Reuniting with the research family

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.

Stockholm trees

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.

CfP: The business models of journalism

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
  • Audience segmentation
  • 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.

PS: you can get future news, calls for papers, and announcements via Journalistica’s Facebook site.

Making money from making news

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.

A wrap-up (in Norwegian) of Barland’s conclusions can be found in a recent post on his Journalisten.no blog.

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.

New business models for the news industry – update

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.

The seminar will be in Danish and Norwegian.

You can also find the event on Facebook here.

Two exciting seminars this November

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.