"Helping people to help themselves": New exchange format for independent media

The media crisis is hitting small, independent publishers particularly hard. While politicians are hesitating, a broad alliance wants to offer these publishers a helping hand: With a new open series of events on topics that concern the media, cooperation in the industry is to be promoted and "help for self-help" is to be encouraged.

An alliance between the association Medien mit Zukunft VMZ, the We.Publish network and media experts Stephanie Grubenmann and Konrad Weber will launch a new exchange format at the beginning of 2024 with the support of the Mercator Foundation Switzerland. At regular intervals, large groups will discuss what is currently on the minds of publishers and editorial teams: Finding a way out of the crisis.

According to the joint press release, this is sorely needed. After all, the Swiss media have been in financial difficulties for some time. Advertising revenues are collapsing, willingness to pay is falling and user behavior is changing. In the Mercator-commissioned study "Explorative Analysis: Support for Swiss Local Journalism" from 2022, Grubenmann and Weber found that there is too little exchange among small, independent publishers in Swiss local journalism. They mainly operate within existing communities, which means that too little knowledge flows across media genre boundaries. This is where the series of events comes in and promotes cooperation within the industry. The aim is to "help people to help themselves".

The aim is to exchange best practices and further develop and adapt them to the respective context of media operations. Lectures, workshops and panels are planned - remotely and on site. The central idea is that not only invited experts will give lectures, but that publishers and editorial teams will be able to talk to each other about a wide range of topics and benefit from each other's knowledge. This could be: Which financing strategies work? How can more subscribers be acquired? What to do in the event of a SLAPP lawsuit? Does the industry need a CLA? How do you create a good foundation application?

The target group for this series of events are publishers and editors of small, independent media. In these companies, journalistic work, publishing tasks and marketing often coincide and are handled by small teams. We want to discuss exactly what the format should look like and what will be covered - at an open kick-off event on January 22, 2024. Together we want to discuss what is urgent, where there is a need for action, which experts should share their knowledge and what could help the media in this time of crisis.

"Of course, not all of the industry's problems will suddenly disappear into thin air, but we want to offer an initial approach to cooperation," explains Camille Roseau, Co-President of the VMZ. "We can't expect much help for the small media from politicians in the foreseeable future. However, the media we are addressing are too relevant to democracy to be left to their possibly sad individual fate. We are not only addressing our 30 members, but also have an open door for all other small Swiss media."

Media expert Stephanie Grubenmann adds: "Our study has shown that the experiences that independent publishers have in local journalism remain in the silos of the respective profiles. The exchange format is intended to remedy this: Knowledge should flow more easily across profile boundaries. This idea is groundbreaking: there has never been a similar exchange format in Switzerland before."

Nina Graf, member of We.Publish's management board, also sees exchange as the key: "The work of the We.Publish network to date has shown that collaboration is of great benefit to the industry. A rethink is now urgently needed. Our infrastructure with monthly remote meetings, where media professionals can share knowledge and benefit from expert knowledge, offers a valuable starting point for the new exchange format."

Anyone interested in taking part in the kick-off workshop on January 22, 2024 in Bern can register via leave your contact details using this form.

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