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This is the summary of a conversation about Europe’s journalistic vulnerability which started with this tweet: “Macron sees a need to write an open letter to the Financial Times, challenging an earlier opinion piece in the FT. He also could have responded via a continental European English-language newspaper of similar global influence — if only there were one“

This tweet was met with a question (in a private capacity) by Steven Everts, Senior Advisor on Strategy and Communications at the European Union’s Foreign Security and Policy Service, i.e. the EU’s Diplomatic Service:

My reply, edited for style:

“Yes, I don‘t see a business model that could finance the quality of journalism this would require, i.e. to create an English-language news organisation that could rival the global influence and reach of the most influential UK and US-based newspapers. Even if the funding were not an issue, we do not have the time it would take to establish such a new brand. It would be better now to work with existing national ‚papers of record‘ across the political spectrum in the European Union on increasing their abilities to create and then (crucially) also to distribute their English-language journalism to multinational audiences. …

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‘Selfies’, early 18th century. (Kenwood House, London, wblau)

Mark Zuckerberg’s decision to downgrade publishers in Facebook’s newsfeed seems like a knee-jerk reaction, a brash response to the negative reputation the company has acquired since Trump’s election.

What else has motivated him? There are reports about declining user engagement and an overall shift towards “private social” i.e. chat apps, especially amongst younger users. But there is more to this profound change in strategy. Call it Facebook‘s “China problem”.

News journalism has become a strategic burden for Facebook in its critical need to be a truly global player, which it isn’t. Not as long as they are not in China and always at risk of being thrown out of Russia or Turkey. There is zero strategic interest for Facebook to become a ‘publisher’, just like Apple has no reason to buy the New York Times, despite that being the object of never-ending speculation in the industry. …

(posted with kind permission by South Korea’s daily newspaper ‘The JoongAng Ilbo’)

“South Korea’s nationwide daily newspaper ‘The JoongAng Ilbo’ sat down with Wolfgang Blau, The Guardian’s digital strategy director, in late June to discuss the newspaper’s successes and the challenges ahead.

Mobile journalism, he said, could “bring about the best writers journalism has ever seen,” with readers’ attention now more coveted than ever before.


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The JoongAng Ilbo: The Guardian is a global success story.

Blau: Yes, we have the advantage of publishing in English, which means we can expand internationally with greater ease. From there on, though, it gets a bit more complicated: How exactly do you expand globally? Do you launch ever more national editions, do you primarily invest in a global edition or should you focus on transnational journalism for larger regions of the world, such as Latin America? We are currently running regional editions from our three newsrooms in London, Sydney and New York, but we have also launched an international edition whose audience is growing very fast. …

A few days ago, I wrote about the ever same questions some European media journalists keep asking me.

Lina Timm, a German journalist, saw my post and responded here on Medium: “Dear @wblau, I got some new questions for you”.

Thank you, Lina. Here are my answers. I have marked your questions in bold.

While I don’t always agree with some of their underlying assumptions, all of your questions seem to assume that journalism has a strong digital future and you focus on solutions rather than on doom, which is truly refreshing. …

I had (the privilege) to give a couple of interviews to media journalists these last days in Europe and keep wondering: why are eight out of ten questions about the future of journalism predictably negative and why do they seem to keep asking the same questions over the last seven to eight years?

Here is the usual set of questions posed by so many European media journalists:

“Citizen journalists pose a threat to media organizations”
I have never met anyone who called themselves a ‘citizen journalist’. Have you? Variant from last week: “Periscope is a threat to news organizations, how can news organizations respond to that threat?” Are you fucking kidding me? …


Wolfgang Blau

Affiliations: Visiting Research Fellow, Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, Oxford University. / Trustee Director, Ellen MacArthur Foundation, UK.

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