what characterizes the content of one news website before and after its introduction of a paywall.
Helle Sjøvaag (Bergen University) addressed the issue of journalistic autonomy. I cannot recapitulate her exact point here, but her presentation certainly provided food for thought.
Magnus Danielson (Stockholm University) addressed the element of shame in a Swedish journalistic television program. His point was that the shaming of “the bad guys” both serves as a journalistic tool and has a certain guilty-pleasure appeal to the audiences.
Jens Barland (Gjøvik University College) outlined why and how corporate media may get to think of journalism as a means to attract eyeballs to their other online services (e.g., micro-banking) rather than an end in itself.
I presented a paper with the title ”Types of reader participation in the production of online news”, which is an English version of one of the articles from my dissertation, News on the Web: instantaneity, multimodality, interactivity, and hypertextuality on Danish news websites. I’ll let others judge whether the presentation was successful and just mention that I got some really useful feedback from appointed opponent Christian Christensen.
In some way, I come full circle with this seminar, which took place only a couple of weeks after the defense of my dissertation. The very first international seminar I attended as a researcher, only three months into my PhD project, was one arranged by this network, namely the Oslo seminar in April, 2010. This seminar was also were I first presented a paper for an academic audience and had to face and deal with the critique from peers in front of that kind of audience; I must admit, that was quite a nerve-wrecking experience for me as a new member of the academic society (at least until I got to actually present – of course it went okay once I got started). And as a matter of fact, my papers in Oslo, 2010, and Stockholm, 2013, actually also drew upon some of the same empirical material. I wouldn’t go as far as saying I had a feeling of déjà-vu, but there are certainly parallels at play here.
This seminar, however, was the last one within the Nordic Research Network of Journalism Studies.
One of the most valuable assets of the research network has been that many other scholars in the beginning of their academic careers have participated in it. So, I’ve met a lot of interesting people who not only work with related research interests but also deal with the same issues of professional insecurity and the challenges of dissertation writing. I guess it’s always nice to know you’re not the only one with that kind of uncertainties, and sometimes people in the same position as yourself are better to talk to about that than senior researchers with permanent employment who may not quite remember what it was like.
Among the other participants in the research network, I’ve made some very good friends and established a large number of important professional connections. There is a very large number of persons who I hope to see again soon and cooperate with.
For me, the Nordic Research Network in Journalism Studies and the members of it have constituted one recurring and important point of orientation throughout my PhD work. In addition to the Oslo seminar and, of course, this final Stockholm seminar, I’ve participated in the seminars in Copenhagen (2010) and Bergen (2011). Especially the last two seminars have reminded me of some kind of family reunion – you meet some people who you really like but who you don’t talk to quite as often as you’d like to. And as you know most of the people in advance, you don’t have to put a lot of resources into getting to know new people but can focus on what’s important.
A lot of other good things could be said about the Nordic Research Network in Journalism Studies. But now, my plane is ready for departure, and it’s time to go.
Forskning viser, at de unge læsere er en god og en dårlig nyhed for netaviserne med betalingsmure, skriver ph.d. Aske Kammer.
Efter lang tids forberedelse har Politiken i dag trykket på knappen og rejst en betalingsmur omkring deres netavis, Politiken.dk. Dermed er indholdet på de fleste store danske netaviser nu– i varierende grad – låst inde, ude af rækkevidde for alle os, der ellers har nydt godt af den gratis adgang til online-nyheder siden netavisernes gennembrud i Danmark i sidste halvdel af 1990’erne.
Spørgsmålet er imidlertid, hvad nyhedsorganisationerne kan forvente sig af betalingsmurene – og det vender jeg tilbage til efter et kort overblik.Men lad det opmuntrende være sagt allerede her i indledningen: Ny forskning peger på, at en specifik gruppe af læsere faktisk er indstillet på at betale for online indhold.
Overordnet kan man skelne mellem tre arkitektoniske stilarter inden for betalingsmure:
Den første er den såkaldte metered model, som New York Times er det prototypiske eksempel på. Her er et vist antal artikler gratis for de enkelte læsere i løbet af en vis periode, men hvis de vil vide mere, skal der købes adgang. Det er den model, Politiken.dk kommer til at køre efter. Berlingske arbejder med samme model men har efter lidt startvanskeligheder udskudt rejsegildet et par måneder.
Den anden model er den premium-model, som Jyllands-Posten og Ekstra Bladet bruger. Her skal der betales for ekstra indhold af særlig høj kvalitet (dybdeborende journalistik, multimedie-præsentationer, Side 9-piger, osv.). De to aviser understreger, at nyhederne forbliver gratis, mens alt andet koster.
Og endelig er den tredje model den ”hårde betalingsmur”, som lokalaviserne i Midtjyske Medier benytter. Her kræver al adgang til netavisernes indhold som udgangspunkt betaling.
Politiken og de andre aviser befinder sig imidlertid, med al respekt, ikke i samme internationale kategori som New York Times – de har eksempelvis ikke et globalt digitalt publikum – og det store spørgsmål er, hvad der nu kommer til at ske.
Kommer betalingsmurene til at generere en højst tiltrængt omsætningsindsprøjtning til de danske nyhedsorganisationer, eller vil de først og fremmest holde læsere ude?
Formår nyhedsorganisationerne at balancere det fald i web-trafik, man alt andet lige må forvente, med den øgede indtægt pr. betalende læser, betalingsmurene vil medføre?
Disse kernespørgsmål for forretningsmodellens fremtid er der, mig bekendt, endnu ikke erfaringer nok til besvare endegyldigt.
En relativ ny undersøgelse giver dog et fingerpeg om, hvad nyhedsorganisationerne kan forvente af betalingsmurene.
Studiet viser, at særligt to forhold hver især har en ganske positiv afsmitning på betalingsvilligheden ved online indhold.
Den første er alder: Yngre voksne (18-34 år) er nemlig mere tilbøjelige til at ville betale for online indhold (herunder nyheder) end ældre aldersgrupper. Og eftersom de unge jo vokser op og bliver ældre og forbliver mediebrugere i længere tid end dem, der nu er ældre, kan dette forskningsresultat tolkes således, at medieorganisationerne på længere sigt vil få et mere betalingsvilligt publikum.
Det andet afgørende forhold er interessen for nyheder i det hele taget: Folk, der i forvejen har en stor interesse for nyhedsstof, er nemlig mere tilbøjelige til at acceptere at skulle betale for online-nyheder end andre (hvilket måske ikke i sig selv er vældigt overraskende).
I kombination med pointen omkring alder stiller dette andet forhold imidlertid nyhedsorganisationerne i et dilemma. For unge mennesker er, som forskerne også skriver, desværre normalt mindre interesserede i nyheder end andre dele af befolkningen. Så dem, der egentlig er mest positive overfor at betale for indhold på web og internet, er samtidig kun i ringe grad interesserede i i første omgang at læse nyheder online. Men hvis de var det, ville de gerne betale.
De konkrete erfaringer med betalingsmure er forskellige, og der hersker stadig tvivl om, hvorvidt de kan løse nyhedsorganisationernes økonomiske udfordringer. Men hvis Chyi og Lee har ret, kan en løsning måske ligge i at gøre de unge voksne mere interesserede i at læse nyheder på nettet – som den amerikanske mediekommentator Ken Doctor siger i dagens udgave af Politiken: ”Jeg anbefaler alle at begynde at lave aggressive planer for at skaffe nye og yngre læsere”.
