Rummaging through old files I came across with the most interesting stuff: almost exactly 4 years ago I wrote this. It reminded me of a debate I participated this week.
Not much has changed. Or did it?
Ao remexer em pastas antigas, encontrei algumas coisas interessantes: há quase exactamente 4 anos escrevi isto.Lembrou-me de um debate em que participei esta semana.
Pouco mudou entretanto. Ou mudou?
We’ve been watching a significant change in the Portuguese news media, for the last few years. From national to local newspapers, radios and TV channels, everyone is building their presence online, with more or less aptitude or quality. Still, the effort is noticeable.
But this investment in new platforms of communication doesn’t mean the companies are following the latest trends, or leaving their somewhat conservative approach to the full possibilities of the web. The news websites in Portugal are mostly a repository for print content, since many don’t have exclusively online journalists, and the resources for online content are rather limited, especially as multimedia content is concerned, though slowly the tide is turning, mainly due to the efforts of major newspapers, that are trying to improve and take the step forward in online content.
This scenario, of slow and uneven development of new media content, is useful to explain why the interactivity between media and users is practically inexistent. Many still don’t grasp the concept of participative/citizen journalism and community, but companies and newsroom managements aren’t the only ones to blame, since there are other factors to consider:
- Portugal has a low newspaper reading index, and despite an increase in the last years, it is still one of the lowest in Europe;
- the Portuguese, as a people, usually aren’t civically engaged;
- journalists, as a class, are quite protective about their job;
- there is no specific training for professional journalists regarding community management, content moderation, outsourced content;
So, if news information still runs downriver, it’s because there’s not only a structural problem, but also a passive-aggressive attitude towards citizen journalism: passive on the citizen part, aggressive on the journalists’ that defend their status as news bearers with tooth and nail, even if most don’t take any effort to understand the new reality.
To vouch for these changes and current mindset, I created a small survey in which I was trying to understand the conditions and openness of online media to citizen contribution. It was divided in 4 parts: company characteristics, main types of content and sources, forms of user participation, and a short opinion on citizen journalism. This survey was sent to about 50 newspapers, TV and radios with online news features, sizing from national media groups to local companies. The response was baffling.
A quarter of the email addresses available for contact with the website or newsroom’s management were useless, and even after further attempts inviting the remaining ones that worked, only four companies replied and filled out the form. The results are, therefore, inconclusive. But this is a good example to show how receptive most newsrooms and companies are to outside stimulation, even if it wasn’t only for the fact that the ones that replied are amongst those who are working to develop their presence online, in a well thought, sustainable way, and embracing the new challenges posed by hyper-communication, while the vast majority is selling pig in a poke.
Anyway, these were the results: two newspapers – one national, the other local – one online news outlet and a TV channel answered to the survey. The local newspaper was the less resourceful, with no exclusively online journalists, against the online outlet who has over 30 workers. The local newspaper had a 30 to 50 thousand visits, against the over 330 thousand claimed by the TV channel’s online newsroom. All of them prioritized text over video, audio and photography, being video the less used format, except on the TV website, for obvious reasons. None of them used citizen or users as a source, sticking to the journalists’ investigation and agencies feed, although users’ images and videos were welcome. All of them are expecting to open their website to further user collaboration, and when asked about the future of citizen journalism, the best answer was “interactivity is one of the factors that increases the number of visits,(…) and the visibility and acknowledgement of the brand”. This line of thought is still a needle in the Portuguese news haystack.
The most recent reports on citizen journalism in the USA (State of the News Media 2008) show a decrease in user’s participation, though there are new websites and features popping up everyday, appealing to news readers to develop contents and create a tighter relationship with the online editions. In Portugal, all the news related to media websites development is announcing more multimedia and interactive features, for a broadband usage: more video, more comments, more space for users’ opinions and input. With very few notable exceptions, nothing is really changing; the main difference now is that the contributions accepted by media companies are now being sent over the internet, instead of regular mail, like it happened for decades.
Portuguese users are actively creating own media, like blogs and podcasts, and commenting on the news websites, or sending small videos and pictures is still enough for most of them. And on the day I’m writing this, Público presented a feature, that links a news article to the blogs that refer to it, which may mean that the future is not necessarily in the embedding of citizen content, but by promoting the exchange of contents between corporate and citizen media. But, apart from those small advances to integrate users in the building of the news landscape, there is nothing we may call as citizen journalism in Portugal.
