Events - 05.04.2019 - 00:00 

Media: The recipe for survival is quality

The media stands in the middle of a digital transformation. What does it take to survive into the future? During a podium discussion, representatives of Swiss media companies confidently showed that digital opportunities will help quality journalism to flourish once again.

5 April 2019. The podium discussion was part of the two-day yearly conference of the Swiss Association of Communication and Media Research (SACM). At the beginning of the conference, Sylke Gruhnwald of Die Republik, Ladina Heimgartner of RTR-SRG, Patrik Müller of CH Media and Pietro Supino of Tamedia AG discussed the challenges of digital transformation with HSG communication researcher Miriam Meckel.

The human factor is still key

The four speakers expressed their certainty that new technologies are not a threat. When used correctly, they contribute to the survival of independent journalism. "The digital transformation is not just technical. It is closely connected to the human factor and that makes me confident", explained Ladina Heimgartner. For Patrik Müller, the transformation has technological, human and content-related levels. "How they deal with content will be decisive for the media houses."

Sylke Gruhnwald emphasized the usefulness of data for research. When using artificial intelligence, however, according to Gruhnwald, you must always ask how to use the machine correctly. Pietro Supino added that, as in any industry, creativity remains the deciding resource in journalism. "Humans are the source of creativity, but they also make mistakes." Supino believes that, in this regard, machines could contribute to professionalism and therefore to higher quality.

Many challenges remain

The speakers on the podium agreed that the challenges are great, despite the many opportunities. Lower circulation, declines in advertising and the speed of digitalization were named as factors, as well as the crisis of confidence in journalism caused by such factors as the "Relotius" forgery scandal and fake news on social media.

The four discussion participants emphasized that one of the most important factors for the survival of a media house is quality. It is important to continually invest in credibility and also allow readers to peek behind the curtain. "We must show how quality in journalism is achieved and what it entails", explained Ladina Heimgartner. Pietro Supino expressed his belief that curiosity must be the starting point for journalistic work. "Correctness, truth in the sense of completeness, transparency and fairness to the people and institutions affected by the reporting are the foundational quality characteristics of professional journalism."

Pietro Supino, Sylke Gruhnwald and Patrik Müller all recognized that a long-term demand for independent quality journalism is possible and that readers are prepared to pay for it. According to the participants, investigative journalism is experiencing a revival and benefits from new possibilities in multimedia.

In love with data

Dennis Lück of the Jung von Matt agency showed in his short presentation "In Love with Data" how big data can be used creatively in the working world. The Advertiser of the Year 2017 encouraged his audience to learn to love data and to see it as something to play with. "Data is nothing more than a huge pot full of insights. And we have to use those for communication and creativity."

According to Lück, in the past advertising was directed at target groups. "Now, technology has progressed to the point where we can address target individuals directly. The individuality of contact has advanced considerably." Using data correctly requires know-how, the right talent and the courage to try new things. It involves reading and analysing data and turning it into knowledge. It is not for nothing that data engineers are currently so sought after.

The conference was organised by Prof. Dr. Katarina Stanoevska-Slabeva from the Institute for Media and Communication Management at the University of St.Gallen (MCM-HSG). The participants were researchers from the field of communication studies as well as practitioners from the media industry. Through presentations, discussions and workshops, they furthered the public debate on media and communication in the era of digitalisation.

Discover our special topics