Det ser nemlig ud til at være dem, der i videst udstrækning vil kunne finde på at finde Dankortet frem i første omgang, hvis de besøger netaviserne.
Tomorrow, I’ll publicly defend my PhD dissertation News on the Web: instantaneity, multimodality, interactivity, and hypertextuality on Danish news websites. The defense will take place in auditorium 22.0.11 at the Southern Campus of the University of Copenhagen, and I think it’s going to be quite interesting; at least, it will be very satisfying for me. The dissertation is the result of three years of work, and even though I still think the subject – digital journalism and how it’s changing, transforming, and maintaining institutional arrangements – is highly interesting and relevant, it will be good to achieve closure on this project. I need to move forward to something new (but, of course, related) in terms of research work, and the defense marks the first step in such a transition.
I’ll provide a write-up of the defense in a later post. With this one, I actually just wanted to invite everybody to the defense (it is public, after all, and I’d like the results of my work to reach as many people as possible), to show a picture of the dissertation fresh from the press, and to publish the following summary of my work. The summary is taken from the dissertation, and it goes through the main points of it very briefly.
Compared to traditional news media, news websites hold a unique set of affordances in relation to news workers, namely instantaneity, multimodality, interactivity, and hypertextuality. This constellation of affordances constitutes a particular condition for the production and presentation of news. This dissertation is an enquiry into how institutional actors (news workers) appropriate these potentials afforded by new, digital technology (news websites).
The enquiry is conducted with an integration of quantitative and qualitative methods, and the analyses generally support the hypothesis that news workers working on Danish news websites do, indeed, make use of the four affordances, and that they do so in ways so that they maintain journalistic control in the process. The analyses include a content analysis of formal features on 93 Danish news websites, a qualitative case study of real-time coverage of emergent crisis, and a theory-building case study of audience participation in news production for news web-sites. The dissertation propose mediatization theory as a means for contextualizing the current developments within the institution of journalism, arguing that it is an institution which is accommodating the logics and formats of the media institution – but not without some resistance from its actors.
The dissertation consists of introductory chapters (Introduction, Terminology, Theoretical framework, and Research design), four research articles, and a concluding chapter, which outlines the conclusion, identifies the most important contributions to existing knowledge, and points to future research in continuation of this dissertation. Except for one of the four research articles, this dissertation is written in English; the research article in question is Danish-language.
If you want to read the entire dissertation, drop me an email and I’ll forward it to you.
MediaWatch is a Danish website with news and analysis of the media sector, and my job will be to provide short analyses of current developments in the media business – as seen from an academic point of view. I will write an article every month, give or take.
My articles will be published behind a paywall, but as a part of the deal with MediaWatch, I’ve got the rights to publish my articles here on the blog. They are, however, in Danish, so my international audience (which probably amounts to a total of 2-3 persons) will have to use Google Translate.
Dækningen af bomberne i Boston er et godt eksempel på, hvordan crowdsourcing på sociale medier er ekstremt værdifuldt for medierne – og hvordan det kan løbe løbsk, hvis det ikke redigeres og sorteres, skriver Aske Kammer, ekstern lektor, KU.
Dækningen af de dramatiske begivenheder i Boston tjener som et godt eksempel på, hvordan almindelige mennesker på én gang kan bidrage substantielt til dækningen af en stor begivenhed og køre den helt af sporet.
I det digitale mediemiljø, hvor informationsindsamling og nyhedsformidling ikke længere er forbeholdt de etablerede medier, viste efterspillet fra terrorbomberne nemlig både de bedste og de værste sider af publikumsdeltagelse. Fra konstruktive bidrag til decideret skadelig og ødelæggende selvsving over forkerte oplysninger. Forskellen på de to eksempler: Et redigerende medie, der sorterer og filtrerer informationen.
Her blev billeder og information, som almindelige mennesker lagde ud på medier som Twitter og Facebook, omhyggeligt inkluderet i den løbende beskrivelse af begivenhedernes gang. Det gav publikum adgang til detaljer, medieorganisationerne ellers ikke kunne have fået fat på – resultatet var en mere detaljeret og bredere dækning af en sag, der havde offentlighedens store interesse.
Dette kommer måske tydeligst til udtryk i de billeder, der blev sendt ud af Twitter-profilen Shawna England af et hus omringet af svært bevæbnede anti-terror-politifolk. Disse billeder er i skrivende stund re-tweetet ikke mindre end 13.753 gange, heraf mange af de etablerede medieorganisationer.
Begivenhederne i Bosten viste dog også, hvordan sociale medier kan forurene dækningen med information, der ikke bare er ligegyldig men i værst fald også forkert og direkte skadelig. I kølvandet på bomberne, gav nettet plads til de mange borgere, der gerne fra sidelinjen vil hjælpe med deres eget opklaringsarbejde – ikke bare det journalistiske, men også politiets.
Brugere på Reddit (en social nyheds- og underholdningsside) mente nemlig at have fundet frem til gerningsmændene bag bombeterroren ved at scanne politiradioer og udføre online detektivarbejde. Indsatsen medførte, ifølge kommentatoren Ryan Chittum i Columbia Journalism Review, selvtilfredse kommentarer og konklusioner som “Dang, put the old media to shame!.” og “This is historic Internet sleuthing.”
Problemet var bare, at det var den forkerte mand – en forsvunden studerende på MIT-universitet – de havde fat i, og at en uskyldig person dermed blev udråbt til terrorist…
Der er tale om to eksempler på crowdsourcing. Altså på at offentligheden og al den viden og indsigt, almindelige mennesker ude i virkeligheden sidder inde med, lægges sammen og derved skaber et mere fyldigt billede, end det enkelte individs – eller medies – perspektiv kan. Men hvor det ene viste, hvordan crowdsourcing under en grad af redaktionel kontrol og med en vis målrettethed kan fungere, illustrerer det andet, hvordan det at løbe med en halv vind kan udvikle sig til en ustyrlig medietornado.
Disclaimer: MediaWatch is owned by JP/Politikens Hus, which also owns several of the newspapers and news websites I analyze and deal with critically in my academic work. This could cause a conflict of interests, but as 1) I have total freedom with regards to what I write, and 2) my only payment from MediaWatch is free access to their other articles, I don’t think that will be a problem.
Yesterday, I received the best news in a long time – namely that my PhD dissertation News on the Web: instantaneity, multimodality, interactivity, and hypertextuality on Danish news websites has been accepted for public defence. That is great news as a surprisingly high number of PhD dissertations are not accepted at once but need to be rewritten and resubmitted. So yesterday was a day of celebration for me and my wife.
I submitted the dissertation at the Faculty of Humanities, University of Copenhagen, on January 31 this year after exactly three years of researching and writing. The defence will take place on May 3, beginning 1pm, and will be open to the public. I will publish more information on the defence here on the blog later. Furthermore, I will also put out more information on the dissertation when my teaching obligations on the university allows for it. So stay tuned!
Update April 23, 2013: The defence will take place in auditorium 22.0.11 in Southern Campus of University of Copenhagen.
I recently joined the editorial board of Journalistica, the Danish journal for journalism studies. One of my first actions as editor has been to suggest a theme issue of the journal about the business models of journalism – a suggestion which my fellow editors agreed upon. This theme issue will relate to some of the most important questions in current news production – most importantly, how journalism is financed, and how it will be so in the future. These are questions that was addressed on the “New business models for the news industry” seminar, which I arranged on the University of Copenhagen last November, and now this theme issue will be an interesting venue for continuing this work; and hopefully so with a broad range of fellow researchers.
