A media organisation has to be part of the social media ecosystem in order to survive says Peter From Jacobsen, Project Director at the Danish School of Journalism
Peter participated in the European pilot of the Digital Identities workshop powered by Google News Lab in Sweden. As we’re heading to Copenhagen in April, we caught up with him to talk about trends in journalism and the value of conducting experiments.
Peter, tell us a bit about yourself.
I am the project director at the Danish School of Journalism. My role varies from organising seminars and conferences to participating in research, identifying trends and communicating them to the sector and to government. Before I joined the school, I was a journalist for many years — at a newspaper reporter in Viborg and later as the business editor at Aarhus Stiftstidende.
“It’s far too simplistic to say that people don’t want to pay for journalism. They are going to other places online to access news and information about aspects that relate to their day-to-day lives.”
As a journalist and educator, what’s the biggest change you’ve observed?
You cannot take huge advertising revenues for granted. Even the legacy organisations are struggling. It’s far too simplistic to say that people don’t want to pay for journalism. They are going to other places online to access news and information about aspects that relate to their day-to-day lives. This isn’t necessarily a disadvantage because as a media organisation, your audience is no longer limited to a subscriber base in a particular city or region. They are defined by interests and can come from anywhere.
“I do feel there’s an urgent need to tell new kinds of stories… but that just raises more questions.”
What’s the best way to engage this global, fragmented audience?
Journalism is going in so many different directions right now, there’s no single approach everyone can take. I do feel there’s an urgent need to tell new kinds of stories. On the one hand we need to cater to diverse audiences, but at the same time, there is benefit in going niche — vertical journalism. But that just raises more questions. Do we need to tell short, sharp stories on multiple channels or spend more time creating long form content that takes time to publish and read?
“The journalist is a curator of content rather than the sole producer of stories…. Otherwise we’ll get caught in a death-spiral of overproducing content.”
It seems the sector is being pulled apart in different directions.
Yes, I agree. We’re in the age of experimentation. A media organisation has to be part of the social media ecosystem in order to survive. In this framework, the journalist is a curator of content rather than the sole producer of stories. I would describe this as a responsive approach to storytelling. Otherwise we’ll get caught in a death-spiral of overproducing content
What do you classify as an experiment and who should conduct them?
Using digital tools effectively is about figuring out what works for you. The best innovations come from people who spend time thinking about the context of why they need to use digital. With this in mind, an experiment is nothing more than an idea worth exploring. Attach this idea to something you would do normally as part of your daily work, for example a story that you are going to cover. Break the process down into smaller steps, see what you can change to achieve the idea. Evaluate the outcome and repeat the process.
As for who should be experimenting. I think this approach is for everyone. All of us have a process that needs to evolve and change. This is why I enjoyed the Digital Identities workshop in Stockholm. It’s a good opportunity for journalists to reflect on their process, learn from others and think about how digital can work for them.
Digital Identities powered by Google News Lab is a free programme open to journalists. After a successful pilot in Sweden we’re running seminars in Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Oslo and Delhi this year. Click here to learn more.