What is the future of journalism

Interview with Markus Kaiser
Journalism of the future

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At the media days in Munich we presented "Change in the media and communication industry". The guide explains how private and public media can adapt to digital change and changed audience habits and expectations. We interviewed one of the authors, the change manager, Prof. Markus Kaiser, for you.

HSS: Dear Prof. Kaiser: How do you get information today?

Prof. Markus Kaiser: The paths are becoming more and more different. When I ask my students at the Technical University of Nuremberg, not a single hand goes up to the daily newspaper with freshmen. Most of them no longer have a television at all. Many say: They find out more about the stream, i.e. social networks like Instagram. For people over the age of 70, on the other hand, a regional daily newspaper still plays a decisive role, as does traditional linear television. The content of the traditional media is still used, but in addition to YouTube, weblogs, Instagram posts by influencers and, among the very young, the TikTok social network, which is growing rapidly. The display channels are changing for classic media companies, but this also includes adapting the content. Bayerischer Rundfunk, for example, has experimented a lot: With the “News-WG”, it has successfully established a news format on Instagram, the modern “Tagesschau”, so to speak, for young people. Or at “Ich, Eisner” he opened a WhatsApp account for Kurt Eisner. Anyone who treads such paths as a media company can continue to be successful in the future. Only those who change will last.

Of course, I see dangers in the use of media in the filter bubbles that have often been described and that this makes it more and more difficult to lead a discourse in society as a whole. For media companies, there is of course the risk of betting on the wrong horse or discovering a relevant channel too late. Digitization is only just beginning. It will be important to keep up with media innovations.

Markus Kaiser, born 1978 in Nuremberg, is professor for digital journalism, media innovations and change processes in the communication industry at the Technical University of Nuremberg, consultant for social media and change management and lecturer at various universities. Before that he was head of the MedienNetzwerk and MedienCampus Bayern, press spokesman for an authority and editor at the Nürnberger Zeitung. His books include “Innovation in the Media”, “Research”, “Transforming Media” and “Chatbots in Journalism and Public Relations”. www.markus-kaiser.org

Patrick Huebner

HSS: What is the difference between a blogger and a journalist?

This was discussed very long and in detail. At first you could see the difference in the delivery path and the software. But it can no longer be made that easy for yourself, especially because a large number of journalists blog and classic websites use blogging software. I particularly like the following distinction: Anyone who adheres to journalistic standards (i.e. especially to the press code and also takes into account the multi-source principle and the opposite side in the research) is a journalist. Here the channel no longer plays a role, regardless of whether it makes a TV report, writes for a print newspaper, works for the radio, blogs or makes news on the social web. This definition is in any case consistent with Article 5 of the Basic Law, which guarantees freedom of the press. Finally, freedom of the press also means that there may be no restrictions on access to work as a journalist and, for example, to found a publishing house. And anyone who does not blog according to journalistic standards cannot be called a journalist. Of course, it is clear to me that sometimes the dividing line is not that easy to draw and that it is not easy to handle in practice (for example, when accrediting media representatives for events, party conferences, etc.).

The task of journalists has generally shifted from gatekeeper to gate watcher. In the past, if a journalist had not published certain information, it was completely ignored. This has annoyed politicians at the federal level as well as the small sports club with its fringe sport. Today it is up to everyone to put information online. If he does this cleverly, a backbencher can also get a response. The job of journalists is to sort, classify and verify this explosion of supposed news and to tell the user what is really important. This is called gatewatching.

HSS: How do we overcome the echo chamber?

This question can be answered on several levels: The user can do a lot for it. But most of those who are in echo chambers, i.e. only receive opinions and information from the political spectrum that suits them, do not even want to overcome them. It is much more pleasant to see your own opinion confirmed every day than to hear counter-opinions and counter-arguments. For the others, the following applies: Today one has easier and unhindered access to so many journalistic sources than ever before. I myself use newsletters from various newspapers, have subscribed to two e-papers, surf the websites of various daily newspapers, now also international ones, and watch Bavarian radio and ARTE much more often via the media library than in the analogue age. And via Facebook I get messages from various media in my timeline. You just have to want it.

Media companies can of course do a lot too. The prerequisite, however, is that those who are stuck in the echo chamber also use these media. An example: In news apps, users can now very much personalize which departments they are interested in and which regions they prefer to receive news from. On the one hand, this leads to a restriction. On the other hand, an intelligent algorithm can also bring news from other departments into your own news stream if it has exceeded a certain significance threshold. News agencies - such as the dpa - work with such prioritization of messages, for example. In concrete terms: if someone is not interested in football, they will never see football reports. But he does notice when there is a major bribery scandal, the new German champions or how Germany is doing at the World Cup. This is even an advantage compared to the print age: here many have said that they are not interested in the sports section, for example, and have thrown it away completely.

Unfortunately, Google, Facebook & Co. as a technology company will not be able to win them over with this approach. After all, unlike traditional media companies, they are not concerned with informing users, but with making money. Aspects such as the “journalist's duty to be a chronicler”, that is, that for the sake of completeness, something must be reported that does not interest so many, are of course not an issue for Facebook. If you want a change here, this only works through regulation - which then leads to others screaming that you are censoring. At this level, it's a difficult subject.

HSS: Is there a political responsibility here? What do you think of the discussed expansion of the media law to Youtubers / bloggers, etc.

