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In.Side.Out: 4 Highlights From Digital Conference Re:Publica

By Lutz Mache, Raphaela Maurer, Lina Müller and Adrian Rosenthal, Germany, MSLGROUP

Every May, one of the best digital conferences in Europe takes place in Berlin. Now in it’s seventh year, the re:publica attracts a couple of thousands digeratis every year, who come together to discuss new trends, tools and digital developments – and five colleagues from MSLGROUP in Germany where right in the middle of it to attend numerous sessions and network with bloggers and the startup community.

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Here are their key takeaways and highlights:

The influence of social media to politics and fact checking

The re:publica 13 hasn’t been this political since four years. Fueled by the announcement of the Deutsche Telekom two weeks before to curb the internet speed to 385kb after a certain amount of data usage per month participants and speakers were eager to talk about new media politics and issues heavily discussed in social networks the past year.

In one of the main talks, Sascha Lobo asked the convened “net community” to finally do something, to get out there and raise their voice because they had a devastating month. One big loss was the passing of the Ancillary Copyright law. Its development was discussed by Christopher Buschow. Many talks focused on how social media influence politics, e.g. social media-multipliers in the elections or the analysis of temporary and long-term political networks on twitter.

Heavily influenced by the U.S. elections, we’re seeing a new trend starting to emerge in Germany: fact checking. The public-service German television broadcaster ZDF announced its new project @ZDFcheck. But instead of just relying on journalistic research and scientific input ZDF is betting on swarm intelligence.

In cooperation with the German Wikipedia everyone can contribute facts and links about statements of politicians in light of the upcoming election in Germany. It’s still not real-time fact checking like Washington Posts “Truth Teller”. Instead, only very few statements are selected and counter-checked, but the Wikipedia community is looking forward to it since the ZDF announced that all research and all results will be published under Creative Commons cc-by.

-By Lutz Mache, Junior Consultant MSLGROUP Germany / Berlin office

Net Neutrality

In. Side. Out. was the motto of the re:publica 2013. Get out and do something! Complaining online is not very helpful, teaming up virtually is only the first step.

To succeed in the “real world” you have to get out and act. Net neutrality was a huge topic that was discussed as a risk even in our western countries, for example when a provider decides that its content is more important than that of the users.

However, a look behind the scenes of other countries quickly appeases. Maral Pourkazemi and her colleagues from Small Media in the UK explained that the transmission rate of the Iranian Internet is only 128 kbit/s. Justin Bieber’s website is blocked for all Iranians, Michelle Obama is dressed more morally with the help of Photoshop, in September 2011 a group of Facebook users were arrested because they organized a water fight in a park on the network.

This is a problem the Chinese do not have to face – Facebook is blocked in China, so is Youtube and Twitter. Chinese Blogger Hu Yong explained that this doesn’t hold the Chinese people back from expressing their political emotions online. They created their own micro blogging site called Sina Weibo.

Speaking up for political belief is fatal in Bangladesh. Bloggers are systematically persecuted and arrested and at the beginning of the year one of them was found dead. This does not stop Shahidul Alam. He still posts news on his blog.

re: publica has shown me how important a free internet is, how much it is worth to fight for this and that other net communities in other countries really need our help. -Raphaela Maurer, Junior Consultant MSLGROUP Germany / Munich office

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Social media law and education

#socialmedialaw – sounds boring? It’s not!

Since 2009, the lawyers Henning Krieg and Thorsten Feldmann have been organizing workshops at the re:publica about the legal aspects of writing and being active in social media. In their session, Krieg and Feldmann presented the 2012/2013 highlights of online law. The most important lesson for me:

“Just because something is technically possible, it is not necessarily permitted!”

What this means is that even if an official YouTube channel, Facebook fanpage or ordinary website offers tools like sharing via Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or embedding URLs etc, it does not imply that you are legally allowed to use those functions without infringing the copyright of the author.

Media ban?

What surprised me the most was the fact that there is at least one school in Germany which imposed a “media ban”. The students are not allowed to use their tablets, smartphones or any other electronic devices – neither while having class (which of course absolutely makes sense) nor in breaks, which absolutely does not make any sense.

The idea behind the media ban is to prevent cyber mobbing and isolation of students. But, does one really prevent cyber mobbing by banning electronic devices and therewith social media from the schoolyard? 18-year old Michel Schröder emphasized the disadvantages of a media ban at schools in his session.

Obviously teachers in our country have backlog demand in social media usage and definitely can learn from their students! – Lina Müller, Consultant, MSLGROUP Germany

Youtube makes the stars of today

While bloggers in Germany discuss how to finance their work and monetize their content, a number of (mostly young) content creators are rising to fame with their YouTube channels. The YouTube channel ungespielt has gathered over 100,441 subscribers and 6.5 million views in less than 6 months.

What started out to as a documented playthrough channel quickly became a regular program with a loyal fan base. He was also surprised to find out that he could earn some money for university this way. ungespielt now is part of Media Channel Network (MCN) divimove that helps Vloggers with issues like marketing, legal advice and game licensing.

Despite this astonishing growth, ungespielt still has a long way to go in order to catch up with big German YouTube channels like GronkhDE (1.5 million subscribers), LeFloid (650,000 subscribers) or YTITTY (1.7 million subscribers).

Though most popular YouTubers still start their channels as a hobby, YouTube channels and their professional organization into MCNs have become a business model and a serious media outlet. Channels and networks pool a remarkable reach, especially among younger audiences. Christoph Krachten, COO of MCN Mediakraft (Partner of LeFloid and YTITTY), says that his network reaches a total share of 45% of the 14-29 age bracket in Germany.

For the new “stars” this often comes as a surprise, but for YouTube’s Hannes Jakobsen, media channel networks like divimove and Mediakraft are prime examples of the fact that an ecosystem has developed around online video entertainment and especially YouTube channels.

The increasing success of all kinds of channels from personal vlogs to comedy and videogames shows the hunger of young media savvy audiences for digital non-mainstream content. By the power of this audience, YouTube channels have become a media outlet with considerable reach and the market is not yet near saturation as recent additions like ungespielt prove.

YouTube channels have become a serious media outlet with considerable reach into a young and highly engaged audience. They have also, contrary to the German blogger-scene, found a way to effectively monetize their content and reach. – Marcel Niedecken, Digital Planner MSLGROUP Germany

Getting organized at the re:publica

When I went my first re:publica in 2008, the conference was much smaller, with only a few hundred people attending.

Located at a venue which was only a fraction of the size of the current location, you would always bump into pretty much everybody one wanted to see and meet and tweets asking on the whereabouts of your friends and followers were few and not needed. This May, more than 5,000 people attended and there often where something like eight sessions, keynotes or talks at the same time.

MSLGROUP at Re:Publica 2013

MSLGROUP at Re:Publica 2013

 

We faced the challenge on how to organize and collaborate in the most effective way. This is how we solved questions that are typically asked at an event such as “When do we meet for lunch?” and “Who is going to which session?”. We quickly dismissed Twitter or Facebook as channels that would serve our need to communicate and organize easily.

We finally settled for GroupMe, which is an easy-to-use group messaging system and which I had used at SXSW this year as well. The whole MSLGROUP team at the re:publica downloaded the app and this made organizing this conference much easier.

By the way, we also rented a big apartment via airbnb for all the MSLGROUP colleagues from out of town instead of booking separate hotel rooms which was a great way of keeping the discussions on all the insights we gathered going.

-By Adrian Rosenthal, Head of Digital and Social Media, MSLGROUP Germany

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