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Re-designing Media In The Social Age, Together

By Pascal Beucler, SVP & CSO, MSLGROUP

Open journalism, soaring mobile growth, audience-generated content, enhanced ‘news experiences’: the media industry is up against many disruptions in this age. To design the future of media, journalists, technologists and communications professionals have to collaborate, and adapt themselves.

A brand new ecosystem is already being invented, according to speakers and panellists presenting at the recent #HackTheNewsroom News World Summit 2012 held in Paris. We bring you the latest trends, debates and disruptive ideas from the summit.



Some context, first: The way people access information and data is very different from what it used to be even five years ago. It’s multi-device, immediate, collaborative and this is just the dawn of a radical change. For a quick update, read this excellent article on GigaOm: The future of news is Mobile, video, data & crowd sourced

Disruption#1: Me Mobil(ized)

Mobile Internet growth is soaring and the number of fixed broadband subscribers is expected to double between 2011 and 2015. IPTV households are also expected to double in the same period of time. In this video last year, Martha Stone, CEO, World Newsmedia Network took us through a presentation called

‘The Four-Screen Strategy: Global trends for mobile, tablet, Internet, IPTV.’

But the key revolution is certainly mobile access to the web via smartphones. This is what provides people with an ever-growing power: anytime, anywhere, taking pics, recording, talking, texting, posting is what makes open journalism such a disruptive development for the media industry.

Disruption#2: Social Networks

Facebook and Twitter are becoming, more and more, publishing platforms for news – not just text, but video, photos and entertainment content. This is definitely part of the digital turmoil that is shaking the media industry.

From SocialMediaToday:

It seems that senior executives at big media companies are still not quite sure if Facebook and Twitter are friend or foe – relative to their legacy advertising-centric business models.

Well, friend or foe, who cares? It’s the reality.

Discussing the risk of melting, and not merging, classical media and social media, several panellists and keynote speakers warned the audience – “Don’t try to be Facebook or Twitter, which you are not. Be media, not a social network. Use them as a collaborative tool. Build an open source newsroom, as this clearly is where your future lies.”

Sure, media houses are not social networking sites, but they have to be fully open to social media to survive.

Disruption#3: Participatory Journalism

Mobility and social media have accelerated and enabled participatory journalism. Here are some examples of how newsrooms are adapting to it:

  • LePost, CNN iReport: This is not ‘free journalism’: there is a lot of curation, but checking and editing is needed. It does have with a lot of freshness, both in topics and in the actual treatment of the information
  • Le Plus’ experts meet witnesses and journalists and it boasts 1.4 million unique visitors per month.
  • Le Lab Euope1: Claims 15% of its traffic is from Twitter
  • The Guardian Social Reader on Facebook: This is a benchmark for modern participatory journalism, with 8 million people downloading the app.
  • J RTS (Radio Television Suisse): RTS’ En Ligne directe (translation: Direct Online) offers a fully interactive and citizen debate between citizens, journalists and experts. With one new topic per day, the conversation is launched on Twitter and moderated by a community manager. Participants are invited to record their views through an app on Twitter. This is the perfect mash of radio and social media.
  • BBC’s iPlayer is fully social, with 24/7 open connections & multimedia rich content.

Disruption#5: Content Is Changing

  • Content is king….but which content? New content needs to be co-generated, more appealing, accessible everywhere in real-time.
  • Value Addition & Context: Curation and contextualization remain more than necessary, of course, but while they are precious by nature, they tend to shrink in the value chain. Let’s just say it’s a given, but not a plus.
  • Visually Appealing Graphics: Sharper, lighter, visually crafted and told, content needs to be appealing. Now, visual journalism has to match Gen Y’s new consumption habits, be it for news or for anything else. Do you have to explain something? Nothing can beat the strength of graphic representation. Panellists underlined that the ratio in many newsrooms is now of one programmer for every five journalists.
  • Crowdsourcing: is the name of the game. For journalists, it’s critical to give people a chance to raise their voice, deliver fresh insights, and also cover what’s usually not covered because no one goes where news is happening.
  • Production: The old processing model, in which content was searched, produced and treated internally, is not sustainable, in the age of crowdsourcing and audience-generated news.

Disruption#6: Convergence

Voice to text, text to radio, video in all modes and times, all of it is shared and sent anywhere, anytime, to any device: digital convergence skips space and time constraints to bring you what you want to consume.

Olympic Broadcaster: Never Miss A Moment: The coming games are the first true digital Olympics, offering live video on demand. This has set a new standard for digital experiences. The remarkable ‘Olympic Broadcaster’ created by the BBC for London 2012 promises you will ‘never miss a moment’. It does so with the help of a converged platform that ensures that whatever your preferred sport, whatever you do, wherever you are, you are in control – through your TV, a tablet, your smartphone, or your PC.

Disruption#7: Not A Product But A ‘News Experience’

News is to be understood as an experience, not a simple product. And to take it from product to experience, the future of news consumption needs a new design. From this standpoint, design, accessibility, navigation, ergonomics are crucial points of debates and assets. Key points are underlined here:

  • Digital content doesn’t have to be ugly. The news show is the next frontier: media houses need to set the editors free and give them the freedom to create drama!
  • Move the template to the article level, not to the page, and feel free to highlight the best element.
  • Feel free to create information packages: flexible templates.
  • And, last but not least, less is more: ‘Lower the information density’ was the call of several panellists.


What amazed us about the summit was the drove of start-ups offering cutting-edge technological innovations in news and information. No less than 15 start-ups with the most forward-thinking editorial services to newsrooms were invited to show their capacities. They brought with them not merely fresh ideas and products but also a vision of what journalism is becoming in the social age.

The future of media is bright, if the industry fully embraces the digital and social revolution. To be achieved, such a goal requires flexibility, speed, boldness and, first of all, a truly collaborative spirit – together with small and big Internet actors.


MSLGROUP’s Chief Strategy Officer, Pascal Beucler holds BAs in History and Language Sciences, a master’s degree in Linguistics and a post graduate degree in Semio-Linguistics.


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