The reasons to proclaim citizen journalism as a part of the future of news media may be honest or pure marketing, but the fact is that it doesn’t rely solely on the companies shoulders. The main promoters of this movement must be the citizens themselves, and they should be the leading force in changing the face of corporate news, recreating the agenda setting, humanizing and lending depth to news content. The media outlets just have to be ready to accept that.
It’s in Portugal and it’s worth spreading: the second Switch Conference is just in a couple of days and there are still some tickets available . If you don’t know what it is, here’s what it’s all about:
SWITCH is a 2-day conference to be held in the University of Coimbra, Portugal , on the 15th and 16th of May, 2010. We do want, however, to make SWITCH way more than a conference. We want to make it an authentic 2-day discovering experience. Attendees will get in touch with scientists, entrepreneurs, thinkers, do-er and everyone in between to share their knowledge, their experience and their ideias aiming to create awareness on scientific and technological matters, preparing us to a better defined future and a helthier society. We want and promote earth-shaking ideas, impossible breakthroughts and incredible life stories.
The conference will take place on a weekend to let those who are unable to leave work for the whole week to attend the conference sharing their experience and vision.
SWITCH will have a main room where presentations will fully run from day 1 to day 2, a second room where the startup competition and deep discussions will take place and, finally, outside areas when all sort of fun activities will take place and where partners and sponsors stands will be located.
SWITCH main theme will be “Web & Development” but our bet is on diversity. Diversity of cultures, ideas, discussions, persons and, of course, themes. You can find the full list of topics for this year’s conference here.
In the 2nd Room will take place the startup competition hosted by Webreakstuff. We want to act as a plattaform for networking, but also as as a way for you to meet with investors and to make your business project known by the crowd. The startup competition will sort out the best startups around and promote them with investors and media.
And in the latest instalment for changes around here, i’d like to announce that yesterday i started my column dedicated to new media at Rascunho.IOL.pt. I am honored for the invitation they made and hope to provide a few interesting insights about the Media Revolution.
The title for this weekly reflection is “Media DJ”, and the English version will be available in my (new) blog, becoming somehow an extension of my work.
Below is the first text for Media DJ.
E no mais recente capítulo dedicado a mudanças por aqui, gostaria de anunciar que ontem iniciei a minha coluna/caderno sobre novos media no Rascunho.IOL.pt. Estou honrado pelo convite que me fizeram e espero dar algumas visões pessoais interessantes sobre a Revolução dos Media.
O título para esta reflexão semanal é “Media DJ”, e a versão em inglês estará sempre disponível no meu (novo) blog, sendo uma extensão do meu trabalho.
Imagine a stage, and you’re sitting in the audience. From up there, one or several characters proclaim the news of the day, the events they chose as the most important. They do it at a certain time, in a ritualized fashion and within a specific duration.They ignore your reactions, and aren’t quite interested in you but in how many of you are watching them. This was the paradigm for the relationship between audience and media. Then came the Internet and everything changed.
Today, the stage and the audience share the same space, there are several voices for many subjects, each one with its own perspective and different origins; information flows within that space between all the elements, from media to users, to other users, to other media. The keywords for this new model are sharing, dialogue, mobility/ubiquity and real time. Contents are made of layers, a new contribution or production is built over the previous one. And everyone can participate: with text, photos, video.
The information industry and journalism are going through the biggest revolution they’ve ever gone through. The content creation and dissemination tools evolved rapidly, and more important, they are availabe to anyone. The audience became an active element in the creation and disseminaton of information. In a matter of years we went from static versions of newspapers to multimedia rich content, real time information provided by users in social networks and on Twitter, anywhere, to everywhere, which deviated the media from the center of the news paradigm, forcing them to reconsider how to interact with their users, how to work information on the web, publish it, renew it, in a profound change of processes and views. And also how to make that profitable.
The name of this column is Media DJ, because all these changes influenced journalist’s work, demanding new skills. DJ has a double meaning, being the first, the one who, from other people’s music, mixes, remixes, aligns and generates a new dynamic, turning the whole bigger than the sum of its parts; and it also works for Digital Journalism/Journalist. Information DJs do exactly the same as music DJs, they pick up the pieces and generate a a new set, but with a totally different responsibility: they contribute to the creation of a collective conscience, and a well informed society will make better choices. In the end, nothing changed in the fundamental role of journalism, just the way you do it.
Every week i hope to bring a part of that (r)evolution, that is unfolding faster than reality can keep up. You just have to follow the music.