Predictions for journalism in 2015–politicized digital intermediaries

The good folks at the NiemanLab at Harvard have asked a bunch of people to offer their predictions of something that will matter for journalism in 2015.

I wrote my piece about the increasing politicization of spectacularly successful, incredibly useful, and more and more powerful U.S.-based digital intermediaries like Google and Facebook, companies that face push-back and pressures from other interests.

“Just as the popular and commercial success of Google and Facebook is virtually global, so are the questions raised by the increasingly powerful position they occupy in the media environment. But because the answers are in part political, and (much) politics is local, the reactions are likely to vary from country to country. In 2015, we’ll see this discussion intensify and develop.”

With high-profile cases of this in for example France, Germany, and Spain, it is easy to charicature this as an legacy-old-media-old-world-Europe vs innovation-new-media-new-world-US issue (as it frequently is).

This is a misrepresentation. First of all, the issue is much broader than US-Europe. Second, many companies in the US itself are pushing back against Google and the like by all means available, including lobbying etc.

Lot’s of terrific pieces, all collected here.

Thanks to all my good colleagues and students at Roskilde University

Today, I’m emptying my office at Roskilde University as I prepare to move to Oxford for my new position as Director of Research at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.

I’m really looking forward to new challenges and opportunities but it is also a strange feeling to leave a place I’ve worked (part-time, full-time, variations thereoff) for four years.

I’d like to thank all my good colleagues and students at Roskilde, I’ve learned a ton from you.

335 books from Jørgen Goul Andersen to Slavoj Žižek ready to go.

335 books from Jørgen Goul Andersen to Slavoj Žižek ready to go.

Back from ECREA 2014

Back from a couple of interesting days at the 2014 ECREA conference in Lisbon.

I was on a panel organized by Jakob Linaa Jensen called “News Across Media : The Production and Consumption of News in a Cross-Media Perspective”, along with Bente Kalsnes, Mads Hvas Jensen, Einar Thorsen, and Jacob Ørmen.

Below is the abstract of the presentation (developed with Kim Schrøder) that I gave.

Changing forms of cross-media news consumption in Western Europe

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen (Roskilde University and the University of Oxford) & Kim Schrøder (Roskilde University)

News use across Western Europe is rapidly changing as traditional sources of news are increasingly supplemented and sometimes supplanted by digital media, and as relatively passive forms of media use are sometimes complemented with new forms of sharing, commenting, and creating.

In this paper, we analyze similarities and differences in news media use across Western Europe on the basis of data from a ten-country international survey (the Reuters Institute Digital News Report), examining, amongst other issues, the rise of mobile news as smartphone penetration in the span of a few years has surpassed fifty percent in many countries—including countries like Italy and Spain where internet use has otherwise lagged behind the EU15 average. The region is intellectually interesting because countries in Western Europe, despite their relative economic, media-technological, and political similarity continue to differ when it comes to how news is used, providing amble opportunities for comparative work on “political information environments” (Curran et al, 2009; Aalberg et al, 2010; Esser et al, 2012).

Based on a “most-similar” comparison looking specifically at data from within Western Europe, we identify three particularly important similarities in how news is used across the region, namely (1) the continuing centrality of “old” or “renewed” (Chadwick, 2013) media, (2) the parallel rise in the overall importance of digital media in an increasingly cross-media news environment, and (3) the increasing centrality of US-based global digital intermediaries like Google, Facebook, and Apple. We also, however, document significant country-to-country differences in the degree to which (1) citizens have embraced more active and participatory forms of news use and (2) the degree to which the digital incarnation of legacy news media retain a dominant position in terms of digital news provision.

We suggest that the differences identified can be related in part to interactions between new technological developments and inherited differences in the “media systems” (Hallin and Mancini, 2004) and “media cultures” (Hepp and Couldry, 2009) found in the countries in question, as well as to differences in overall confidence in the political institutions that most news coverage focuses on (Norris, 2011).

 

Starting new job as Director of Research and Development in Oxford

In January, I’m taking up a new job as Director of Research and Development at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford and moving back to the UK.

My role is to expand the institute’s internationally-oriented, practically-relevant academic research agenda and develop further ties to practicing journalists and media industry professionals around the world.

I’m excited to take up this position and work with colleagues both at the institute and in the news industry, as well as throughout the very strong academic environments at the University of Oxford, including partners in the Department of Politics and International Relations, the Oxford Internet Institute, and the Saïd Business School and elsewhere.

I am taking a leave of absence from my faculty position at Roskilde University but will continue to collaborate with my many good colleagues there, including our Center for Power, Media, and Communication, which is involved in the Reuters Institute Digital News Report project.

Digital Keywords Workshop – essay on “democracy”

My friend Ben Peters has organized a terrific workshop on “Digital Keywords” hosted at the University of Tulsa October 10-11 (check out the Twitter account and the hashtag #digitalkeywords for discussion).

I’ve written a draft entry on democracy. It is more an essay on how we might think about the relationship between digital technology and democracy than an overview-type etymology/conceptual history etc (Raymond Williams entry in his original Keywords provides that (PDF here), those looking for a history can look at John Keane’s rich and sprawling book “The Life and Death of Democracy”).

The whole entry is available here, the excerpt below gives an indication of the thrust of it—

“…much of the discussion around the relationship between digital information and communication technologies and democracy has focused too little on the question of what connections exists between digital technologies and actually existing, minimalist-vision democracy and too much on extensive discussion of the possible connections that might potentially be established between digital technologies and alternative, maximalist visions for democracy.”

I couldn’t make it to the workshop in person but Skyped in for two hours of discussion, and got tons of useful feedback and comments, especially from Guobin Yang who served as my discussant.

My idea of a great Saturday night (skyping into conference)

My idea of a great Saturday night–Skyping into Tulsa conference 9pm-11pm my time.

This is all work-in-progress and as Julia Sonnevend rightly noted in the discussion, given the equally minimalist thrust of my presentation on journalism in Groningen in June (which I’m also revising and elaborating on) there is a bit of a theme emerging here.

Nice new review of “Ground Wars”

New review out of my book Ground Wars: Personalized Political Communication (Princeton University Press, 2012).

Dennis W. Johnson writes very kindly:

This is a groundbreaking study; I have learned much from it and believe it will be an important addition to the field of campaigns and elections. It will be just as valuable as Green and Gerber’s Get Out the Vote, with its analysis of various communications techniques and ground-war activities. The Obama presidential campaigns set the gold standard for technology and ground-war effectiveness, and many other state and localcampaigns have followed suit. As campaign technology becomes more sophisticated
and the ground war becomes more of a strategic tool, other scholars should be looking into this important field as well.
Full review (in the International Journal of Press/Politics) here.

Taking over as editor of the International Journal of Press/Politics

January 1, 2015, I’m taking over as editor of the International Journal of Press/Politics after Silvio Waisbord.

I regard IJPP as the premier journal for genuinely international and comparative work focused on the intersection between news media (broadly conceived) and politics (equally broadly conceived) and as a journal dedicated to publishing theoretically and methodologically diverse social science work of high quality focused on substantially important problems.

At least that’s what Sage has published so far under Silvio and other previous editors, so now I have something to live up to. An “important but tough job” as one experienced colleague told me. I’m looking forward to it.