Strategies for Media Reform was a main topic of the first Delphi International Economic Forum. What are the changes that have been brought by the digital age? And how can the media resist the onslaught of the crisis? The necessary modernization, “targeted content”, the new broadcasting map, and objective information. All the above was analyzed by the President of the Greek Online Publishers Association, Founder and Chairman of the 24MEDIA Group, Dimitris Maris.
“The concept of the traditional publisher no longer exists. We should strive for creating 360° corporate organizations”, highlighted Mr. Dimitris Maris during the three-day Delphi International Economic Forum under the auspices of the Presidency of the Republic. Together with Theocharis Filippopoulos of Attica Publications, Domna Michailidou (Financial Advisor for OECD) and Fabrizio D’ Angelo (former CEO of Burda International and Inti Consulting Sagl) they discussed “the day after” for the Media Sector, the dialogue being moderated by the reporter Popi Tsapanidou.
“The discussion concerning Media Reforms is not just a national concern. There exist international parameters, which are not being taken into account. The media landscape in Greece is unregulated and needs to be regulated. Few media organizations are able to keep up with the innovations related to targeted content. At the same time while there does exists a “system” in Greece, it is not exactly what we imagine it to be. “It is a culture and a modus operandi which we are called upon to overcome”, are the main points on which Mr. Maris’ speech focused.
Naturally, the speakers focused their interest on the rapid changes taking place on the country’s broadcasting map. “The thematic of this discussion, relates to an issue that has elliptically concerned Greek public opinion. The focus of our discussion must supersede the circumstances of the Greek experience. This is exactly why I used the term “elliptically” just before. Often our dialogue tends to disregard the international context in which it is taking place. In reality, the discussion regarding reforms to the media landscape is one in which the national aspect is obscured by the international aspect, where the political and regulatory aspects become part of the technological one, the force of “creative destruction” and innovation”, Mr. Maris commented.
At the same time, Mr. Maris made reference to the battle given by various media organizations in order to claim a few seconds of consumers’ “advertising attention”. “Initially, if my experience with 24MEDIA in Greece, or my broader involvement in the sector, has taught me anything, it is that the good boundaries between the Media channels – the walls between them – have collapsed. They have been superseded by the developments themselves, by life itself. In the past, in the field of communications, one knew that at an advertising level there had to be a different policy for radio, a different one for television, a different one for the internet, and a different one for newspapers. In reality, now, as citizens we are consumers of the same item of news through different media, which are battling on equal terms for a piece of our attention, for few seconds of our time either on the radio station we listen to in the morning while in the car, or on the internet through our mobile devices via applications, or by surfing the net on our office computers, or on the 20:00 news on television. As media, we are now required to compete with traditional brands such as Nike, Coca-Cola or Apple, for a percentage of a consumer’s available attention.”
In what way can we ultimately achieve the “marriage” between advertising and content with the aim of achieving the best results? And how catalytic is the role of Social Media? “One way is the method of personalization, using a custom-made approach and increased personal targeting of content. For example, during Barak Obama’s 2012 campaign, the Democratic Party’s databases were “married” with data from social media, credit cards banking data, subscribers’ consumer data, and information obtained from campaign volunteers themselves, so as to compile a mapping of the electorate, which dramatically exceeded the information provided by polling results. Media such as the NY Times – via Nate Silver and his algorithms – monitored this development from the very beginning. This discussion is gradually opening up in Europe, as well”, added Mr. Maris, whilst highlighting the need for Greece to be transformed into a laboratory, a creative experiment of a new situation.
“The Chinese character for “crisis” is expressed by two ideograms combined together, one of which depicts danger and the other opportunity. It is time therefore, for us to begin capitalizing on the opportunity and not to let the crisis go to waste. Although in Greece we often talk about the “system” and the “status quo”, anyone who has managed in actuality to advance in this country, and dare I say in every country, comes to realize that there is no such thing as a “system” in the sense in which those who are outside of the arena imagine it to exist. The system is something else. It is the way in which the leaders of a sector or a country operate, the modus operandi, the rules by which they operate and their culture. And in this sense Greece is in need of an overall change of the system, generally but also specifically with respect to Media Sector. And in fact, immediately.”
Moreover, what we need to realize according to Mr. Maris is that the publisher, in its traditional form, is dead! What does this mean in reality? “In a recent opinion article by Guardian columnist Emily Bell, it was written that the concept of the publisher in its traditional sense is over. It pertains to yesterday. As you understand, by this she did not mean that the process of publishing content is over. She was referring to the degree of freedom that a publisher has over the content managed by its organization. More or less namely, its political influence, a concept with which in Greece we are quite familiar. The most significant decisions however, must be taken at a device level – as is being demonstrated by Apple’s recent judicial battle with regard to the security of its devices – at a carrier level, and even at a platform level. A few days ago, a UK phone company (Three) decided to block ads from all of its webpages viewed by its subscribers. Mobile advertising still only constitutes a small part of the groups’ total revenues; however it is a piece of the pie that is constantly growing. I do not know if this policy will be contested by the relevant EU regulating bodies – it may very well be so – however it gives us a taste of what is really at stake in the sector”.
“We need 360° organizations which can combine the elements of this message, of this experience. Therefore, in this sense, and to the degree to which we are slightly lagging behind in Greece, as a broader Media sector we must listen carefully and bring about a shift. This shift pertains to how we, ourselves, will elect to act in relation to the state. Will we seek a narrow income-focused approach based on old terms of influence? Or will we try to contribute to the construction of a serious institutional framework, consistent with international developments, which will bring about smart regulatory policies for each technological medium? Is the issue here the outcome of the game? Or perhaps is it the setting of healthy rules to a game that is constantly changing, in an arena which is, itself, unstable? Such questions, in my opinion, might prove to be rhetorical”, said Mr. Maris, upon closing his speech.
Note that on the Saturday morning at the Amalia Hotel, 24MEDIA held an Executive Breakfast for more than 30 speakers/guests of the International Economic Forum. Among other things, Mr. Maris made the following observation: “We are well aware that the old economic model in Greece had collapsed long before the first Memorandum was signed with the IMF and the EU in 2010. That model was rotting from its very foundations as can be demonstrated by the figures of youth unemployment, the brain drain and the gradual extraversion of the economy. The media in fact received the heaviest blow. Traditional media was faced with the dilemma of adapting to a new era or disappearing completely. And all of this is within a framework where technological innovation is moving at breakneck speed, consumers of news are becoming more and more demanding, and whilst the entrepreneurial models of our sector need to be re-written from scratch. In the end Gramsci was right: One can be a pessimist because of intelligence but an optimist because of will. Our country is thirsty for change, nevertheless, the substance of this change remains – to a great degree – vague. Therefore, the challenge we face as a generation is to define this change”.