Topics of interest for the theme issue include (but are not limited to):
Institutional changes in the news market
Ownership and its consequences
Public and private subsidies to news media
Google, Facebook, and other new, commercial actors in the news business
Payment models for online news
Free news and changes in news consumption
The economy of journalistic start-ups, blogs, websites with niche news, etc.
Commercialization of news values
We currently have some problems with the journal’s website, but here, you can read the full CfP (English version). Deadline for submissions is May 1, and publication is scheduled for December 2013. Contributions may be in Scandinavian languages (Danish, Norwegian, or Swedish) or English and should not exceed 35,000 keystrokes.
I’m happy to announce that in the Spring semester, we’ll welcome Ben Falk as a visiting lecturer at the Department of Media, Cognition, and Communication. Ben is an English journalist, currently teaching journalism at London Metropolitan University, and in the week of February 25, 2013, he’ll participate in teaching activities at my department. The visit is part of the European researcher exchange program LLP/Erasmus.
Ben will participate in three arrangements here in Copenhagen: First, he’ll give a lecture on my MA course about news and journalism in Denmark. Second, he’ll visit Marianne Lentz’ course on practical journalism writing, drawing upon his experience as a journalist. And third, he’ll participate in the open seminar “The production or arts and cultural journalism” alongside associate professor Nete Nørgaard Kristensen from my department. This seminar will be held on February 28 from 10am to 12pm in room 22.0.11 at the Southern Campus of University of Copenhagen. Admission to this seminar is free of charge and registration is not necessary, so everybody is welcome.
The best ideas and the most interesting projects are often conceived in the company of people with different perspectives and backgrounds. For this reason as well, I look forward to welcoming Ben to Copenhagen.
If you’re in a hurry, here comes the closing remarks of the review:
“the book is not always successful in resisting the temptation of choosing those examples that fit the overall argument and leaving aside those that could instead have challenged it and pushed it further. I may be more conservatively inclined than the author, but it seems to me that she overestimates how ordinary people are currently helping journalism and simultaneously underestimates the continued importance of the institution.
That said, throughout the book Russell does make a strong argument for the potential advantages of having different publics participate in news-making. Even though Networked could have benefitted from a more rigorous definition of journalism and more nuances in its unfavorable judgment of the contemporary workings of the news industry, the book deserves to be recommended for its rich evidence of what the public can do (and often actually does) for journalism. As such, in spite of my complaints, this book is a good place for journalism students, researchers, and practitioners to turn if they wish to know how ordinary people with digital technology can change journalism and challenge a conservative news industry.” (pp. 146-149)
Today, I hosted a seminar on my university department on current and future business models for the news industry – an industry which is under strong pressure from decreasing revenues, falling numbers of circulation, and troubles with monetization of online content. The title of the seminar was “New business models for the news industry”, I have mentioned it in earlier blog-posts here and here, and despite the grim picture which is often painted of the economical situation in the news business, the three speakers all saw potentials for making money from making news in the future.
There were to many good points and observations during the seminar for me to repeat all of them here, but I’ve put together a short summary of the day.
After my short introduction, the first invited speaker was Jens Barland from the University of Oslo who presented key findings from his PhD about how Verdens Gang and Aftonbladet generate revenues in an online environment. His presentation served as a kind of rehersal for the defence of his PhD dissertation Journalistikk for markedet [Journalism for the market] – a defense that will take place on Wednesday next week. If you’re in Oslo there, you shouldn’t miss Barland’s defense for his findings are highly interesting. A key finding of his was that initiatives to develop journalistic products don’t necessarily come from journalists anymore – on the contrary, they are often spurred by the desire to expand the product portfolio of media organizations. As an example, he mentioned Sofis mode, a magazine that Aftonbladet launched in order to reach the audience segment of adolescent girls with relatively good purchasing power. A particularly intriguing possibility, which Barland mentioned, was how news organizations might continue to give away news for free online in the future but that the access to the news might require login. This way, news organizations can generate detailed and personal data on usage and subsequently target their audiences even more directly that today with ads (think Facebook’s advertising model). I guess that when content is free, you (your data, attention, and information) really are the product.
The second speaker was Mads Vad Kristensen from Berlingske Media. Berlingske is one of the largest media organizations in Denmark and is owned by British corporation Mecom which seems, however, intended to sell off its Danish branch. This imminent sale means that profitability is even more important for Berlingske than it used to, and as such Kristensen’s presentation about the organization’s business models related to an agenda of immediate importance. Basically, Kristensen argued that it’s no problem earning money from news – the problem is that news is quite expensive to make, especially in the context of the small Danish-speaking area. But are people willing to pay what the news actually costs? Kristensen actually thought they would be if the news organizations provided them with content that met their demands. In order to do so, the news organizations should focus on five aspects, namely 1) excellence in their products, 2) individualized content where you get what you’re intested in, 3) better service for the customers, 4) testing the limits of own self-understanding, and 5) acknowledging that only the best is good enough.
The last speaker was Stig Kirk Ørskov who is the COO of JP/Politikens Hus and who started his presentation by saying that now was actually the best of times for journalism. According to him, 2010 and 2011 were the most profitable years for his news organization in a very long time, and with a variety of different platforms (print, web, and mobile) the journalistical content could find its way to the audiences anytime and anywhere. However, except for EkstraBladet.dk the websites of the organization are not yet profitable, and paywalls will be introduced as a solution for that; agreeing with Kristensen, Ørskov also expressed confidence in the readiness of the audience to start paying for online content. Speaking of paywalls, Ørskov emphasized that the three major publications of JP/Politikens Hus will probably follow different models: Politiken (the highbrow, liberal, cultural broadsheet) will go for the metered model that the New York Times is also using; Ekstra Bladet (the tabloid) will use the same model as Aftenbladet where some selected parts are within a paywall; and Jyllands-Posten (the more conservative broadsheet) would perhaps be something like the freemium model of the Wall Street Journal where the majority of the content remains available for free.
I think the seminar went pretty well with great speakers and good discussions in the Q&A session. Also, it was well-attended by both fellow researchers, students, and people from the news industry.
Update November 22, 2012: I earlier wrote that Jyllands-Posten would go for a “hard paywall” with all content locked away. This way, however, a misunderstanding from my part, and I have now corrected it.
This is a public service announcement: next Spring, after having handed in my PhD dissertation in January, I will be teaching two courses at the Department of Media, Cognition, and Communication on the University of Copenhagen. Even though both courses will be in Danish, students can take their exams in English, so foreign students shouldn’t hesitate to contact me if they’re interested in the subjects.
The first course is called Nyheder og journalistik i Danmark [News and journalism in Denmark] and will be on MA level. It is an elective module and will be about my key research-interest, namely news and journalism and their place in a broader societal context.
The other course is a compulsory course for our BA students and is called Faktateori og -analyse [Non-Fiction Theory and Analysis]. Years ago, when I was a student myself, this course (then taught by my excellent colleague today Nete Nørgaard Kristensen) played a very important part in turning my interest towards journalism, so it’s fun for me to now come somewhat full circle and be the one teaching it.
As I advertised in an earlier blog-post, I’m hosting a seminar on the business models of the news industry this November. However, I just realized that I had noted a wrong date in the blog-post – the correct day is November 21, 2012, but it’s still from 1pm to 3.30pm.
