On Tuesday, the International Press Institute (IPI) kicked off its virtual World Congress 2020 with three expert talks featuring leading journalists, editors and media executives from around the world discussing challenges facing the media industry and journalism in the digital age.
Day one of IPIWoCo saw three online webinars focus on different aspects of how the transition from print to online media had radically transformed news, drove innovation and forced journalists to adapt to a host of fresh challenges for the industry and its journalists.
In the World Congress’ second event, IPI’s Congress & Membership Adviser Jacqui Park was joined by Espen Egil Hansen, Former Director of New Media Concepts at Norway-based Schibested, Ferial Haffajee, Associate Editor of the South Africa-based Daily Maverick, and Süddeutsche Zeitung Editor-in-Chief, Wolfgang Krach to talk about their business models, products and their revenues and the challenges of staying afloat as a media company in today’s economy.
Hansen explained the transformation from print media to a model that relies on digital subscription had changed everything from the newsroom, to the work culture, to how the commercial side of the news business functions. “It effects all sides of the business”, he explained. However, he argued that digital subscription also works better with journalism because of a closer relationship with the audience: “It became a positive drive for journalism.”
Hansen also shared the myths around young people’s relationship with the news, arguing that there are different ways of storytelling that attracts young reader’s attention if news outlets focus on the quality of the digital.
“It’s a myth that young people don’t want to pay for news and it’s a myth that young people don’t trust media”, @EspenEgil from @Aftenposten said. “If you want to reach a younger audience, you need to produce a quality, native digital content” pic.twitter.com/Sx9gG9XdKN
— IPI – The Global Network for Press Freedom (@globalfreemedia) September 15, 2020
Krach explained that Süddeutsche Zeitung was not in a “safe harbour” but that the newspapers had managed to stabilize its finances. Discussing the transitions that Süddeutsche Zeitung had gone through, he said: “We didn’t do them because we wanted to do them. We did them because we were forced to do them because of the economic situation.”
“The important decision we made was about 15 years ago when we were thinking about the questions: ‘What differentiates us from others? ‘Why do people read Süddeutsche Zeitung in Germany?” he said. “We made the decision to invest into creating a new unit for investigative journalism despite all the budgetary restraints we had. This was the only new unit started in the newsroom. We decided that was the crucial thing we wanted to do at the newspaper.”
Krach said that while the Süddeutsche Zeitung did not have a membership or subscription model, “our relationship changed drastically in recent years, related to the social media presence we have.” He added: “The relation is much closer compared to printed newspapers”. However, he underlined that within five years, media outlets would have to find a way to sustain themselves financially without relying on advertisement revenues.
Haffajee explained the Daily Maverick had never had a print edition and that much like the German newspaper, her publication had also formed its identity around investigative journalism. “One of these big stories we published caused a seismic shift in the political situation and saw trust in investigative journalism grow substantially enough for the Maverick to grow a membership base,” she said. “These members now support our work as part of a three-legged strategy alongside philanthropy and advertising.”
She explained the readers were “deeply embedded” in the newspaper. “This model is one that speaks to my heart because it’s close to the democratic concepts of what I think journalism should be,” she added. Haffajee said that this business model meant accountability had also changed because it relies less on the market but more on the readers.