How Denmark is thinking about paving the future

Reflections on the Future Media Landscape

A guest blog by Sofie Hvitved, Futurist and Special Advisor in Media, Technology and Sport at the Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies
Reflections on the Future Media Landscape

It’s all about the logic!

How do we make sure that we – in the future – can look back and say that we made the right decisions when shaping the media landscape in Denmark?

That was the headline for the two debates on this years’ edition of the Kulturmødet Mors 2021, Denmark’s most important gathering for conversations about art and culture – curated by me on behalf of the Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies.

I invited 17 thought leaders working within the media industry and the new Danish Minister of Culture to discuss their views. The goal was to ensure capabilities to equip and inspire individuals and organizations, decision-makers and the public, to act on the future, today.

The fact is, that there are many challenges to be considered in the new digitalized reality with many implications on where we are heading as a society and how we shape the media industry. How can the different media companies best navigate and position themselves on that journey? This is not an easy task, and one of the obstacles in this is a lack of a shared common understanding and conceptualization of the new logic of how media is changing.

The logic that we use to sustain our current media industry does not fit the way the users consume media.

The New Logic

The logic that we use to sustain our current media industry does not fit the way the users consume media. The changes in the media landscape are happening faster than ever as a result of megatrends such as technological development, globalization and individualization that have simply changed the rules and disrupted the infrastructure of the media industry. 

Sofie Hvitved

In that sense, it seems like traditional media is being sustained in a system that does not apply to the future media landscape.

So where do we look for the new logic?

Should we simply adapt the logic from the internet and the algorithms build for the attention economy over to the media industry the way that e.g. TikTok is working ?

Or is there is another way? 

We need to start getting a better conceptualization of how the media landscape is changing and what it means for the bigger picture. The new consumers, the liquid consumers, demand flexibility, personalized relevant content and seamless services that help them get a better me and a better world. So how do we do this? First, we need to make sure that all the different players in the media industry understand the challenges and the different scenarios we are facing.

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The new consumers, the liquid consumers, demand flexibility, personalized relevant content and seamless services that help them get a better me and a better world. So how do we do this?

The main reasons for making the two debates were: 

The Battle Against Big Tech is the Freedom Struggle of Our Time

The consequences on our society and our democracy from the influence of big tech are to be taken seriously. And the media companies and the government need to understand the gravity of the situation. That was the message from the experts invited to join the debate. But not only regarding the challenges such as ethics, privacy and transparency, but also the possibilities to enter new markets and ensuring new media innovation.

The Danish government has stated that the battle against big tech is the freedom struggle of our time and are making a large range of initiatives on this matter. “We need to be able to shape our own image of the world and not be led into self-reinforcing echo chambers by algorithms. Only in this way can we, through democracy, continue to shape the future of our society” as the former Minister of Culture in Denmark, Joy Mogensen, stated when presenting a white paper with 9 principles for the approach to tech giants. Some of the initiatives being done by the Danish government includes the establishment of a new office focusing on the tech giants and 35 concrete initiatives that are going to ensure better conditions for competition and consumer protection 

We had the pleasure to welcome the new Minister of Culture in Denmark, Ane Halsboe-Jørgensen to the debate as her first participation as Minister on her views on the future media landscape.

And she clearly emphasized that the battle against the tech giants are highly prioritized on the agenda.

The Role of the Public Service

The Minister of Culture also pointed to the relevance of public service and the Danish National Broadcaster, DR, in light of the digitalization and polarization of media consumption, mistrust of the media and in ensuring a continued public conversation. “DR has an important role in a time of increasing polarization, where we are being separated from each other (…) There is no doubt that DR can do something to create a common public and cohesion. DR can do something special. I mean that we must fight for DR to be able to do that in the future,” she said.

Another of the big priorities is protecting the local media production: “You cannot have a strong democracy without the media. There is a problem locally and regionally in several places. Some talk about news deserts in the media picture.

“You cannot have a strong democracy without the media.” – Ane Halsboe-Jørgensen, Minister of Culture (DK)

There is no doubt about where we are going, but we have to look for a good solution together in how we distribute the funds to support our democracy and Danish-produced content,” she continued.

The discussion between the CEO’s of the Danish media companies attending the debate focused a lot on who – and how – to finance the development moving forward. Should the state still be paying for the media industry, or will that include have too much of a bias, too little distance towards the government – and stop innovation and critical journalism as Mads Brügger from Frihedsbrevet pointed out?

According to Anders Krab-Johansen, CEO and publisher, Berlingske Media, there is a huge risk that the economy will be eroding for the private media since the tech giants simply have much more capital and better conditions for their framework e.g. with the digital ad revenue moves to social media, Google and the likes. He advocated for a democratization of the technological platforms that can ensure more diversity in the media landscape. 

