In an age of increased scepticism and a perceived ‘race to the bottom’ for the cash-strapped media industry, trust and quality in journalism might seem to be in short supply.
However, if this year’s Changing Media Summit is to be believed then in reality these are the values that will steer worthy publications through these turbulent waters.
Curated as usual by The Guardian, the yearly summit saw a variety of panels and interviewees from across the media world take to the stage at the BFI Southbank to discuss the myriad ways in which all elements of the media are changing. Paul Mason sets out the theme in his opening speech when he claims that, though the form of really good media is really easy to imitate, the content is not, and that people will always pay for content that is brave and true.
Balance vs. objectivity
One of the most entertaining clashes in a day largely defined by consensus was between Matt Kelly of the hyperpartisan New European and Nick Robinson of the fastidiously neutral BBC. While the former lambasted the traditional media’s lack of transparency, the latter defended the corporation’s commitment to due impartiality rather than balance, pointing out that it remains committed to securing the truth through rigorously questioning more tenuous claims, despite attacks from those who want to ‘kill the BBC’.
Funding the truth
One of the much-discussed issues of any media conference these days is the Facebook-Google duopoly (possibly soon to become a triopoly as Amazon increases its market share) on advertising revenue, but what was unusual about this year’s Changing Media summit was the attendance of a representative from Google. Ex-journalist Madhav Chinnappa took to the stage to speak constructively with new media champions such as Oliver Duff (The i), Sam Baker (The Pool) and Damian Collins MP, Chairman of the Government’s Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee.
Even Duff and Baker, whose businesses would never have got off the ground without Google and Facebook, admit that the news eco-system is now broken, while Chinnappa defends his company’s commitment to making news services of all levels available without charging for preferential treatment (a feature which Facebook, sans representation, gets rather a kicking for), while accepting the prospect of ‘thoughtful regulation’. Collins hints that there is change coming for organisations that curate, if not create, the news.
Value over numbers
Of course, the media industry doesn’t begin and end in journalism and the event saw plenty of talks on advertising, technology and entrepreneurship (from none other than Lily Cole). But perhaps one of the quickest changing areas in the media industry is that which concerns the movement of data.
With the imminent arrival of GDPR, many subscription and communication-based companies will find their information-sourcing abilities sorely limited. This is a challenge Sarah Rose, who pioneered Channel 4’s award-winning data strategy around tracking audience’s by taste instead of stereotypes, feels more than ready for. In her eyes GDPR will increase trust between consumers and both advertisers and media outlets as they are made aware about how their data is being used to personalise and perfect their information provision.
Though technophobes and unwitting subscribers may horde their data in future, she sees smaller, more engaged audiences as the future of a media industry in sore need of a commitment to trust and quality in its dealings with consumers.