A very difficult subject. How the media landscape is changing at the moment, it is not that easy to comply with legal regulations. And every YouTuber, every blogger, every student with their own TikTok channel cannot, for example, apply for a license from the respective state media authority, as requested by the “Dragon Lord” in a small Franconian village or the professional Rocket Beans TV. The current requirements for applying for a broadcast license for YouTube and the live gaming platform twitch are, for example, that broadcasts are live, i.e. linear. Second, more than 500 viewers must be able to tune in at the same time. It is not a question of whether 500 people are actually watching at the same time, but whether so many can be reached technically at all. This is usually the case with live streams, since the servers of platforms such as twitch or Facebook do not allow any limits. Thirdly, a so-called editorial-journalistic design takes place through the commentary. Also, the streams are regular; so they have a certain transmission scheme. Of course, you have to be careful that the bureaucracy doesn't get too high, especially when someone wants to try out their own YouTube channel.

What is of course immensely important: The legal regulations such as copyright, personal rights and the Telemedia Act also apply to YouTubers and bloggers. Here injuries must be followed up consistently. The Internet is not a legal vacuum. Insulting criticism should also be followed consistently!

HSS: How do you see the future of “classic” journalism? What does that mean anyway?

Classic journalism will concentrate again on what it actually needs it for: research, research, research, so first listen to all possible pages on a topic, inform yourself as a journalist, in order to be able to create a well-founded article - no matter for which medium. Checking facts, uncovering scandals and, above all, hearing all the relevant pages and not ignoring opposing opinions - this is becoming more important than ever. This is the only way for classic journalism to stand out from cat pictures, fake news and one-sided PR product descriptions. But this also means that maybe a little less output can even be more. As is customary in some local newspapers, it is then certainly no longer part of the job to print the unedited report of a meeting chairman for every small local meeting. In general, in a change process, the painful omission of previous activities is always an important thing.

HSS: Do smaller, local media still have a niche or is digital competition taking over here as well?

As a rule, the digital competition comes from in-house when it comes to local reporting. That means, the digital competition of the Nürnberger Nachrichten and Nürnberger Zeitung is the in-house nordbayern.de. In most of the other regions of Bavaria this is no different. Only the Fränkische Landeszeitung in Ansbach still refuses to have an editorially designed website on the Internet. Blogs like the “Bürgerblick” in Passau or the “Tegernsee Voice” around the Tegernsee are still very rare, especially because the financing for local blogs is not exactly easy. This becomes more of a problem if you look at the level of Google and Facebook, whose two groups now account for three quarters of sales in the German advertising market. Here it is important for traditional publishers to develop new business models. Although these business models don't just have to be digital, events as a kind of additional channel for regional discussion groups are now being experimented a lot and successfully.

HSS: Internet vs. Book Printing: Does Riepl‘s Law hold true here?

Riepl’s Law, named after Wolfgang Riepl, the former editor-in-chief of the “Nürnberger Zeitung”, says that no new medium will displace an old medium and that the old medium will then change and seek its chance in where it is stronger. With the internet we have a medium in which all other media seem to be absorbed. Therefore, it is discussed whether this Riepl’s law is still valid in the digital age. I think so. Daily newspapers will die, mainly because nighttime printing with surcharges and your own distribution in addition to mail delivery will be far too expensive to be profitable. My colleague Prof. Klaus Meier from the Catholic University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt has even tried to calculate when the last daily newspaper will appear in the 2030s. But that doesn't mean that print will be dead. Print must concentrate on the haptics, excellent paper quality, particularly good print quality. And these products will certainly appear weekly, monthly or even annually instead of daily. Books have another advantage: you want to consciously set them as a rule, for yourself and for guests. On the beach people prefer to read analogue rather than digital. For the reasons mentioned, print will not go under, but it will certainly not occupy more than a niche.

HSS: In collaboration with experts from the Hanns Seidel Foundation, you published the book “Change in the Media and Communication Industry”. Can you briefly outline the content?

For many years I have dealt with media innovations such as social media, virtual reality, chatbots, data journalism and multimedia stories and have asked again and again why media companies find it so difficult to implement them. Then, almost two years ago, I started dealing with classic change management. And here I see a reason, but also a key for the change in the media and communications industry. Too many media companies, but also administrations and other industries, have forgotten to take people with them in recent years. In addition, there are many specifics in the communications industry: One aspect, for example, is the high proportion of creative activities. Simply telling someone what to do in an authoritative manner does not work here. New structures, such as newsrooms, are more complex to introduce than just a new software program. And then the job profiles are also changing more and more rapidly: Who would have thought a few years ago that audience development, i.e. dealing with the user, would gain such importance? In addition, managers face completely new challenges. Companies must not ignore current trends such as new work and agile working methods in order to continue to attract the best young talent. We have published the book as a guide so that regional media can implement these changes as effectively as possible. Our goal is to help as many as possible and to provide impetus.

With this book, which can deliberately be obtained free of charge, we have tried to deal with the topic of change in the media and communication industry as broadly as possible: from restructuring in the editorial office, new job profiles and technological innovations to crisis communication and ethical aspects to reorientation in marketing, so-called value-oriented marketing. The target group are primarily regional media companies as well as the corporate communications sector of medium-sized companies. In order to bridge the gap here, at the end of most of the chapters we have also included interviews with representatives of regional media companies, for example Michael Husarek and Barbara Zinecker from Nürnberger Nachrichten, Manfred Sauerer from Mittelbayerische Zeitung and Mario Geisenhanslüke from VRM in Mainz.

HSS: Prof. Kaiser, thank you very much for the interview.

© 2021 Hanns Seidel Foundation