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With around 500 registered participants, 9 panel discussions, 2 rural side events, 40 national and international speakers from more than 10 countries and 3 continents, and 48 reporting journalists - Mathias Corvinus Collegium (MCC) is hosting a two-day international conference on the current state of the media market and the future of publishing.
"MCC puts special emphasis on familiarizing students with the trends that shape their lives and influence their future, be it in geopolitics, the European Union, climate policy or, as in the present case, the latest developments in the international media market," said Zoltán Szalai in his welcome address. The Director-General of the institution stressed the importance of educating knowledgeable, open-minded talent who not only understand and follow the discourses that define the world but are also capable of actively shaping them. The media should be thought of as a national strategic issue — as Balázs Orbán said in his opening speech. The Chairman of the MCC Board of Trustees stressed that national ownership of the media and its being considered a strategic sector were key issues. The Prime Minister's political director pointed out that there had been a dangerous trend in the Western world for the media to increasingly serve ideology.
New Formats: Media Revolutionaries
Large, formerly authoritative American newspapers are slowly losing their national character as, under pressure from progressive trends, they increasingly focus on serving a narrow subscriber base, said the founding editor of Compact Magazine, Sohrab Ahmari, in the first panel discussion of the conference on the impact of digital transformation. In the case of most traditional media, the values of consumers and subscribers are not in line with the ideological stance of the editors or owners, and this creates serious conflicts — as Rod Dreher, editor-in-chief of The American Conservative pointed out. Javier Villamor, a journalist for Spain7NN, said that it was not necessarily objectivity but rather honesty that was the primary measure of modern journalism. Zoltán Szalai, director of Mandiner said that human nature prevents us from achieving neutral, completely impartial information, as the one who presents the information is already viewing the world through a kind of filter. "Long-established media outlets still stick to traditional formats, but in the digital world it is often more (cost) effective to deliver content to readers," said Colin Morrison, the founding editor of Flashes & Flames Media Ltd.
Creative Disruption: How to Win the Digital Revolution?
The second panel focused on the decline of traditional business models as well as new opportunities and possibilities in the media world. Boris Kálnoky, head of MCC's Media School and a well-known journalist described the emergence of the internet in the media world as a phenomenon whose significance is comparable to the extinction of the dinosaurs. Many media outlets have sunk and only the best survive. According to Ylenia Swierk, a strategist at Piano Software Inc., the survivors were those who focused on content and started using online platforms in creative ways, where content delivery was combined with a variety of other tools, be it creative ideas or the use of social media platforms. George Chirita, director of the Romanian Association for Audiovisual Communications, spoke about the difference between digital expression and the definition of public opinion. Viv Regan, managing editor of Spiked, pointed out that the digital revolution could not have happened without an ideological revolution. "We are fighting for freedom of expression, for a roll-back of censorship, where the role of gatekeepers is abolished and it is the diversity of content that sets the offer," he added. In Hungary, changes in digital consumer habits have been less significant in recent times, partly due to the rapid pace of the digital revolution in Hungary and the emergence of several media in the 1990s with no offline predecessor at all — as Miklós Vaszily, co-owner of Indamedia Group mentioned.
Impact of Media Law and EU Regulation on the Media Market
A new EU media regulation, the so-called "European Media Freedom Act", is currently being drafted, which, according to the plans in Brussels, would limit the dominance of tech companies and reduce the influence of owners in the work of newsrooms. At the same time, there could be serious risks to the European plans, experts said in the third panel discussion of the conference. Commenting on the 2019 European Union's Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market, Florian Nehm, head of European Public Affairs at Axel Springer SE said the directive is a good initiative as, in the digital space, it is much more difficult to enforce copyright. This directive could be a step forward, said András Koltay, President of the National Media and Infocommunications Authority, Hungary (NMHH). The expert said that the NMHH is constantly working towards a balanced media market, yet Hungary needs to think about the next step regarding copyright. The discussion also raised the role of big tech giants regarding freedom of expression, as we see that these companies often restrict what can appear on their platforms. Dr Jorge Soley, a contributor to El Debate, commented that his newspaper's main challenge was not with big techs, but with government regulation. "The problem we are facing now is practically the transition to digital communication," noted George Chirita, director of the Romanian Association for Audiovisual Communications. Because of the left-wing bias of most media platforms, right-wing opinions are limited. In relation to this topic, Miklós Szánthó, director general of the Centre for Fundamental Rights said that the main problem was the spread of woke ideology and the so-called cancel culture. Regarding the "European Media Freedom Act," participants agreed that the legislation raises a number of issues that should be in principle decided by the nation-states.
Business Models: Can Online Media Be Profitable; Can Print Survive?
