The Fix’s 10-day online conference #MediaRevolutions was quite a journey, with 39 top speakers covering some of the most important topics in media. Below are the most important insights from each session, as well as links to the conference video presentations themselves.

1. Media vs. authoritarianism: audiences are the best and only hope

Authoritarian regimes represent a major challenge for publishers. Not only do they limit access to information and freedom of speech, but also hurt media outlet’s capacity to build a sustainable business.

Often the only thing one can really rely on is the support of your audience. That makes audience engagement a priority. Independent media have to experiment with new platforms and content formats. They also need to be flexible in repackaging information to match audience needs.

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2. The Newsletter Era: Growing your newsletters starts with knowing your audience

Newsletters are one of the most effective ways to turn readers into paying subscribers or supporters. But a successful newsletter business requires investment of both money and time.

Newsletter experts recommend to start with a thorough research of your target audiences. Collect data on their content preferences and values. Experiment with formats and try to personalize the content. 

At the same time, there are a lot of instruments and tools provided by platforms. Take time to pick those best suited to your needs. Finally, make sure to promote your newsletters across other media platforms and don’t hesitate to get creative.

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3. Artificial intelligence in journalism: Key insights and new solutions

AI technologies are driving a “third wave of digital transformation” in the media industry. New algorithms can automatically generate content, research and fact-check big data sets. While some projects try to make journalists’ work more effective, others are trying to disrupt the media ecosystem. 

Value My News automatically collects media content from dozens of local creators on one platform, making it accessible to larger audiences. The goal is to create a distributed news agency, connecting local writers to publishers who can pay for their work.

LOYAL AI is a tech solution helping media professionals automate their story research process. It makes it easier to check and link sources, helping find relevant information in real time. 

These are just a few examples. If you want to go deeper and see what else AI solutions have to offer – check out free online courses on AI by LSE Journalism AI project. The courses focus on machine learning, AI approaches and its effects on media. 

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4. Cross-border reporting in crisis: More partnerships and cooperation needed, not less

Most of the world has been in and out of the lockdowns in 2020 (and continues to be restrained in 2021). As a result, cross-border cooperation is more important than ever. 

But there are a lot of challenges to overcome to make such cooperation work. People do not easily trust others outside their network. Moreover, it is difficult to ensure quality delivery for promised work. 

But the prize is worth it. Cross-border cooperation can increase the quality of your content and help you stand out. Done well, it can also help reach international audiences. 

Multiple organizations are currently working on solutions, from facilitating cross-border partnerships (even taking responsibility for the results of the partnership) to making cross-border reporting easy and safe. 

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5. Pan-European media space: emerging European media community needs support

Pan-European media are a “forest of bonsais” explains Natalie Nougayrède, Guardian columnist. They might be great, but they lack the scale of full media, because they lack opportunities to grow.

In addition to funding issues, Pan-European media deal with headaches around multiple languages, markets, consumer preferences… At the same time, the divisive online space means building pan-European media is more important than ever. 

But the scene is changing and so are audiences. A series of new organizations is tackling the challenge with fresh energy and ideas.

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6. Innovation in the reader revenue: how to launch a successful membership model

Loyal audiences are the best kind of support a media can wish for. Especially during times of crisis. This point was driven home in 2020, after COVID-19 hit the industry hard. In many cases, ad revenues plummeted making readers’ contributions critical for survival. 

Membership is one of the most popular approaches. It allows the media to stay open to wider audiences but also build a club of loyal supporters. 

Useful tips for developing a successful membership model include investing in listening and building deep relations with readers, investing in technology and a convenient product solution, and constantly experimenting to fine-tune the model.

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7. Human resources at media companies: nobody is perfect but a team can be

Media is a talent-driven industry, yet little attention is paid to human resource management. This low level of prioritization often leads to crises, high turnover and poor organizational effectiveness. 

Publishers need to start taking HR seriously. This means gathering more data, but also dedicating time to build a culture and system that grows and retains talent. The competition – especially from other industries than media – is speeding up. 

That means media need to move faster in addressing staff pain points.

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8. Podcasts in Europe: from scaling to monetization

Podcasts are quickly becoming a trend even in the fragmented European market. More and more people are choosing audio, consuming content as they commute, work out or do chores.

A few tips on how to start your own podcast in Europe:

  • Build friendly relationships with media colleagues and invite them on (and ask them to share via their own social media);
  • Choose a suitable monetization model (e.g., Patreon for financial support from loyal listeners). But firstly, think of what benefits you can offer in exchange for their input.
  • Keep in touch with your listeners on other interactive platforms. For example, The Europeans, a podcast about Europe, gathered their core audience in a Facebook group.

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9. Instagram, TikTok, Telegram: Insights for publishers

Instagram, TikTok and Telegram are fast-growing social media platforms that offer exciting opportunities for growth. Perhaps more important, they are the path to connecting with coveted younger audiences.

TikTok allows you to reach huge numbers without spending money on promotion. Instagram, a visual-first social network, is best used as a “shop window” for your primary content. Telegram is gaining popularity for its speed, encrypted communications, and low bandwidth needs.

Using these new channels can open up great opportunities for media – if you do it wisely and know what your goals are. 

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10. Future of media education: innovating both format and content

The fast-changing media environment constantly requires new skill sets and ways of thinking. Yet media education is struggling to keep up with evolving demands. 

In order to become better, media education needs to be as hands-on as possible. It should involve journalists in the working process through internships or use business games to prepare students to the real life challenges in media. 

At the same time, education is in many ways an intimate process. It is important to create the right environment and space. To provide emotional support and guidance particularly to media professionals struggling from trauma and burnout. 

Well done, however, it can be a game-changer. Communities formed around education programmes are perhaps some of the most resilient ones people will encounter in their professional lives.

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