 

Media Trends - A New Digitized Reality

The two debates were based upon a selection of the major trends in the technological development and digitalization of the media landscape that I believe we must be aware of when it comes to the new logic of the future media landscape: When something changes drastically in the way we communicate and gain knowledge in the digital age, it is a good opportunity to just stop and re-evaluate the choices and priorities we have made over time. So what are the trends that we need to be aware of?

When something changes drastically in the way we communicate and gain knowledge in the digital age, it is a good opportunity to just stop and re-evaluate the choices and priorities we have made over time.

When working with the future, it’s not our goal to predict the future, but rather to be prepared for what is to come and become aware of the implications it might bring for our society. To do that we work with different scenarios where we can dive into both uncertainties and opportunities. In this way, we can work in a structured way with a framework and a common language to understand the different possible futures. It’s about the direction and paying attention to making sure we can act in the present based on that.  

The individual trends are not so defining as such – it is the direction and the bigger picture that is important to be aware of.

The individual trends are not so defining as such – it is the direction and the bigger picture that is important to be aware of. Even so, to understand what we can look forward to it’s important to have an overview of possible drivers and blockers. 

The 6 Most Important Trends

How Much are we Investing in Algorithms and Automation?

It’s not a secret to anyone in the media industry that we have to start implementing digital tools like algorithms, data analysis and automation to develop media, but it’s starting to be more urgent on the question of how to do it.  

To get inspiration on this issue we were honoured to have the Digital Director from BBC News, Naja Nielsen. And being the world’s oldest and largest Public Service broadcaster, it was inspiring to hear about their investments and thoughts on the area.

Naja Nielsen could share the news that they have just invested massively in the use of algorithms and automation and are expanding their editorial staff with a large number of digital specialists and investing DKK 85 million in digital product development over the next two years. BBC delivers news in more than 40 languages and according to Naja Nielsen, it’s important to get them to be on their platforms so they can service them.

One of the big challenges they work on is curation to make sure everyone gets the best possible selection at a given time. In her view, this is best done with a mix of editors and journalistic algorithms. “Old-fashioned “one size fits all” offers, contrary to what one might think, do not ensure that everyone gets the most important thing. Today, we use media so fragmented in our own way, on many platforms and at all times of the week and day, that it can be quite random what we discover and notice. Digital offerings today must have an element of personalization to ensure everyone gets the most important. That is why we are now introducing “personal, public service” to our UK users,” Naja Nielsen explained.

The way we work is also changing and the digital development team at BBC can work from wherever they want which gives new flexibility. There’s a battle going on to get the best coders and programmers at the moment – they are the “new creatives” since it’s their expertise that is in shortage.

So are there any Alternative Solutions?

The users are drowning in content and new ways to keep us informed. With the creator economy and easy access to global as well as hyperlocal content, we have a lot to choose from. So how do we ensure that the content we are presented builds upon the values of a democratic society?

Some of the solutions can be seen in the work done by The Constructive Institute where Ulrik Haagerup, CEO told about the development of the ‘Constructive Mirror’ algorithm that is being made with funding from Google DNI JP/Politiken has also initiated a new ambitious project called the PIN-project (Platform Intelligence in News) working on new recommender systems that was also being introduced at the debates.

The Communication Gap

One thing seemed to be resonating throughout the debates! And that is that we need more dialogue across the different stakeholders of the media industry to create a better understanding of the shared challenges and how digital logic is changing the landscape. It seems like we don’t speak the same language. There’s a clash of logic. 

This was underlined many times during the debates. “We need to talk more about this”, as Lisbeth Knudsen, Strategy Director, Mandag Morgen & Altinget stated. We also have to talk about the more invisible power structures and shed light on how that is affecting the media landscape. 

It was inspiring to hear the many different inputs from the top of the Danish media industry and experts in the debate, which I hope is only the beginning of the ongoing conversation. For me, the dialogue and the debates are central, because we are in an urgent need to get a common language to understand the opportunities and challenges that we face with the media landscape of the future.

We are in an urgent need to get a common language to understand the opportunities and challenges that we face with the media landscape of the future.

If you have ideas on how we can continue to work with a visionary, ambitious and strong media landscape in the future – please let me know.

The conversation is hereby started! 

Who is Who

Sofie Hvitved is Futurist and Special Advisor in Media, Technology and Sport at the Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies where she is head of the project Future Nordic Media Landscape 2030. She is strongly engaged in the intersection between media, technology and entertainment and has a solid strategic background in the media industry, among others by her work in DR (Danish Broadcasting Corporation). Sofie has lived and worked in various cities around the world in Europe and South America, and is currently living in Copenhagen. Sofie has an MA in Media Studies from Aarhus University, Denmark.

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Sofie Hvitved

Sofie Hvitved

[email protected]

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