What has changed in the media market over the past 20 years — this was another question explored by the participants of the fourth panel. According to Jacek Karnowski, the editor-in-chief of Fratria and Sieci weekly, it is a very difficult question, as the process is not yet over and the future is hard to predict. In addition, there are various new trends that are changing dynamically. Parallel to this, the online space is also constantly changing: some news portals lose 50% of their readership one day and break readership records the other. He also highlighted the changing habits of readers: we no longer browse websites, but social media. Tibor Kovács also believes that we are in the midst of a change, but quality content remains crucial. According to the CEO of Ringier Hungary, the big change that is coming is the development of the dual market, i.e. a readers’ market and one for the advertisers. According to the columnist, radio host and Israeli political social media influencer Yair Netanyahu, the digital revolution also has a positive effect in that it strengthens the process of democratization. The expert pointed out that in the past, only a very small group of people could work as journalists, and in many cases, they were not ideologically independent. In contrast, today anyone can be an opinion leader, so anyone can make their voice heard. Ralf Schuler, former chief correspondent of the Parliament office of Bild in Berlin, said that there was still money in the market, and that the big platforms were profiting from it. At the same time, there is also a market niche, meaning that anyone can start a video channel, a podcast, or make a TikTok video and if the model doesn't work, you simply let go. The moderator of the panel discussion, Gladden Pappin, an MCC visiting fellow, pointed out that diversity also means a step back from the idea of a common culture, in which the individual perspective has come to the fore.
Back to the Roots: Authentic, Long-Format Edition
According to new research, it is a misconception that the digital world has eclipsed traditional forms of reporting. Contrary to popular belief, people are happy to read — even subscribe to — longer content provided it is of good quality. During the last panel discussion of the first day of the conference, the panelists expressed their views on this topic.
I've never been driven by a desire to serve the needs of readers in everything I do. I've pursued what interests me and tried to make it all worth financially," says Alexander Marquier, editor-in-chief of the German magazine Cicero. People who watch TikTok videos won't read long essays, but the key to keeping a print magazine in print is to engage readers online — as Alvino-Mario Fantini, editor-in-chief and publisher of The European Conservative, pointed out. Tibor Fischer believes that the idea that you only write articles if there is a market for your product can lead astray. According to the head of the MCC Center for Literature, it is this very attitude that is pushing readers towards independent expression, because if it is the owners who decide what is sellable, more and more people will express their thoughts on blogs and other online platforms.
According to the founder and editor of Atlantico.fr, stigma is also a serious problem in the Western media world. Jean Sébastien Ferjou explained that they often felt like the little boy in the fairy tale who was the only one in the cheering crowd who dared to tell the king that he had no clothes on.
The second day of the event also featured several topical and interesting themes, including the tabloid press and the advertising market, along with various success stories. Among the guests of the conference was the star podcaster Yair Netanyahu, son of the Israeli Prime Minister.
We Must Take up the Gauntlet Against Political Attacks and Stigma - Online Success Stories
In Israel, a few years ago, the values of the vast majority of society were not reflected in the media, said Yair Netanyahu, the guest speaker on the first panel. The radio presenter and political social media influencer said that their mission was to give a voice to the voiceless, to create platforms where they could reach out to conservative, right-wing people. According to Netanyahu, this is precisely why they were doomed to success. They are speaking the minds of the majority of society loudly and fighting the battle in public against the leftist media influence. The managing director and owner of the Megafon Digital Incubator Centre Nonprofit Ltd. István Kovács noted that there was a historical reason for the development of the Hungarian media market and the success of right-wing opinion leaders in the online community space. The regime change happened in politics, but not in the media market. István Kovács pointed out that after 1990 the same left-wingers dominated the media as under socialism. This changed in 2006 when the right started to build up its own media, including newspapers, television, radio and later online news portals. According to Kovács, part of this process was also the Megafon movement to strengthen the social media presence. In Germany, the old media giants continue to dominate the market, but new initiatives that go against the mainstream have been hugely successful. Presenting their performance, Roland Tichy, founder of the online magazine Tichys Einblich, said they now had over 1.8 million followers, tens of millions of fans, and in addition to their online presence, they also had a radio show and a newsletter. Their success is because they have filled a gap, voicing the opinions of millions. The panel also highlighted the fact that they have had to fight not only the traditional media to allow a different set of values and a right-wing perspective on the world to be represented, but also, in recent years, the so-called tech giants. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google have regularly restricted and restrict their content. It is no longer possible to tell who is left-wing or right-wing in the traditional sense, the panelists pointed out. According to Roland Tichy, protesting against mainstream or, in some cases, EU-dictated opinions — such as the need to eat insects to protect the climate — can be publicly labelled as right-wing and labeled as racist or even sexist.
In response to this, Yair Netanyahu also pointed out that "the right represents real democracy." As for Hungary, he noted that "criticizing Soros is not anti-Semitism," because George Soros is causing very serious damage to "the only Jewish state." For example, by funding anti-Jewish, anti-Zionist and pro-Palestinian NGOs that are disrupting Israeli society from within.
