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Reflections after ’Constructive Media’ at #Rebuild21

May 31, 2012

I  participated in the great Rebuild21 conference in Copenhagen yesterday in a panel about ’Constructive Media’. What is was, why news media do it and what they can do more.

To me constructive media is doing more than just reporting. It is also giving advice on how to act, if you feel like it. And it is also engaging and collaboring with the audience. And yes, it could be practised much more.

However, I believe the real burning questions pointing forward is how traditional media can be more constructive with the new players like Facebook.

Many people who join journalism do it because they have a idealistic mission wanting to change the world to the better. Yes, honestly, that is the dream of many journalists.

When the newspapers had a close-to-monopoly on the word and a thriving businessmodel – until the end of the last century – they did use a great part of all the money they made to finance idealistic journalism. With more and more pressure on the business model, too much journalism has turned into superficial untrustworthy fast breaking journalism where it was more about being first on the web than being thorough.

Today, there are still many journalists with idealistic missions. But it is expensive to pay people to dig into research and translate it into something understandable. In the future, journalists (and everybody can call themselves that) need help from the crowds to do quality journalism. But they also need help from those ’frameworks’ who took the better part out of the thriving business models, especially huge tech companies like Google and Facebook. Google today sits on half of all digital advertising in Denmark, Facebook is growing fast. They are both brilliant companies who did great innovations, and thanks for that.

But will the Googles and the Facebooks in the future spend some of their big money on producing quality content? Google has already shown signs it will. AdWords – revenue sharing with partners is one little sign. YouTube is doing the same with media channels – sharing ad revenues with the content producers and they’ve also started paying content producers directly for documentaries. But Facebook – what are they doing. Nada. Many will say they provide traffic. Yes, so does Google and many many others, but traffic today is not enough to finance quality journalism.

Commercial media houses of the future have to accept that they will make much much less money compared to what they did in the past. Journalists will be paid much lower –if paid. It is a fact that is hard to accept.

But if we, as a society, want quality (including constructive) journalism – both from commercial and publicly financed media (which I believe is a good mix) – from people who can make it (journalists, bloggers, experts etc) we have to pay them for it. It won’t just happen, and they need to have an organisation behind them. It is very hard, if not impossible, to reveal politicians and companies doing wrong (the number of journalists in Danske Bank for example is higher than on Berlingskes national desk). Individuals can’t do that alone, they need back-up. In courts and legal fights. In media discussions etc.

So, let’s hope that the Facebooks in the future will help finance content production. Even though it is not a thriving business anymore.

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