Business models and futures on the Danish podcast market

A bit of research news: together with my colleague Thomas Spejlborg Sejersen, I have received 340,000 DKK from the Aller Foundation to research business models of the Danish podcast market and audiences’ willingness to pay for podcasts. It is a project we would have done anyway, but this funding means that we can “go big”. The Danish School of Media and Journalism has the press release.

There are more and more podcasts. More and more people listen to podcasts. And those that listen seem to listen more and more (with the important caveat that because of the covid19 pandemic, people spend less time on commuting and, as a consequence, less time on listening to podcasts). Leading actors such as Spotify (that signed Joe Rogan and acquired Gimlet Media) bet on podcast as a part of their futures, and a medium as popular as podcast should do well in a digital economy centered around attention. Some do, even in a small language community like Denmark. But for most actors in the market, there is still no sustainable business model.

Against this background, we aim at mapping the business models in play and explore possible avenues for podcasts to build sustainable futures.

The project runs through four stages: 1) a quantitative mapping of the business models of all Danish podcasts; 2) interviews with actors in the market; 3) interviews with audiences; and 4) a representative survey among audiences. Taken together, these different data sources will enable

The project starts now and ends formally with a public conference in January, 2022.

Disclaimer: the Aller Foundation is closely connected to Aller Media, which recently acquired the podcast production company Heartbeats. They obviously have more than a philantropic interest in the project. However, DMJX, Thomas, and I have complete freedom to shape the project, conduct the analyses, and publish the results as we see fit.

24 great pieces of research

As a public service, I’m counting down to Christmas by sharing a piece of media/communication/journalism research every day December 1-24. I share the studies on Twitter, using the not-really-that-good hashtag #askesjul, and here on my blog, updating this post.

The ambition is to try to bridge the gap between the research community and the world outside of Academia. This width of this gap is often somewhat exaggerated, I think, but we can all benefit from a closer dialogue.

The list is, of course, not exhaustive. There is tons of superb research out there that could have been included – but there’s only 24 days until Christmas…

I’ve applied three criteria in selecting the research: it must be published open access (i.e., accessible to people not employed at universities), it must be relatively new, and it must have some degree of relevance for people who do not work with research (i.e., purely theoretical or methodological pieces will not be included even though they might be excellent). There will, obviously, be some exceptions from these criteria, but I’ll try to stick to them.

Anyway, enough with the introduction. Here’s the list:

I’ll probably continue with something of the like throughout 2017. Stay tuned.

PS: When you’re done reading, there are 24 other good pieces in my 2013 advent calendar. It’s slightly different (more focused on journalism, not only academic pieces, some links might not work anymore), but worth you while nonetheless.

NordMedia 2015 in review

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.

Here is the proposal for the panel:

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.

Be sure to read Ulrika’s blog post about the research she presented (in Swedish – she also has a shorter piece in English) as well as Anders’ about his presentations.

Second, I presented a paper (again, work-in-progress) about media policy responses to the convergence of news media sectors in Denmark (to some degree a re-run of the paper I presented at the 2nd International Conference on Public Policy in Milan last month). Here, I am still collecting the last pieces of data from the political parties eligible to run at elections for the Danish parliament, but I expect the article version of this paper to be published next year.

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.

Other highlights:

  • 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.
  • The national meeting, where large parts of the Danish media research community attended, and where we got lots of useful feedback for our work in the Association for Media Researchers in Denmark (SMiD).
  • The “Digital Methods” workshop organized by Stine Lomborg and Anders Olof Larsson as a pre-conference.
  • This tweeted image, which caught my PhD supervisor and friend Stig Hjarvard at a light moment:

New publication: who will pay for online news?

The Journal of Media Business Studies has now published my new research article “The free-to-fee transition: audiences’ attitudes toward paying for online news“. The article is co-authored with Morten Boeck, Jakob Vikær Hansen, and Lars Juul Hadberg Hauschildt and builds, empirically, upon research they did for their master thesis in 2013 (I was the supervisor of this thesis*).

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 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.

My assistant professorship

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!