How to Advertise Effectively: Advertising Revenue Concepts
One of the most, if not the most important sources of revenue for the media is the sale of advertising space. Whereas 10-20 years ago the advertising market was relatively transparent, nowadays, not only has media consumption changed fundamentally but also the ways of reaching the target audience. How do the media adapt to these changes? How are the new channels changing the characteristics of advertisements? Where is the place of traditional advertising and what innovations are underway or can be expected in the future? These issues were discussed by experts in the field, Zach Christenson, an editor of The Spectator US, Marcial Cuquerella, founder of 7NN Televisión, Klaudia Kosaras, commercial director of Atmedia, and Colin Morrison, founding editor of Flashes & Flames Media Ltd.
The main success criteria are as follows: be attractive, produce quality content and reach back to basics — said Orsolya Ludvig, Head of the MCC Center for Corporate Communications, in the second panel of the event. Despite the fact that social media platforms are taking an ever-larger slice of the advertising market pie, traditional advertising channels are still surviving. Zach Christenson, editor of The Spectator US, pointed out that young people today — on TikTok, for example — often watch ads without even being aware of it. Marcial Cuquerella, the founder of 7NN Televisión, pointed out that traditional or non-traditional advertising works depending on the target group. The millennials, for example, will watch no more than 3-4 minutes of content, while the older generation will watch a longer sporting event and also consume traditional advertising. Klaudia Kosaras, commercial director of Atmedia, said that television is still an important advertising channel in Hungary, where linear channels continue to enjoy high viewership and advertising revenues are reaching or even exceeding the 2019 level. However, it is undeniable that digital channels are taking a bigger slice of the advertising pie. Colin Morrison, the founding editor of Flashes & Flames Media Ltd, said: “We're seeing ads even when we don't plan to. At the same time, because of media noise, advertisers have to work harder and target better to reach their customers.”
We Must Serve the Truth Because Millions of People Want the Truth
The first topic of the third panel discussion was the spread of artificial intelligence. Kevin Anderson, a senior consultant at PugPig, said that nowadays you don't need a publisher to publish something, as you can share anything instantly on the various social media platforms. According to the expert, the real challenge is no longer to launch a platform but to keep it alive. "As a publisher, I'm aware of the positive aspects of artificial intelligence, especially the ability of programs to produce content," notes Jorge González-Gallarza, host of The Uncommon Decency Podcast. Despite the negative market trends resulting from the transformation of the media market, magazines have managed to survive. The presenter believes that the key to survival is to produce unique content that both entertains and informs. According to Antonio O'Mullony, editor-in-chief of La Gaceta de la Iberosfera, the transformation of the media market has been underway for a few years now, with the successive entries of print media outlets into the digital space. There is no point in competing with social media like Twitter because this is where people will get the latest information. According to the presenter, we must serve the truth, as millions of people want to know the truth. As for podcasts, their proliferation makes it difficult to produce content that will capture people's attention. As a genre, podcasts have revolutionized the way we consume media, as we can get almost any kind of information through them," said González-Gallarza, who said that few efforts are made to train good journalists, and he is pleased that MCC is committed to training journalists who are committed to their profession.
The Power of the Tabloid Press
It is not good for a society to try to escape reality. The tabloid press gives a voice to the lower strata of society, said Ralf Schuler, former chief correspondent of the Parliament Office of Bild in Berlin, in the last panel discussion of the media conference. Richard Schmitt, editor-in-chief and co-owner of Exxpress AT, said that to a certain extent, one must be a partner for politicians, which is a rather difficult task. Commenting on this, Ralf Schuler said that in many cases politicians want to use the tabloid press for their own benefit. He also pointed out that the main objective of the tabloid press is to grab people's attention, but that there are different rules in different countries on what can and cannot be published. In Germany, when writing about a crime, you cannot specify the origin of the perpetrator, so the public is not fully informed," Schuler said. Miklós Ómolnár, director of the tabloid and magazine division at Mediaworks Hungary, believes the tabloid press still has a lot of power. The tabloid press and politics live together in a kind of symbiosis, said Jacek Karnowski. The editor-in-chief of the Polish weekly Fratria and Sieci, commenting on the pithy nature of the tabloid press, said that although the tabloid is often attacked, it is worth bearing in mind that most people have difficulties reading long texts.
As a final question, the controversial nature of the tabloid press was also raised: is the tabloid a pillar of democracy or is it more of a disruptive force? All participants agreed that the very existence of the tabloid is a hallmark of democracy, but it also has its dangers because of its impact on public opinion.
For more information, please visit: https://mcc.hu/en/event/mcc-conference-on-the-future-of-publishing