Digital media in the Balkans can be sustainable, but probably won’t be any time soon, speakers on the first day of BIRN’s conference “Digital Media: Quest for sustainability”, in Ohrid, Macedonia, said.
Ideas, suggestions and ways to improve digital media sustainability in the region were brought up by various speakers.
Local media professionals, meanwhile, said they were not overly optimistic about becoming self-sustainable, but understand the need to achieve this at some point.
The first day of the two-and-a-half-day event, which is supported by Kingdom of the Netherlands, brought together representatives of the media, journalism associations, advertising and social media experts, as well as start-ups.
They exchanged experiences about best practices, developing cooperation and providing insight into a question that has troubled the global media industry for the past decade: how to achieve sustainability.
The opening remarks were made by BIRN Macedonia’s director, Ana Petruseva, and by the Ambassador of The Netherlands to Macedonia, Wouter Plomp.
“Not all the media have to be sustainable, but quality media outlets should be,” said Plomp.
In the first session, “Is there a one-size-fits-all solution to the challenge of media sustainability?” views were shared by Goran Mihajlovski, from the web portal sdk.mk, Pavle Zlatic, from Irex, Serbia, Elvira Jukic from the Media Centre, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and by Eraldin Fazliu, from Prishtina Insight, Kosovo, as well as by members of the audience.
Speakers said sustainability for the quality media remains a big challenge in the region, given the small size of markets, low advertising rates, political pressures and other reasons.
However, models that can be adopted, developed and implemented include crowdfunding, connecting with communities and improving the quality of media content.
Ivica Penic, of the Grow up Academy, spoke about using social media to find the best customers.
He broadcasted his presentation live on Facebook. One of his key points was that the time is over when all content could be offered to everybody at the same time.
“The currency is attention. You cannot share all content with everybody. Content is the king, distribution is the queen. Fun, interesting, useful. That’s the content that we’re looking for. Smartphones are no longer devices, but extensions of us,” Penic said.
Spreading “fake” news and propaganda through social media was also one of the topics, addressed by Andrej Petrovski, of the Share Foundation.
He said the ability of agencies to serve people tailor-made content based on their psychological profiles gives them power to control the system.
“The creators of fake news and propaganda know that media-literate people won’t believe them, but they also know that there are others that will,” he added.
Igor Trajkovski, from the first and biggest news aggregator, Time.mk, spoke about how the media can advance their ranking online.
He said there are four basic rules to follow: publish unique content, pay attention to the first paragraph of the story, use proper names, and publish fast and update.
Nina Angelovska and Zarko Dimitroski were speakers on the panel on how young people can create successful business models; both have been recognized by Forbes as young entrepreneurs.
They shared their experience on building their start-up projects “Grouper” and “Eden na eden”, and on how they built well-recognized brands.
Arne van der Wal shared his experience with the brand “Follow the money”, and spoke about how good content can make money.
“Build strong relations with the audience, make them members instead of subscribers, and sell a mission instead of a product,” he said.
Fighting irregular competition remains a challenge, as newsrooms lose audiences and market shares to one-person websites stealing and republishing their content.
“The fake media, the noisemakers, are creating a lot of trouble in the media field and need to be regulated,” said Katerina Sinadinovska, from the Media Ethics Council.
“Small, brave websites depend on taking content from others and are good for distributing the information to larger audiences,” said Srdjan Puhalo, a journalist from Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The conference continues with panels, case studies and workshops related to media sustainability.
The speakers and the guests will discuss rebuilding trust in the media, attracting the attention of advertisers and making money from investigating journalism without jeopardizing standards.