Also, there has been a slight change of the program of the seminar as Pernille Tranberg from Berlingske Media was unable to attend. Instead, I’m happy to announce that Mads Vad Kristensen, who is digital director, will represent Berlingske Media and make us all a little wiser concerning the financial strategies and approaches of the Mecom-owned media organization. An organization, which rumor has it is currently being prepared for sale… Such a move would only make the monetizing capacity of the organization even more important.
All in all, it’s going to be an amazing seminar that brings together the best of Academia and the news industry. Attendance is free, registration not necessary. And here is the short pitch:
For several years, the traditional business models of news organizations have been under pressure; news organizations’ earnings from advertising or subscription have decreased as a lot of the public’s news consumption has moved from print to online sources, and the financial crisis has weakened revenue possibilities further. As such, news organizations have had to rethink their business models, and their conclusions and strategies for monetizing the online audience vary. Even so, it remains an open question what the business models for the future of the news industry look like and how they become economically sustainable.
This seminar, organized by the strategic research area Creative Media Industriesand the research group The Mediatization of Culture at the Department of Media, Cognition, and Communication, University of Copenhagen, presents state-of-the-art research into the evolving business models for the news industry as well as contributions from those practitioners that work with them on a daily basis.
A service for my Danish-speaking readers primarily: inspired by a list of 100 English language Twitter profiles, which every journalism student must follow, I have made a Danish list. It is a lot shorter as it includes only 15 Twitter profiles that are good resources for people who want to follow current developments within Danish news media and journalism. The list (presented in alphabetical order) is somewhat idiosyncratic and hardly exhaustive, so let me know if I’ve forgotten someone or gotten something wrong, then I’ll revise the list later.
@Ahaheder: Ahaheder.dk, research-based web magazine on journalism
Very recently, a new news website launched in Denmark – or at least, it calls itself a news website. The name of the site is Netavisen Pio [The News Website Pio], but “news website” might be overstating it. Rather, it looks like a debate site with a clear political bias.
Pio, however, is not the first Danish self-proclaimed news website of that kind. Earlier such websites include, most prominently, 180grader [180 degrees], launched in 2007. Pio is edited by the former press officer of a Danish labor union, and one of the central persons in its instanciation is Henrik Sass Larsen, a Member of Parliament for the Danish Social Democrats. 180grader is edited by Ole Birk Olesen, a Member of Parliament for the right wing party Liberal Alliance.
Pio and 180grader call themselves news websites, but what they have in common is an absense of news and a high priority given to opinion, commentary, analysis, and debate. There isn’t much journalism on these news websites, if any. Don’t Pio have proper news? Sure. But its newsy headlines lead to articles on Avisen.dk, a news website owned partly by the Danish workers’ unions… – So why do they call themselves news websites? Most likely to tap into the legitimacy of the institution of the newspaper, providing some aura of credibility and objectivity to websites which are first and foremost blog universes that act as mouthpieces for certain political positions.
It’s not at all a problem that websites such as Pio and 180grader exist. On the contrary, I think they constitute an important part of a well-functioning digital public sphere as they provide platforms for political engagement and discourse (even if their obvious political inclinations might make them “echo chambers“). But calling these websites news websites is a misnomer. The use of that term (news website) implies journalistic ambitions and work and some actual news, and neither Pio nor 180grader have very much – if any – of just that. News website is simply a misleading trade description in this context.
In Danish, the word ‘avis’ means newspaper. In French, the word ‘avis’ means view or opinion. As far as I can see, 180grader and Pio are avis only in the French sense of the word.
Disclaimer: one of the main contributers to Pio, Rasmus Lynghøj Christensen, is an acquaintance of mine and was for several years a fellow student at the university.
Earlier this summer, I made arrangements for two exciting research seminars in Copenhagen next November. I will probably post more about the seminars later but I think a little early promotion won’t hurt. The one seminar takes place on November 20, 2012, from 1pm to 3.30pm, is called “New business models for the news industry“, and brings researchers and practitioners together to discuss one of the most urgent challenges to the news industry as we know it:
For several years, the traditional business models of news organizations have been under pressure; news organizations’ earnings from advertising or subscription have decreased as a lot of the public’s news consumption has moved from print to online sources, and the financial crisis has weakened revenue possibilities further. As such, news organizations have had to rethink their business models, and their conclusions and strategies for monetizing the online audience vary. Even so, it remains an open question what the business models for the future of the news industry look like and how they become economically sustainable.
This seminar, organized by the strategic research area Creative Media Industries and the research group The Mediatization of Culture at the Department of Media, Cognition, and Communication, University of Copenhagen, presents state-of-the-art research into the evolving business models for the news industry as well as contributions from those practitioners that work with them on a daily basis.
The seminar will be in Danish and Norwegian. Admission is free of charge and registration is not necessary.
For this seminar, I’ve been so fortunate to be able to get together my dream team of presenters: from Norway, my good friend and fellow PhD fellow for the past couple of years Jens Barland comes to present findings from his PhD dissertation about Norwegian news organizations’ strategies for making money; from Denmark, the editorial chief of development and innovation from Berlingske Media Pernille Tranberg and the COO of JP/Politikens Hus Stig Kirk Ørskov will talk about their organizations’ strategies and considerations. With these people aboard, the seminar will certainly be highly insightful and inspirational, and I’m really looking forward to it.
Before we get to this seminar, however, I have another one arranged in the form of a guest presentation by my good colleague Rasmus Kleis Nielsen (Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, Oxford, and Roskilde University). This is a more closed event for colleagues primarily, where Rasmus will share key findings from his impressive and very favourably reviewed book Ground Wars: Personalized Communication in Political Campaigns (Princeton University Press, 2012) about the use of persons as media in political campaigns. This seminar takes place on November 1, 2012 – just five days before the American presidential election. Rasmus is an exceptionally bright young researcher, and I’m glad wo have him on board for this arrangement.
In a short article in today’s Politiken, I present brand new research results about how Danish news websites use the interactive potential of web technology. The article is apparently not available online, so you’ll have to buy the newspaper or visit your public library to read it in its entirety, but here is a translation of the most important paragraphs:
Journalists and editors on the Danish news websites might be interested in using the interactive potential of the web and involve the public in their work. But first and foremost so in ways that support the news organizations and don’t leave much control to the audience.
Summing up: it seems that interactivity on Danish news websites is first and foremost a possibility for readers to distribute that material, which journalists have already produced, and to contact journalists. Opportunities for writing yourself are, however, rare.
The article is a spin-off from a large-scale analysis of the use of technological potentials on Danish news websites which will hopefully be published in an academic journal soon. The analysis was generously funded by Dagspressens Fond.
On occasion of today’s edition of metroXpress, which was edited by the Danish crown prince, I’ve taken a look at the trend among especially free dailies to use celebrities as guest editors.
The trend started earlier abroad but as far as I can tell, the first instance of it in Denmark was when then leader of the then largest opposition party and current Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt edited Nyhedsavisen, which is now closed, on May 1, 2007. Later, then party leader Naser Khader and scientist Bjørn Lomborg were also in charge of the content of this free daily (on respectively June 5, 2007, and May 21, 2008).
MetroXpress, the main Danish publication of Metro International, however, leads the pack when it comes to inviting celebrity guest editors: here, radio host duo De Sorte Spejdere (April 22, 2008), pop group Outlandish (their front page is the illustration to this blog post; June 4, 2009), judges of television show Talent 09 (September 11, 2009), comedians from television sketch show Live fra Bremen (March 4, 2010), rock group Volbeat (music section only; May 23, 2011), and rapper L.O.C. (music section only; November 7, 2011) have acted as editors-in-chief for one day, and global guest editors-in-chief James Blunt (November 17, 2008), Lady Gaga (may 17, 2011), and Karl Lagerfeld (February 7, 2012) have also indirectly been in charge of the Danish free dailies.
