What’s Happening:

The largest media event in Europe, the International Journalism Festival (IJF), took place in early April for the 13th year. Experienced media innovators shared knowledge and practical advice on how to drive successful change within publishing organizations, during five full days of workshops and sessions including the School of Data Journalism, organized in association with the European Journalism Centre and the Open Knowledge Foundation.


Digging Deeper:

In one session, “How to resist the siren call of too many chickensh*t projects,” four panelists presented including Lucy Kueng, senior research fellow at RISJ. Kueng spoke about three levels at which innovation takes place:

  • Optimization of the old model.
  • Introduction of new products and services, ideally that grow revenue.
  • Experimentation with future product options.

Kueng pointed out that introducing new products is a “one way door” that cannot be backed out of, and require serious commitments of time and money. Planning for future products is also important for attracting new talent and moving the organization forward.

Lyndsey Jones, executive editor at Financial Times, spoke about the bridge for getting where the organization wants to get. At FT, Jones implemented a broadcast schedule that scheduled different geographical regions for their optimal times, and saved the best stories for the home page. Jones also reduced the content by 20%, eliminating the most under-performing. These changes were not always well-received in the newsroom, and employees were given opportunities to leave if the new editorial model was not a fit for them.

Inga Thordar, executive editor, CNN Digital International said that innovation is a massive undertaking for the broadcaster that still very much operates as a one-platform medium, but it is necessary for survival. She and her team focused on optimizing the old while implementing new changes — not always linked to breaking news.

“You need to take part in big, structural changes but also define new business models and work out how to deliver it,” Thordar said.

Lastly, Helje Solberg, news director at NRK, spoke about how change required new skillsets, whether that was a new technology or mindset. But, she warned, if publishers don’t inject these new models they will only produce more of the same.


Why It Matters:

The annual IJF event is completely free of charge for any journalist who wants to attend, as an open invitation to listen, learn and network with peers. Accessibility and informality are key features of the festival, which is held annually in Perugia, Italy. Past speakers have included notables such as Emily Bell, Carl Bernstein, Al Gore, Seymour Hersh, Wadah Khanfar and Yoani Sanchez.

Both seasoned and aspiring journalists converge from all over the world to soak up the information as well as the networking, and more than 250 volunteers from dozens of countries also attend. In addition to invaluable skills, IJF also offers inspiration and the opportunity to interact directly with speakers. The festival is the go-to media event worldwide for journalists seeking such inspiration. The message is, “we’ve taken down all the barriers, the rest is up to you.”


The Bottom Line:

The next festival will take place April 1-5, 2020. All IJF sessions are free entry for all attendees, without any need for registration. Access to all sessions is on a first-come-first-served basis. To guarantee access, attendees should arrive well before the start of the session. For more information, visit journalismfestival.com.

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