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Digital-born players succeeding where legacy media is weakest – but do new and traditional players have more in common than it seems?

05 Dec 2016

Digital-born news media in Europe are succeeding best in countries where traditional legacy media is weak, according to a new report from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.The report, Digital-Born News Media in Europe, by Tom Nicholls, Nabeelah Shabbir and Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, is released as part of the RISJ’s Digital News Project, and examines 12 digital-born news media organisations across France, Germany, Spain and the UK. It finds that new digital-born players tend to be more prominent in France and Spain where the legacy media is weaker than in Germany and the UK, where their legacy counterparts remain strong.   “European digital-born media are clearly rooted in the profession of journalism. Their success depends more on gaps in the existing national media than on how many people are using the Internet in their countries, or on strength of the local advertising market,” says lead author of the report, Tom Nicholls. The report also finds that unlike US digital-born players, European organisations tend to bear more similarity to traditional media, and are clearly rooted in the journalism profession, rather than the fields of technology or business. They are usually launched and developed by journalists, often with senior experience of working within a legacy organisation themselves. Producing quality journalism, or having social impact tend to be their primary ambitions over delivering digital innovation or building a lucrative new media business. Other key findings include: European digital news media are strategically similar to their legacy counterparts. Interesting journalism is being done, but the funding models, distribution and editorial strategy is not markedly different from the digital strategy of legacy organisations, reflecting European digital-born news media’s roots in journalism, rather than business or technology. Digital-born and legacy media in Europe also face very similar challenges online, particularly around funding and off-site distribution. Video, native advertising, various pay models and commercial diversification are all approaches being pursued by digital-born as well as legacy players. The report looks in details at funding models, distribution strategies and editorial priorities. “A huge range of funding models are being tried to fund online media in Europe. Native advertising is increasingly important, and many subscription-funded and donation-funded funding models have been developed. Nevertheless, online journalism in Europe still isn’t highly profitable,” says Nicholls. Read the full report here.