The question remains, however, who benefits from this widespread use of guest editors.
As I see it, the news organizations are first in line to reap the harvest from this arrangement. They get a lot of mainly positive publicity, and the readership is likely to spike (when Bono guest edited UK broadsheet the Independent in 2006, for example, it reportedly sold 70.000 extra copies). In the next line, the celebrity guest editors get enormous exposure – also to segments of the population, they aren’t usually in contact with (which is fortunate as the guest editing often coincide with album releases or other cultural events). This way, both media and celebrities benefit, and from their point of view the whole guest editor arrangement makes economically sense.
But how about the public? A positive effect is that guest editors can sometimes make possible or highlight specific stories because of their personal positions and networks. If Helle Thorning-Schmidt, the leader of the Danish Social Democrats, had not been in the editorial chair on the International Workers’ Day 2007, Nyhedsavisen’s readers might not have been able to read an exclusive interview with the leading Swedish social democrat Mona Sahlin. And in her 2011 Metro edition, Lady Gaga focused intensely on the rights of homosexuals, drawing attention to a subject matter that seems to be neglected in a lot of countries.
Two negative consequences, however, are that the quality of the news might not exactly benefit from having a celebrity rather than a news professional in the driving seat and that the selection of news can be somewhat more eclectic than usually. Critically inclined persons would say that the audiences get inferior news while the media and entertainment industry get the advantages. The way I see it, however, is that when celebrities take over, the news is not only about udating the public (though it often is when you’ve turned over the first approximately 15 pages and reached the point where it’s just business as usual). On the contrary, rather than being information about current event, the guest edited newspaper constitute an experience in itself for the reader and should be understood that way. It’s an intellectual experiment come to live: what does the world look like through the eyes of this or that celebrity?
In his seminal article “What “Missing the Newspaper” Means” from 1949, Bernard Berelson pointed out that newspaper reading “has respite value” (p. 119). When guest editors putting together free dailies, creating an experience for the readers, I think this is still the case.
Update October 5, 2012: Yesterday, Sir Richard Branson was Global Guest Editor-In-Chief of Metro. Here are links to the Danish and American versions of “his” newspaper.
Researchers of online news and journalism (such as myself) face a serious problem when it comes to our empirical domain: because websites can be continuously updated and the front pages of news websites rarely stay unchanged for longer periods of time, our object of study is transient. When a news website is updated, the old version from before the update is practically gone and cannot be studied.
It goes without saying that the methodological consequences are serious. How do you study an object that no longer exists (or is close to impossible to recreate)? How do you deal with your object of study vanishing into thin air? Existing archiving websites such as the Internet Archive: Wayback Machine and netarkivet.dk do a great job at saving copies of websites for future use and are valuable resources for researchers, but for various reasons I find their usefulness limited. Today, however, an article on Journalisten.dk made me aware of a website that may help dealing with this issue, even if it doesn’t solve the problem.
The website is www.PastPages.org, and it captures the front pages of 67 news websites every hour (the captures are available as image files in the .png format). The websites PastPages is currently capturing are primarily from the US but there are also front pages from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Great Britain, India, Israel, Japan, Mexico, Norway, Qatar, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, and Turkey. We still wait for Danish news websites to enter the sample, however…
I think this website can be an extremely helpful resource for both myself and everybody else who works with online journalism. The access to the front-page captures is easy and free, everybody can do it without any bureaucratic ado, and the logics and schedule of the data collection are transparent and easily understandable. The most obvious limitation to the website is that it only captures front pages but not articles. This choice put some limitations on what you can do with the material on the PastPages, but for future studies of how frames and news agendas change and of the forms of online news, it has the potential of becoming a key resource for researchers and students.
PastPages is still a quite new site, and its future value depends entirely on its continued existence and capturing of enough material to reach a critical mass suitable for studies. You can support PastPages financially here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/651552740/keep-pastpages-alive (the fundraising campaign closes on July 6, 2012). I consider the $20 I donated a good investment in both my own research and, more importantly, the preservation of today’s news for tomorrow.
I have just returned from Porto in Portugal, where I attended the III International Conference on Media and Communication: “Media and Journalism in an evolving ecosystem”. For me personally, this was a very special conference from the beginning as it was the first time I was to present a paper at an international conference (though I have done it before on research seminars, etc.). The title of my paper was “News Websites’ Real-Time Coverage of Emergent Crisis: a Scandinavian study”, the presentation went well, and I will write more about the study later as it will be part of my PhD dissertation.
Let me turn to the conference and jump straight to the conclusion: this was a very good conference, one of the best I’ve been to. It was well-organized, all the papers were of a high quality, and the social events in between the academic parts were spectacular.
First, the organization. Even though the organizers could consider making the final program available a little earlier for the fourth iteration of the International Conference on Media and Communication, everything in Porto worked smoothly. They even got the Portuguese secretary of state at the opening ceremony! Great job by Professor Rui Novais and his team.
Second, the academic content. Of the 16 paper presentations, there was not one presentation that did not give me something to think about, be inspired by, or use in my own research. It would be too much to go through all the interesting points here, so I’ll just remark that I’ve got quite a number of new ideas to pursue in my future research, and that I’ve met a lot of intelligent and interesting scholars to collaborate with.
The conference had four keynote speakers: Dan Hallin gave a rich and inspiring account of how journalism is moving from its modernism into post-modernism with a move towards de-professionalization and opinionated, entertainment-oriented content (I must, however, admit that this talk reminded me very much of his keynote in Bergen last November); Mark Deuze presented his view on journalistic work in a society where media constitute an integral part of all social activity, arguing that journalists need to “brand” themselves through e.g. social media (that this keynote was presented at a video conference just added some kind of meta layer to his very talk); Elizabeth Grabe provided an inspirational approach to analyzing image bites in political coverage, providing a methodological framework for rigorously analyzing images quantitatively; and Robert Entman convincingly showed how scandal journalism works in relation to the American presidency and argued that media need to calibrate their journalistic coverage according to the seriousness of the political misconduct.
Third, the organizers had also gone to great length to make this a conference to remember for the social events. Chris Paterson from Leeds University said that in Britain, a lunch break would usually be 20 minutes long and have the worst food in town, and in Denmark it’s quite the same (even though we usually stretch the break to be 40 minutes); but in Porto, the lunch breaks were two hours of dining at great restaurants (one of them under the Portuguese sun in the restaurant’s garden). On the second day of the conference, the lavish lunch was even followed by a guided tour around town and a boat ride on the river Duoro. This was a great success, and everybody enjoyed that the organizers had also scheduled activities outside of the conference rooms. I think this photo, which was taken by Tiago Oliveira right after the boat ride, epitomizes the overall feeling at the conference:
Between a very productive writing retreat in Bologna (got home yesterday) and my stay at New York University Steinhardt (will leave Sunday), I had found the time to present a paper at the research seminar “New Media – New Journalism?” on the university today.
“journalism that sees publics acting as creators, investigators, reactors, (re)makers, and (re)distribution of news and where all variety of media, amateurs, and professional, corporate and independent products and interests intersect at a new level” (p. 1).
