7 experts on Europe’s biggest media innovators

Screenshot of Blendle, tipped as game changer on media innovation

Blendle, tipped as a game changer in media innovation. [Blendle]

The media’s search for new business models and the potential of new and social media has brought about a wave of enterprises and entrepreneurs across EU member states. What are Europe’s most innovative news applications and initiatives? EURACTIV asked the experts.

In a constantly changing landscape, traditional news organisations and media have been struggling to sustain their models. The future of media lies in innovation, it seems, as the most creative thinkers succeed in establishing themselves in this landscape.

“Only media companies that invest in in-house innovation and research will make it,” argues Lieven Taillie, president of the Belgian section of the Association of European Journalists (AEJ).

“In Europe, the constant shift in advertising habits and device and shopping habits are driving media companies to overhaul their digital media strategies,” says Angela Mills Wade of the European Publishers’ Council (EPC). “Magazines and newspapers around the world have embodied the cliché that ‘necessity is the mother of invention’.”

EURACTIV asked seven experts: Which initiatives are leading Europe’s charge in this new media landscape?

#EP2014SMC EP conference: social media and the 2014 European elections

Xavier Damman

Xavier Damman is entrepreneur and founder of Storify.

“The two examples of leading European innovations in the media landscape that come to mind: Blendle, described as an ‘iTunes for news’ and developed in the Netherlands; and the Lithuanian Plague, which – a bit like the US-developed Yik Yak – brings geographic proximity in play when sharing news.

My advice to Europeans pushing for such innovations? Embrace technology, don’t fight it. Don’t try and shut down Google like Germany or Spain have tried to do. Also, innovation is about thinking outside of the box. Don’t try to innovate with your existing staff in your existing walls. Create incubators and invite startups, and surround yourself with fresh innovative blood.”

>>Read an earlier interview with Xavier Damman on innovation

Max von Abendroth

Max von Abendroth is the Executive Director of the European Magazine Media Association and the driving force behind the Future Media Lab. conferences.

Skimlinks, a content monetisation platform that rewards publishers for the role their content plays in creating purchase intent via smart links and in-text affiliate monetisation. Their innovative technology monetises links and product phrases in content by aggregating affiliate and CPC networks and automatically converting existing product links into affiliate links, as well as by detecting product references in content and turning them into monetisable links.

Blendle is definitely in my top three. The Dutch platform operates a digital kiosk selling individual articles from newspapers and magazines to internet users. Lastly, Clipkit is a technology-driven specialist for online video marketing. They connect video owners and publishers with video producers, website editors, as well as advertisers.”

Sarah Marshall pic

Sarah Marshall

Sarah Marshall is Social Media editor, EMEA region, for the Wall Street Journal and Wall Street Journal Europe

“The Ireland-based Storyful is the most innovative journalism business started in the past decade, in my view. Storyful is a social news agency and sources news from social media and licenses, and supplies video and other content to Storyful clients. Storyful invested in technology early and built tools to surface news from eyewitnesses in really smart ways. A team of journalists then verify and supply clients with the information and videos.

A number of tools are linking social media to news gathering. One to watch is Newswhip’s Spike, which is also based in Ireland and which surfaces stories gathering social media shares. The Germany-based Tame.it is a great way of finding out what topics people in Twitter lists are discussing. And finally, a tool I use every day is Buzzsumo: this tool allows you to see which of your articles are gaining most social traction and lets you track your competitors.”

Lassi Kurkkijärvi

Lassi Kurkijärvi is Director of Innovation at SanomaLab, Sanoma Digital.

Read.ly, a Swedish startup, is a platform offering a ‘all you can read’ subscription to magazines. It was the first on the Scandinavian market and has since expanded across Europe and to the US. It has been hugely successful in attracting investors and – importantly – is superior to similar US-based initiatives.

Such innovation is always a combination of small startups and big players in the media and publishing market. Big companies can open doors, but the creativity should come from startups. You need both.

One of the reasons why European startups struggle is that startups often get press coverage by US media. Look at the big websites covering technology: they are often Silicon Valley-based. It’s tougher for European media to get their story out.”

Abigail Edge

Abigail Edge is technology editor at Journalism.co.uk

“Of all the models exploring new ways to deliver news, the Dutch aggregation platform Blendle is one of the most interesting. It offers a “pay per article” model, similar to the way iTunes works. When I interviewed Blendle’s co-founder Alexander Klöpping a few months ago, he noted most people “want to read articles or want to follow specific journalists but aren’t particularly interested in the newspaper that it comes from anymore”. More and more people arrive at news sites through the ‘side door’ of social media, so this is a trend that will only continue.

Another Dutch site, De Correspondent, is a great example of how crowdfunded journalism can succeed. After its first 12 months, more than half of the people who originally paid to support the publication have renewed their subscriptions. Their openness with their readers about where their membership fees go also sets an excellent example for other news outlets.”

Lieven Taillie

Lievent Taillie is the President of  the Belgian section of the Association of European Journalists (AEJ)

“Only media companies that invest in in-house innovation and research will make it. I am curious how the labs from public broadcasters will develop further collaboration with private technology entrepreneurs and give a push to startups. Amongst the ones to watch is VRT Onderzoek en Innovatie, the R&D lab of the Flemisch public broadcaster (here and here). The question is: who will continue to grow and who will fade away? I’ll follow closely how the Finnish FaktaBaari develops.”

 Tatiana Repkova [Source: WAN-IFRA]

Tatiana Repkova

Tatiana Repkova is media management consultant and founder of the Media Managers Club

“The Dutch, ad-free online journalism platform De Correspondent focuses on analysis and investigative reporting – the kinds of stories that tend to go under the radar of mainstream media. The project was a huge crowdfunding success and has developed its model to a sustainable membership model of some 28,000 members.

Coming from a traditional newspaper background, it’s worth noting that the Financial Times employs thirty data scientists to analyse and interpret data to adjust their user experience online. The paper is also investing in news aggregation and curation with the launch of its revamped and handpicked email briefing FirstFT: instead of waiting for readers to find the paper’s stories in their social streams, it is curating this stream and thus keeping its readers inside the FT ecosystem.”

The start-ups Blendle, Clipkit and Skimlinks will be speaking alongside other innovators at Future Media Lab.’s annual conference, Media Diversity in the Digital Age, held at The Square in Brussels. EURACTIV is a media partner of the event.

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