Creating truly European media requires more initiative
Pan-European media projects have come and gone in recent decades, almost always leaving audiences underwhelmed. However, a growing community of English-speaking, urban Europeans is giving rise to new hopes for the sector.
The fifth session of #MediaRevolution discussed the perspectives for building a successful pan-European media space. The session also looked at specific examples of pan-European projects.
The Fix gathered the main insights from the session:
Juli Simond, Summer of Solidarity Project Manager. “Europe’s Summer of Solidarity”:
Summer of Solidarity was a pop-up project that started in summer 2020 and united 43 European media organisations. It was both time-bound and donor-backed. This meant the SoS team could focus on creating creative and valuable content in the moment, not worrying about sustainable revenue streams.
The first priority was to create an atmosphere of media solidarity and give voice to under-reported stories from across Europe. This was especially important at a time when Europeans were locked inside, unable to travel or work together.
Summer of Solidarity was all about creating and curating partner content. The project created multiple stories in different European languages covering pressing issues of the region.
As a part of the programme, the network created a podcast project “The Chain”. This is a series of love letters by European journalists sharing what they love the most about their countries and communities.
Natalie Nougayrede, editorial board member, columnist at The Guardian; Robert Bosch Academy Fellow. “Prospects for pan-European media space”:
Although European countries have strong connections and face common difficulties, the pan-European media space is still emerging.
Europe has global players, like the Financial Times or The Guardian. But they can hardly be considered pan-European, as they target global audiences in the first place
Media with a pan-European focus exist. But most are either centered in the Brussels bubble (like EUObserver or Politico Europe), or else are still quite small. The world of pan-Europe media is still a “forest of bonsais”.
Reaching across European audiences is about cross-border cooperation, engagement of multinational teams. It is about finding unbiased ways to cover the news and fostering solidarity between the continent’s news organizations.
The majority of philanthropy foundations for media are based in the US. European charitable organizations spend some 60 billion euros annually but only a small portion of these funds go to media support. It is not nearly enough to deal with the sustainability issues faced by the media in Europe.
Google’s news initiative is a growing source of funding. However, it is not really doing much for the pan-European media space. The vast majority of funding goes to commercial publishers from Western Europe.
Turning to public funding. The EU’s Creative Europe programme plans to allocate 61 million Euro for the development culture and media. This is not enough to stimulate the growth of high quality journalism in the region.
Over the last few years, Europe has grown transnationally because of grassroots movements, urbanisation processes… The Europe of cities is much more encouraging as a common space. The spread of the English language is a catalyst of sorts.
Multichannel communication with the public, cross-border media collaboration, mobilization of pop-up projects, diversification of revenues – all these have a strong impact on the pan-European media space.
When trying to assess the pan-European, you should be wary of several issues:
Watch out for “camouflaged” nation-centric approaches;
Avoid partnering with government-controlled media labeled as “EU-controlled”;
Mobilize your own financial resources (at least as a balance of power);
Be flexible because the media world is changing fast.
Paul Ostwald, Forum.eu. “Launching a pan-European media startup”:
Some of the main barriers that pan-European media projects run into include different views on news coverage, language issues, and even content preferences.
The diversity of current topics in the news (and audience preferences) makes a common discussion harder. For instance, monarchy is a big issue for specific countries, but does not register for others. There are some cross-cutting issues like climate changes or COVID-19.
Forum mostly covers news from 23 countries. But thanks to the development of AI, the team uses an automated solution to translate the majority of content. The solution can free journalists from about 60% of translation routine.
The amount of people willing to pay for content differs a lot depending on the particular country. With the rise of awareness about the higher quality of paid media content, the level of subscribers is gradually increasing.
It’s also great to cooperate and syndicate with other media outlets to cross-promote the most essential news content.
Mick Reehorst, founder of Are we Europe. “Building the business side of Are we Europe“:
Are we Europe focuses on cross-border journalism and covers breaking stories from under-covered parts of the continent. The project aims to give European audiences access to a diversity of content in multiple formats, including digital magazines, interactive stories, podcasts etc.
The media project is run in parallel to an agency for freelance cross-border collaborations across Europe. To serve the overall mission more effectively, the company created a non-profit arm working on a database of European creative talent.
Are we Europe has a membership program. Members’ donations ensure that creators are free to publish their content on the website and readers have access to it in a longer term.
Hanna Israel, Project Lead of My Country Talks. “My country talks”:
My country talks brings together people for one-to-one discussions on controversial political issues.
The platform algorithm matches participants based on their answers to political questions embedded in online articles.
After completing a questionnaire users get access to a discussion platform and are able to have real-time conversation with “opponents”. The approach appeared to be highly effective for uncovering biases and breaking down stereotypes.
A growing number of users proves the success of My country talks. The platform became a safe space bringing together more than 150,000 people from over 30 counties.