I think the book is good and I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to get a grip of one of the most important developments of contemporary journalism, namely the increased role of who Jay Rosen famously refered to as the “people formerly known as the audience“. For an academic book, Networked is very well-written, and it contains a number of great examples of “best practice” of user participation; Russell’s comparison of the coverage of the Gulf War (1991 – covered by traditional mass media) and the Iraq War (2003 – covered by networked journalism) is particularly enlightening and illustrative of the changes she deals with. Nevertheless, I do have some reservations with regard to both her strong faith in the power and quality of the publics’ contributions to newsmaking and to her dismissal of the value of established media organizations; I think she might overestimate how ordinary people help journalism and simultaneously underestimate the continued importance of institutions. I’ll write a proper review of the book later.
Apart from mrs. Russell, my good colleague Mette Mortensen gave a presentation on the impact and consequences of ordinary people’s use of digital technology to disseminate images and video clips from unfolding events where no journalists are. And I presented a conceptual clarification of “participation” and a tentative typology of reader participation in online news production; this typology is the pivotal point in my contribution to a forthcoming book about social news-production (to be published this Fall).
I think it was a good seminar with though-provoking presentations by my fellow researchers and interesting discussions, so I’m glad I took the time for it. Next: MCC, NYU.
Every once in a while, you hear people complain that while printed newspapers shapen their profiles and address certain segments and target audiences, you cannot tell the difference between news websites because most of the content comes from the same wire services. It’s all the same, the argument goes. But is it really so?
The short answer is: no. As this small analysis of the agendas on five Danish news websites show, there are noteworthy differences in the priorities, selections, and presentations of news across different kinds of news websites. Using the free and highly recommendable online service Wordle, I have created word clouds of the most frequent words on the front pages this morning. I have done my best to weed out words such as “read”, “more”, “about”, “this”, and “that”; what I’m interested in is what keywords dominate the content on different kinds of news websites. This quick-and-dirty analysis is not academic work but I think it gives a quite good idea of how the agenda differs. (You can enlarge the word clouds below by clicking on them.)
The tabloid: Ekstra Bladet. This is the most popular news website in Denmark with approximately 1.5 m unique visitors each month. The tabloid newspaper has the reputation of being the “badboy” of Danish news, and in its own self-perception, Ekstra Bladet is the newspaper that dares speak truth to power. This Friday morning, however, it seemed that the badboy inclinations manifested themselves in carnal rather than anti-establishment interests as “bryster” [‘breasts’] is the most frequent word while the second most used is “Side” – as in “Side 9-pigen”, the Danish equivalent of the girls on Page Three…
The broadsheet: Politiken. This newspaper is primarily read by people from the capital and it puts special priority on culture and lifestyle issues. This identity is reflected in “København” [‘Copenhagen’] and “kultur” [‘culture’] being two of the most frequent words, and the website doesn’t appear to have a lot of content for Danes outside the largest cities. – Note: The word “storkreds” [something like ‘big constituency’] features so prominently because numerous links to a database contained that word and I missed it when discarding noise.
The specialist newspaper: Information. Information is the most high-brow newspaper in Denmark, and I think it’s fair to say that it’s also the most leftist in terms of political bias (except of course of the fullblooded political papers such as Arbejderen [‘The Worker’]). The social engagement and opposition to system domestication of the lifeworld is clear from the word cloud of the news website: “svage” [‘weaks’] and ACTA (the now infamous Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement) are the most used key words, both implying content concerned with the fairness and political structuring of modern democracy.
The local newspaper: Kjerteminde Avis. When the printed newspaper closed by the end of 2010 after no less than 131 years of publication, the editors and journalists continued their work on this news website. Last week, I interviewed the editor-in-chief Allan Aistrup who told me that the mission of the website is exclusively to serve the public of Kerteminde municipality (approximately 24,000 citizens) through nothing but local news; this is clearly reflected in their word cloud where “Kerteminde”, “Langeskov” (another big city in the municipality), and “kommune” [‘municipality’] are among the most frequent words.
The public service broadcaster: DR Nyheder. As a public service broadcaster, DR has to serve all segments and cover all subjects – they cannot just stick to breasts or Kerteminde. It’s probably for this reason there isn’t really any patterns in the keywords of this news website which on the contrary seems to cover a large number of issues somewhat equally. The most used word, however, is “kulde” [‘cold’], and the sudden drop in Danish temperatures considered it’s no surprise that this issue is on the agenda. As such, the most interesting finding from this website is that there isn’t a clear profile to identify.
Keeping in mind the very limited empirical grounding of this analysis, we can make two observations on the basis of the word clouds. First: next time someone brushes news websites aside claiming it’s all the same rubbish, one can argue that while a part of the content is indeed rubbish (as it is in printed newspapers and on the radio and television) it’s certainly not all the same. Second: the content of news websites of course reflects their institutional backdrop and its identification of its target audience. The news websites and their selection of content are also a product of media professionals aiming at certain segments rather than the entire population.
Berlingske Media – publisher of the oldest Danish newspaper and currently owned by London-based investment company Mecom Group – just announced that they will close their free daily newspaper Urban tomorrow, leaving metroXpress and 24timer [24hours] (both owned by Metro International) as the only national free daily newspapers in Denmark. In a press release, CEO of Berlingske Media Lisbeth Knudsen says that
“We [Berlingske] expect a year where economical growth won’t increase, where consumption won’t increase, and where the pressure on the transition from print to digital and mobile will continue. We have to make sure that the group continues to be strong in the competetive situation we face. […] We are sad to choose to say goodbye to thousands of faithful readers of our free daily newspaper Urban but there are no indications that advertising conditions will turn advantageous for the national market for free daily newspapers in 2012; with three [free daily] newspapers there are too many players for that part of the advertising.” (my translation)
When I taught a course on free daily newspapers and news media in Denmark in the Fall of 2009, one of the things I discussed with the students was of course the future of the free daily newspapers. Would they all survive (the financial crisis was also peaking at that time)? If not, which would close? Or perhaps new ones would open? We agreed that if one of the free daily newspapers were to close, it would probably be Urban. Why?
First, the target audiences of metroXpress and 24timer were much more clearcut; metroXpress spoke to an audience interested in international matters and politics while 24timer prioritized lifestyle and service journalism. Urban’s target audience was, however, less clearly defined and it could be hard to define exactly who it was written for. We expected that when having three different free newspapers to choose from, people would probably go for the one that matched their interests best – and judging from Piet Bakker’s recent calculation of readership, I’d say they apparently did.
Second, Berlingske Media was under immense pressure (to say the least) from their owners in Mecom to make a profit; in that situation, giving away news for free on one more platform than the existing economic problem-child of the web seemed an unlikely long-term strategy. Substituting shop steward Thomas Conradsen more or less touches upon the same perspective in a comment to the professional journal of Danish journalists:
“I don’t know if you can say we’re surprised. You know that when you don’t generate profit, it’ll have consequences some day. But we have run the newspaper as [economically] tight as we could so we hoped we would make it.” (my translation)
I’m actually a little surprised to see such an honest admission that Urban wasn’t profitable. But for the two reasons given above, I wouldn’t say that I’m very surprised the free daily newspaper closed.
In 2001, Metro International introduced the first free daily newspaper to the Danish citizens. Now, 10 years later, the transnational publishing company remains the last man standing on the Danish market for free daily newspapers. And with two outlets now instead of just one in the beginning, the organization might actually come out stronger from the battle against now closed free alternatives Nyhedsavisen, dato, and Urban.
