The Future of Journalism

Funding of Journalism

EurActiv, the media, will celebrate its 15th birthday and Fondation EurActiv its 10th birthday in 2014. During recent months we have been fortunate to have been able to debate with other media professionals, some donor organisations, academics and public officials many of the challenges and opportunities facing quality journalism. This blog seeks to explore some of the funding options and different business models we practice or have observed. It is work in progress and we have no prescriptions for others, neither is it specific to the niche market of online EU policy media. Constructive comments and feedback are, as usual, welcome.

The issues:

  • The internet is radically affecting European media and traditional business models in both adverse and positive directions, but not symmetrically.
  • Advertising revenues for print media have dropped sharply but sharp rises in use of electronic media have not yet produced compensating rises in digital revenues and may never do so; partly due to boom in shift to mobile devices.
  • Media diversity in some EU members has declined sharply and some countries lack EU accredited media representation or at least a choice.
  • As print media have had to slash budgets: press agencies have also seen sharp declines in resources/diversity.
  • Social media are powerful complements in certain aspects: speed, brevity and reach to younger audiences but 140 characters does not provide the depth or balance needed to sustain policy debates.
  • EU policies still vital for many businesses and for many NGOs but general public disaffected and distant from the ‘Brussels bubble’ hot-house debates and ‘my daily life’.
  • English is lingua franca among EU policy professionals in most capitals but not enough to reach ‘national influencers’.
  • Trust in media has declined in recent years – see Edelman Trust barometer

The solutions:

  • Many different solutions are being tried across Europe and elsewhere: some daily media have moved to weekly or even less frequent publication, some have chosen to go entirely digital, some have adopted a hybrid mix, some are distributed for free. Digital media and so-called citizen journalism allow for a much more interactive relationship between editors and readers / users: for an inspirational lift read or listen to the recent A N Smith speech by Catherine Viner, Editor of new digital Guardian Australia: The rise of the reader: journalism in the age of the open web.
  • Networks seem to offer some efficiencies e.g. the EurActiv Network is composed of up to 15 editorially and often financially independent legal entities sharing a common branding, editorial mission and style where content is exchanged and re-published regularly.
  • Europa is a more recent innovation: this is a shared editorial venture, but without the complexities of a legal entity, employees or management board, nor does it create a tax liability. Six well-established ‘quality’ publications: El País, La Stampa, The Guardian, Le Monde, Süddeutsche Zeitung and Gazeta Wyborcza have agreed to pool editorial resources to publish a supplement on the same day three times a year, since January 2012. Europa: Changing the way Europe is reported, Reuters Insitute Fellowship Paper, 2013.
  • Sponsored content is being embraced by several news media in North America: readers are increasingly used to see different kinds of content juxtaposed in one continuous feed (text, blogs, video, tweets, fb, etc.). Brands double down on content via own websites, mobile apps & social channels. Still need to have and to hold loyal users <=> information overload but not enough time.
  • Supported content is a variant, employed by the EurActiv Network, which seeks support from both private as well as public and civil society organisations, but without ceding any editorial independence. A clear red-line separates the supporter, be it a multinational, an NGO or a public authority, from the editorial content.
  • Crowd-sourcing is another recent funding trend used in a variety of fields including the Arts, so far (as we are aware) it has only been successfully applied in the media sector in a few disparate areas: one online Spanish media [link awaited] is or has been largely funded in this way and one investigative journalism story is currently being researched using such funds: the Sochi Project [link awaited]
  • European media need additional resources to invest in higher ethical standards at many levels e.g. for and by publishers, editors and not just journalists to restore and reverse declines in confidence & trust.
  • European governments and the EU should review the direct and indirect support that is and has been provided to the European media industry (bulk purchases by public libraries and institutions, assistance with subsidies for newsprint and or mail delivery, subsidies for travel and subsistence) and update these supports for conditions in the second and following decades of the 21st century (while paying attention to relevant state aid regulations). In addition see Eight Ways the EU Can Help Journalism published in 2012 by Eric Karstens of EJC which is still largely valid today.
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Comments

  1. Julian, thanks for giving hope to the media sector!

    I look forward to discussing these and other solutions:
    . presenting at European Business Press association…. today, in Stockholm
    . discussing at congress of Association of European Journalists, next week
    . moderating related session at MediaLab of EMMA, in January.

    yes we can!
    with a little help for the fourth ‘power’,
    fragile but resilient,
    and so important for democracy….

    @LeclercqEU

  2. Thanks for the support Christophe, as well as actual funding – which as we know can produce doctrinal ‘church vs state’ type divisions there is also much in-kind or regulatory supoport which public authorities can offer short of cash. Firstly, wider accreditation of bloggers and other social media practitioners to The European Council, Council and other EU institutional consultation and decision-making meetings would highlight the often strong consensuses achieved as well as the reservations aired by some governments. in recent years there has been a further decline in the percentage of articles appearing in quality media reporting on other member states even while the euro crisis has vastly expanded the impact of EU decisions on social services, healthcare, trasnport, pensions etc. Secondly, the creation of incentives for cross-border syndication through a simplified copyright regime would be another low-cost regulatory reform.

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