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13. April 2022
Media Trends

International Journalism Festival: Our learnings for you

Foto: Marlon Fricker / Media Lab Bayern

Text: Christian Simon

For three days, a large part of the Media Lab networked and learned in Perugia. This is what we took away from Italy for you.

Beautiful, but also intense, confusing and colder than expected: That's how the Media Lab's Perugia travellers describe their time at the International Journalism Festival (IJF). The coldness refers to the weather. The intensity to the fact that contact with many people "in real life" still feels strange.

Regardless of the external conditions, however, the IJF is also a cornucopia of exciting insights, lessons and conversations. The most important impressions of our team members have been collected here for you:

Shiny new tech thing is now everyday life

Lina Timm, Founder Media Lab Bayern

Unfortunately, networking in the Italian sun did not work out - at least not the way we imagined it. Instead, we were all pretty much chilled to the bone for three days. It can still get pretty cold in Perugia at the beginning of April. And waiting in line for a long time in the cold, only to finally get no spot in the session you queued up for, is really annoying. But in situations like these, usually the best meetings happen. I have had the best encounters after not making it into sessions - with Anita Zielina, for example. From the sessions I did get into, I learned the following lessons in particular:

  • The freedom of journalism and the press is currently under threat in so many countries - has it increased? Has it always been this way? Have we become more sensitive? Not only in Afghanistan or Russia, but also in Yemen, India or other countries. Journalism is under fire everywhere. What does this mean for our society? (Spoilers: I don't have a definitive answer to that either).
  • The "shiny new tech thing" is now everyday life. No more new tech trends are announced; instead, the industry is rethinking how to (again) produce good journalism - and what "good journalism" actually means.
  • Newsrooms need a strategic direction in which they want to work. If that exists, impact can be measured. Real impact is no longer that investigative reporting brings down a single culprit and then a substitute takes power - but that the system changes itself.
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Revenue streams in pressurized markets

Pia Lexa, Teamlead Programm

"It was crazy nice to be back on site and in real-life! After two years of Zoom calls, the IJF was an insanely intense experience and a great prelude to a more hopeful time as far as conferences go. I'm looking forward to more events in person, and at the same time I see an unfortunate hybrid period coming our way, where we'll try (and fail) to juggle the two worlds. Proof of this: In a line at an exciting session, there was a woman in front of me who, instead of talking, just looked into her smartphone, "So sorry, I'm in our morning meeting." A world in which we can, or have to, go to physical events again and are still on Zoom for hours is not one I want to live in.

Among the sessions, I was particularly impressed by a panel on" revenue streams in pressurized markets". Three founders from Belarus, Lebanon and Jordan talked about how they can be financially independent and thus also journalistically independent through creative business models. My highlights were:

  • Reader-revenue works unexpectedly well, especially for startups, even if there is otherwise less willingness to pay for media in the respective markets.
  • Ad alliances can be a lifesaver, especially if you don't have a large reach yourself. There are many companies that identify with the values of independent reporting as practiced in indie publications and want to advertise there. Of course, editorial work and ads or native advertising must always be kept cleanly separate. But if you are transparent about this, your own credibility increases with both customers and users.
  • For all three founders on stage, diversification in terms of revenue streams was crucial, and the resulting financial independence was the guarantee for journalistic independence.

Journalism for the people

Ronja Schneider, Senior Program Manager

Perugia is a place of encounters. Almost every session brought together panelists from several countries who had met at the IFJ in the past and developed joint initiatives. And you experience first-hand how quickly something like this happens: the interaction at the conference is incredibly casual, you quickly start talking and find like-minded people on your chosen topics.

We were also able to take away quite a bit of inspiration that matched the spirit of the conference, in the panel "Local ecosystems & communities," for example. Key takeaway: Journalism does not exist for the sake of journalism, but for the people. Especially locally, individuals are the ones driving real change, and they can be supported and empowered in their mission through journalism. Communities don't just form because of local allegiances, but form and strengthen through identification with various subgroups within a community.

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Reporting from war regions

Marlon Fricker, Marketing Manager

Perugia is a gorgeous and impressive Italian small town with stunning event spaces. I have rarely met so many motivated and creative journalists in one place. Especially for me, who is always looking at journalism through a marketing lens, there were many fascinating speakers and participants who greatly enriched my experience.

I was particularly inspired by the many panels that dealt with reporting from war regions. Often only the tragic stories make it into the news and the beauty of a country is lost. Crisis reporting usually leaves a sad picture of a country that for many people is much more, namely: home, family or relatives. Journalism should always try to illuminate all sides, the beautiful as well as the cruel! Many journalists from crisis regions had this message in tow.

It was also great to see how the teams from our GNI Startups Lab got along with each other. Until then, many of them only knew each other through virtual meetings. On site they immediately became a warm community. The virtual world cannot replace everything, after all. Especially not the "dolce vita" feeling in Perugia. All in all, a wonderful conference.

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