New Year’s Eve is always a good opportunity to look back at the old year and evaluate – accordingly, lists of the best and the worst, the most memorable, popular, forgetable, admirable, embarrasing, etc., of year X constitute a popular genre in the last days of the year.
On news websites, this kind of evaluating lists often appear in the shape of articles about the most-read articles of the year that passed. And for a researcher on web-based news and journalism – such as me – these lists provide an interesting overview of what people actually read when they go online for news. That being said, I must stress the un-academic nature of the following reflections on readership on Danish news websites: the sampling is close to random as I have looked only at the top lists on the Danish news websites that I found searching for “mest læste i 2011” (‘most read in 2011’) and “mest læste 2011” (‘most read 2011’) on Google; the analysis is descriptive and explorative at best; the statistical significance is not calculated (and probably non-existing)! Nevertheless, the lists of most-read articles do give an indication about the patterns of online readership.
On Politiken, the online editor claims that “There is a clear tendency that the readers click on to the more serious news” (my translation). Even though there are indications of this pattern on Politiken’s websites, it is certainly a qualified truth when you look across the different news websites. It is true, that many of the most popular events in terms of readership on news websites were of a serious kind: the Arab Spring, the benchmarking of public schools in Denmark, the terrorist attack in Norway, the earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan, and especially the election of a new parlament and appointment of a new government in Denmark were events that readers were very interested in. Those events are all the kind of hard news that journalists, scholars, and concerned citizens agree are important for a functioning public sphere and society.
The most popular event, however, seems to be the disappearence of the little boy Holger which generated numerous articles on the news websites. Readers followed this story intensely and many – among them one of TV 2’s reporters who started crying – must have felt sheer relief when the red-haired boy was finally found and returned to his parents; the articles about the happy ending of the searching were among the most-read on many news websites. The Holger story was only the most prominent example of soft news reaching a large audience.
The 2011 readership of Danish news websites, however, also substantiated and confirmed some of the prejudices about content of online news and the people that reads it. Stories about sex and nudity (quite often with pictures…), celebrities (e.g. the deaths of Amy Winehouse and Danish singer Flemming Bamse Jørgensen), and quirky, uncommon events were popular everywhere. And on Politiken, the most-read article was about TV-gardener Søren Ryge and the best pretzel-shaped pastry in the world; it appears that the turn towards more serious news still has at least some way to go…
When it comes to the websites of local news media, it is clear that the local stories constitute the most popular content. The most-read article from Dagbladet Ringkjøbing-Skjern was, for example, the exciting though very short piece “Lampe revet af væg” (‘Lamp torn of wall’); likewise, in Esbjerg Ugeavis the ultimative click generator of 2011 was about three local pranksters, and almost the entire Top 10 list consists of local news. The same pattern occurs on DR P4 Trekanten where an article about the European Union was among the most-read – but of course with a local angle (about gingerbread). And on the website of Fyens Stiftstidende – Fyens Amts Avis, articles about the sudden illness and death of a prominent local politician constituted seven of the 27 most-read articles.
Departing from the broad overview, I will end this account of the year with an honourable mention of the headline on the front page of a news website in 2011 that I liked the most: “Denne tablet spiser æbler til morgenmad” (‘This tablet computer eats apples for breakfast’) on Ekstra Bladet – about a tablet computer that was apparently way better than Apple’s iPad.
Sources: using Google, I found the following lists of most-read articles:
“TOP 10: Årets mest læste nyheder fra ugeavisen.dk/esbjerg” (Ugeavisen Esbjerg)
Did I miss out any mainstream news websites? Add them in the comment field below and I will take a look at them later.
Until then: Happy New Year!
Update January 2, 2012: I’ve found some more lists. Apart from the lists of Børsen and Kristeligt Dagblad which reflect their specialist character (related to respectively financial and religious matters), the news lists generally support the agenda I have outlined above:
Annette Markham has just visited my university department to give a couple of lectures and participate in a PhD workshop. I of course attended all the arragements (including the Wednesday night dinner at the not-excatly-as-great-as-I-had-hoped-but-still-quite-decent Restaurant Maven) because I find Annette’s company and intellectual challenges immensely stimulating. She is one of those reseacher who can really challenge you on your reasearch questions and general methodological approaches while at the same time she remains loyal to your research and the things in it you’re interested in.
One comment from Annette got me wondering, however: in her presentation ”Remix Method, Remix Culture” for the Digital Communication and Aesthetics research group, she mentioned that ”remix method” as a strategy for qualitative research is not the same as ”bricolage”…
Remix method, on the one hand, is a methodological approach where the researcher remixes from the repertoire of methods and tools available (just as a musical remixer uses bits and pieces from other musical works) in order to make the methodological combination that is most suitable in a specific research context. This way, remix method is in opposition to monolithic methodologies where researchers just use the methods they’re always using because they’re used to them. Paraphrazing Latour (but not necessarily subscribring to his Actor-Network Theory), Annette encourages “following the data” to the methodological sites where it gives the most satisfying and fulfilling answers about the object(s) one’s studying.
Bricolage, on the other hand, is a methodological approach where the researcher applies the variety of methods that is best suited to answer the research questions. Joe L. Kincheloe writes that “bricoleurs [i.e. the people doing bricolage] are empowered to draw on their conceptual and methodological tool kits, depending on the nature of the research context and the phenomenon in question” (2005: 340). This methodological pluralism, too, is an antidote to always following the same approaches in research that one’s used to and that the hegemonic research institutions prefer.
Both approaches seem to advocate playful and varied (some might say eclectic) combinations of the methods that prove most fruitful in the concrete research context. And both encourage interdisciplinarity and openness to revise research questions and methodological choices if new directions turn out to be more productive. One argument for their being different, however, might be the underlying premise of remix method that the product of the research will itself be more of a rough, “work in progress”-kind that enters into the repertoire for future remix-researchers, whereas the product of bricolage is more of the kind of rounded, finished accounts. I acknowledge this difference, but isn’t it a premise for all research publications that they become what other researchers draw upon? And don’t all researchers know this and act accordingly?
I don’t think I’m fully convinced that remix method and bricolage are that different – it rather seems to me to be a question of nuances – but for my part, I’ll need more contemplation. Meanwhile, emails are currently going back and forth as we try to get closer to some sort of clarification. What’s the difference between remix methods and bricolage? And is there a difference?
Having attended arrangements with both Annette Markham (more coming up on her in my next post) and Astrid Haug this week, I realized that I needed to go on Twitter if I ever wanted to be able to figure out what’s going on there. And as a researcher of news and journalism on the web, I want to do that. I’ve been reluctant to sign up to more social media platforms but now I’ve decided to give it a try. I might not be the most active tweeter (is that what it’s called?) but I’m excited to see where it takes me.
Home again after two days in primarily Aarhus. My good friend and former colleague Camilla Dindler had invited me to give a guest lecture on online journalism on her MA course “Politisk kommunikation” [Political Communication] at Media Studies, Aarhus University. It was a good opportunity to take a step back and consider the fundamental questions in connection with my research; accordingly, I called the lecture “Hvad er egentlig det nye ved online nyheder?” [So what’s actually new about online news?] and tried to answer that over my two hours with circa 25 students and Camilla. My take on it was – and is – that the novelty about web-based news (which is my slightly more focused area of interest) is four medium-specific potentials, namely instantaneity, interactivity, multimodality, and hypertextuality. I explained these potentials and presented examples of their use on Danish news websites, and in the end I argued that the news organizations’ attention to these potentials could represent a mediatization of journalism, i.e. an institutional adaptation of journalism to the formats and logics of the medium. This perspective is a new one in my research project but I think I will incorporate it futher from here on as it makes good sense and opens a more theoretical framework for understanding what’s new about web-based news and journalism.
