Europe needs bridges between national media, here is how

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

Can European media brands reinforce their own platforms?

Can European media brands reinforce their own platforms? [Google News homepage]

How to reconcile Greek and German public opinions, or reform the Eurozone, without building bridges between national media? David Mekkaoui and Christophe Leclercq explain why they think this is necessary and possible.

David Mekkaoui is Media Innovation Director and Christophe Leclercq is Founder of the multilingual media EURACTIV.

US companies are dominant on social media, online advertising and search engines. Google News has become a major gateway for online information. Apple and Facebook partner with media titans to claim their share of the media market. More recently, Japan’s Nikkei purchased the Financial Times; and Pearson negotiates to sell The Economist too. Before we realise it, global companies may well end up dominating the European media landscape.

So far, Europeans continue to read their national media first. National sources are unbeatable on local coverage, well-connected with stakeholders and trusted readers. For global issues, Europeans already complement them with other news outlets. The problem is that the economic model of European media has been weakened since online advertisers and readers are being scooped by US internet titans. US media have the critical mass to pursue innovation, including data visualisation, mobile-friendly websites and real-time news.

How European media brands can re-inforce their own platforms?

The solution is to share content not chiefly with the dominating platforms but among European media. As Jim Brady, former president of the Online News Association puts it, “this is a time when journalists need to huddle together for warmth“. Some promising cross-border exchange networks have been set-up, first the Europa ‘Club’, and more recently LENA. Networks that are even more integrated, such as EURACTIV, know that content partnerships carry high potential. For example, with a dozen articles translated and republished each day, beyond its exclusive content, EURACTIV offers its readers a larger range of stories. Such partnerships also reduce costs and savings can be reinvested in quality journalism. But republication faces a major obstacle: translation processes are not efficient enough yet.

The day translation will be fast, accurate and cheap, readers will enjoy broader and deeper news coverage. The day translation will be fast, accurate and cheap, publishers will take advantage of a more diverse mix of content to offer, broader reach and more scalable reporting capabilities. The day translation will be fast, accurate and cheap; media will contribute to shared values and common understanding, building a real EU identity.

New technologies should help (not replace) translation.

The choice is not just between expensive specialised translators and immediate Google Translate guessing. There is a wide rantge of solutions, from radical crowd-editing of machine translation to professional translators post-editing and to journalists adapting to their audience.

In an interview last month, Jochen Hummel, Chairman of LT-Innovate, suggested to have a shared language infrastructure providing basic language services, on top of which companies could build their own solutions. That article shows rising interest in translation innovation. Who should develop that basic language processing infrastructure? The European Commission seems to be open to contribute. It already does with the MT@EC translation memory. Robert Madelin, Director-General of the EU’s DG Connect, soon Senior Adviser for Innovation, also explained how multilingualism is necessary for Europe during the last LT-Innovate Summit: “the European Cloud has to include an answer to the challenge of languages”. But the Commission’s role should be limited to supporting innovation and providing a policy frame for cooperation between media and translation companies.

Innovating in editorial processes

This is not a technology or Silicon Valley challenge. This is a European vision. A double change is required. Journalists will have to adopt new ways of writing. They will partner across borders even more than they already do. Their job will increasingly be to understand their audience, select, edit and localise content for them. What is the level of tolerance for software assisted translation? How to choose between volume games and quality control? Their job will become increasingly strategic. Translators will have to adapt too. They will work with users for crowd-translation or post-editing to achieve more volume under controlled costs. They seem ready for it as illustrated during the last #TranslatingEurope conference. A process of change management will take place in the coming years to progressively help those professionals toward more community management type of tasks.

That process is in itself a media innovation project where multiple actors have their role to play.

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