Ukraine conference seeks answers to important questions

What will be the new model capable of sustaining the quality news?

That was a question pondered, discussed, dissected and debated last week at a conference in Kiev, Ukraine that I was honored to attend. The Foundation for Effective Governance hosted the conference at the Premier Palace Hotel and it drew some 350 attendees. Not bad for a high-minded discussion about the role of business supporting journalism in a growing democracy.

Briggs speaking in Kiev, Ukraine. Click the photo to see more images from the conference.

“Ukrainian media is going through the same struggle of adjusting to survive as the news outlets globally,” said Nataliya Bugayova, project manager at FEG and the person responsible for making the conference happen. “However, most innovations and new models of quality news are being developed oversees. Thus, we decided to bring these top foreign experts and innovators to share insight with Ukrainian audience and help them think of new solutions for quality news in Ukraine.

“Also, we aimed to put the question of the future of quality journalism on the national agenda in Ukraine and make all stakeholders- society, media market, policy makers- think of the role they can place to preserve the quality news.”

In the first panel discussion I tried to emphasize that, yes, there are new models capable of sustaining quality journalism and they are already emerging around us. But it’s not a singular model like printed newspapers or broadcast TV. It’s a hybrid model that combines different platforms and revenue sources. The “old” model relied so heavily on advertising – and just one or two types of advertising – which is why it has been so difficult to adapt in the digital age.

It felt a little like deja vu all over again. I’ve had this discussion so many times over the past five years in the U.S. but these questions are just now getting tackled in other parts of the world. I tried to explain how there is often a bit of revisionist history with the “old model” since people didn’t pay directly for news and/or content. They paid for the service that included printing and doorstep delivery (in the case of newspapers).

Briggs-Bugayova in Kiev

Briggs and Bugayova in Kiev

In some publications now, readers do pay directly for content as evidenced by the fact that the New York Times gets more revenue from subscriptions than advertising. That’s never happened before. Not even in the “golden age.”

Meanwhile, digital advertising is evolving and growing. Content marketing, native advertising, digital agencies inside of news organizations, events sponsorships — so many ways to make money to support the journalism. It doesn’t have to be a 1:1 ratio where readers pay directly to access content.

“Given the feedback from the audience, I believe it was a true value-add experience and that Ukrainian media professionals, especially the younger generation, took a lot of useful and new information from the event,” said Bugayova, who also used the conference to launch a journalism training program in Kiev.

An international lineup of speakers from diverse locales and backgrounds made the conference a rich experience for a journo geek like me. But I think it also effectively introduced the “future of news” discussion to a new audience in a way that made it accessible and understandable.

In my next post I will discuss the debate that I also participated in at the Kiev conference.

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