When in Aarhus, I had the chance to meet with associate professor Niels Brügger who shared some of his experience and extensive knowledge of the practicalities of website analysis. His inputs and insights will definitely prove useful in connection with my large-scale content analysis of Danish news websites next February (more on that in a later post). I also interviewed an editor from Aarhus Stiftstidende and got to see family members again. All in all, the trip to Aarhus was fruitful.
I’ve never been to Bergen, Norway, before but these days I’m visiting for a research seminar in the splendid Nordic Research Network in Journalism Studies. Bergen is a really nice town (and contrary to popular beliefs, it doesn’t rain that much), the arrangement is great as always, and I get to meet a lot of both old and new friends with the same professional interests as me. Keynote speeches on the conference are by Dan Hallin (Communications, UCSD) and Natalie Fenton (Media and Communications, Goldsmiths). The title of the conference is “Journalistic Reorientations” as it’s arranged in coorperation with Martin Eide’s Norwegian research network of the same name, and it’s highly relevant for my research as it’s about how news and journalism are changing these years. So I get a lot of inspiration for further research and interesting studies to do – and am among the people to perhaps do them with.
Before the conference, we junior researchers had the opportunity to participate in a master class with paper presentations. I presented my paper “News from the Frontline” about ekstrabladet.dk’s real-time coverage of the COP15 demonstrations and got constructive feedback from both senior researchers (a special thank you to my respondent Dag Elgesam) and fellow PhD fellows; over the next couple of weeks, I’ll work on improving the paper and then submit it for publication. The master class also featured a very interesting keynote speech by Rodney Benson on how ownership matters in connection with journalism; I’ll be following Rod for a couple of months next spring when I go to the Department of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University Steinhardt as a visiting fellow (as described in an earlier post). It’s nice to meet Rod again, and it’ll be great to spend some time at “his” university next year.
Melissa confirmed that I can be attached to the department as a visiting fellow for a couple of months next spring, so from the middle of March to the end of May (the exact dates are still to be determined) I’ll be working from New York City. In NYC, professor Rodney Benson will be my academic “liasons officer” which, e.g., means I’ll follow his course on comparative media systems and give a lecture on Denmark and Danish media. I had the pleasure of meeting Rodney earlier this year when I was in NYC, and I must say that in addition to being an extremely skilled and interesting scholar with an impressive body of work he also seems like a very nice person.
Suffice to say I look very much forward to the stay.
The editorial board of Audiovisual Thinking have kindly asked me to guest edit an issue on journalism, and I have happily accepted. Audiovisual Thinking is something as exotic as “a leading journal of academic videos about audiovisuality, communication, media and design” (i.e. you submit videos instead of papers!) so this task is quite different from anything academic I’ve ever done before. It’s definitely going to be challenging and exciting. The headline of my issue is “News and Journalism in an Online Environment”, and the call for videos goes:
Since their popular emergence approximately 20 years ago, the internet and the World Wide Web have changed news and journalism as we knew it. More recently, other digital and online technologies such as smartphones have intensified the development. Even though core values and self-understandings of journalism remain the same, working practices, business models and approaches to news are challenged. The question, then, is how the online environment changes, challenges and transforms the making, presentation and use of the news. Or to put it another way: if Michael Wesch’s The Machine is Us/ing Us explains digital text, then how can we explain digital journalism?
Topics could include (but are not limited to):
Changes in the journalist/audience relationship
Challenges to journalism as a profession
Transformations of modes of presentation
News without a deadline
Convergence of different news media
Social networks as channels for news dissemination and tools for journalism
Tensions between personalized news and a coherent public sphere
Deadline for submissions is February 2013; the issue will be out in the summer of 2013. If you have questions or comments, feel free to contact me or editor Inge Ejbye Sørensen.
Update February 2, 2012: For administrative reasons, the editorial board has pushed the dates for my special issue a little. Submission now opens Spring 2013 and closes November 15, 2013, and the issue is #8. The content remains the same, however.
Update June 3, 2014: This has been a long process, but today it has finally reached its logical conclusion: due to the lack of acceptable contributions, my special issue will not be made. That’s ok, though I would of course have liked to actually have a series of videos about digital journalism that could be used for, for example, teaching purposes. But then it’s a good thing that we still have the video summer school from the Centre for Journalism at the University of Southern Denmark (including my presentation on audience participation in online news).
This Monday, my wife Regitze Heiberg will hand in her magnum opus (aka master thesis) Orv, det’ for børn! Programlægning af børne-tv på danske public service-kanaler [“Waow, it’s for kids!” Programming children’s television on Danish public service channels] at the Department for Media Studies, University of Copenhagen. The thesis is about Danish public service broadcasters’ programming of children’s television and builds upon interviews and a thorough analysis of ratings. As far as we know, no such study has not been conducted in a Danish context before. By request from one of her interviewees, the thesis is not publicly available but I’ve been granted permission to post what I consider the most important paragraphs from the abstract here on the blog:
Ramasjang was an absolutely necessary initiative for DR who would most likely have lost the youngest audience without a children’s channel, because children do not bother waiting for programmes for them on the main channels. Public service television and Danish programmes, however, offer something else than the commercial channels and are as such important to keep as an alternative.
Concluding, I argue that DR ought to have two differently targeted children’s channels as Ramasjang has troubles serving both the 3-6 and 7-10 years old children. That way, DR would be able to program for a better flow with high ratings and simultaneously prioritise both audience groups equally just as the public service idea lies down.
I, of course, am in no position to objectively judge the quality of the work nor grade it – but I must say that I’m impressed by this piece of work. Congratulations, honey!
The so-called Dyremose-commission has just released its recommendations for the future media subsidies in Denmark. Previously, online newspapers haven’t been entitled to receive state subsidies as the money were set aside for print and broadcast media; this is an arrangement that has generated a lot of criticism. Now, the commission recommends that the money should be distributed in accordance with the production of original content, i.e. the more journalists a media organization employs, the more subsidies is should receive. This is clearly an invitation to vitalize democracy by strengthening journalism and publicist activity. No one can oppose this aim. One kind of news media, however, appears to be quite negatively affected, namely the free daily newspapers: according the the commission’s calculations, metroXpress and 24timer (both owned by Metro International) will each lose approximately 14 m DKK (a good 2.5 m USD) each year while the subsidy for Urban (owned by Berlingske Media) remains the same.
In my master thesis Gratisaviserne som politisk ressource [Free Daily Newspapers as a Political Resource] from 2009, I argued that free daily newspapers could serve an important democratic function because (1) they are the most-read newspapers among the members of society with the lowest income, the shortest education, and the hierarchically lowest jobs, and (2) their political content contains sufficient information to enable its readers to follow and (to some degree) understand the political processes. I concluded that:
All things considered, the free daily newspapers are to be regarded as a political resource to a certain degree; especially the political content of Nyhedsavisen is enabling political citizenship. Still, the political content of the free daily newspapers do not match the standards of Jyllands-Posten, whereas it is actually better than the political content of Ekstra Bladet. (p. 1)
Nyhedsavisen is no longer published but to the extent the remaining free daily newspapers still have readers among the disadvantaged groups (and I unfortunately have no recent statistics on this aspect of readership) a weakening of this particular kind of news dissemination is not unambigiously a strengthening of democracy.