Distributed news strategies have become one of the main talking points at industry events over the past year, with media organisations taking contrasting approaches.
Some, like The Washington Post in the United States, are keen to experiment and become early adopters of new products and technologies, while others, such as BILD in Germany, are more cautious.
But it's a rare occasion when digital editors find themselves in the same room with partnership heads from social networks and technology companies to talk distributed news.
The Digital Editors' Network planned just that for its meeting on 8 September – facilitating a discussion about the challenges and opportunities of distributed news between both media organisations and technology companies, with Google, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter contributing among others.
The meeting was held under the Chatham House Rule, which means Journalism.co.uk cannot attribute quotes to speakers or attendees. But here are some of the main talking points and ideas from the Digital Editors' Network meeting.
Who gets a seat at the table?
Some small and medium news organisations feel left out from the conversations between social networks and media outlets, and, with a very limited budget for experiments or innovation in comparison to their larger counterparts, they can also feel priced out of being early stage adopters or partners.
Products such as Snapchat Discover or Facebook Instant Articles launched with media partners from the very first day, but who gets to be involved at these early stages and how do you get a seat around the table?
The process of determining who should be a media partner varies from platform to platform, with various degrees of openness.
But the need to have a dialogue with publishers to shape news products according to their requirements is clear to technology companies.
One important element that does make a difference in determining which media outlets can be early stage partners is scale – technology companies want to test products with a large audience and ensure they work in any eventuality, which puts larger media companies with a wider reach at an advantage.
Know what you're asking for and why
When it comes to outlining their needs to social networks, media organisations tend to ask for analytics, monetisation options and more data.
Social media platforms have access to data about audiences that many news organisations without paywalls or membership schemes may only be able to acquire by introducing a compulsory email sign-up form on their sites – which can in turn lead to a considerable decline in traffic.
So data is seen as a crucial part of the discussion between media outlets and technology companies, and one of the key benefits that could come out of pursuing a distributed news strategy. But out of the publishers asking social networks for more data, how many have a clear idea of how they would use it once they got the access?
The need for more collaboration
In most cases nowadays, media organisations are each having a separate discussion with technology companies about their own needs and preferences – without sharing their aims with each other.
Discussions at the Digital Editors' Network meeting emphasised the need for more collaboration in the media industry to reach a consensus on what the industry needs from social networks and technology companies, and continue the negotiation from a position of more power as opposed to struggling with the current "Prisoner's Dilemma".
This collaboration could span conversations about data and monetisation on new platforms, but also further discussions on ethical issues that come up on social, such as considerations when livestreaming on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube.
The idea of media organisations presenting a united front was also discussed at the Digital Innovators' Summit in Berlin in March, when Stefan Betzold, managing director, digital, BILD, said publishers should be more careful to not give up control over their content.
"It’s a question of how we do it and can we set the rules," he said. “Just give up our content and hope some money comes back? That’s a problem – we don’t have the confidence, or maybe not the power.
"We should stand stronger in negotiations with these platforms.”
Read more about distributed news in our series of in-depth pieces on the various approaches to social storytelling in media organisations around the world.
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