'The Newsroom Will Become a Control Room'

What We Learned at the GEN Summit 2014

17 July 2014


The CEO of the Global Editors Network, Bertrand Pecquerie, tells us what he thinks are the biggest lessons learned at this year’s GEN Summit. The summit was held in Barcelona 11-13 June 2014 and welcomed over 600 editors-in-chief and media innovators from around the world. 

What are the biggest take-aways from the GEN Summit held in Barcelona?

Bertrand Pecquerie: I think there are three main lessons from the GEN Summit. First, the internet was disruptive, but mobile platforms including tablets are much more disruptive. New pure players (like Mashable and Vice) are better at captivating new audiences than traditional platforms. All media will have to work with more than 50 percent of their traffic coming from mobiles and many of them are not ready. Even The New York Times and The Guardian said they were running behind on defining a mobile news strategy.

Another big take-away is that newsroom integration was a buzzword ten years ago, but that is no longer the case. Today the trend has reversed towards newsroom disintegration: specific teams for specific platforms. You don't use your tablet the same way as your computer and it requires specific attention from publishers. The newsroom will become a 'control room' with less people at desks and more journalists in the field. The notion of the 'collective intelligence' of journalists working in the same room will disappear.

The last main lesson is that journalists and audiences have the same devices and free editing tools. Citizens can now create their own 'collective intelligence' through MOOCs, social networks and training tools provided by small startups or big IT companies. Google Media Tools is a good example.

Is newsroom innovation becoming a reality or is it a fade? 

Bertrand Pecquerie: Skills have improved in newsrooms and now you find efficient developers, graphic designers, data-viz specialists. Journalists have also learnt to work with these new breeds of news staff. Ideally, newsroom innovation will become a reality. The process should start with the news teams themselves and not just from startups coming into the news market like Storify, Storyful, etc. 

Not to be overlooked, automated or robot journalism will appear in Europe between 2015 and 2020. Many journalists will either have to change their skills or lose their jobs. This shift can also be an exciting opportunity to focus on investigation, analysis and data-viz. Today, too many journalists are copying and pasting press releases handed down by powerful companies and organisations. Don't forget that there are many more people in the communication department of an international brand than in a classical newsroom.

How do you see the main newspapers ten years from now?

Bertrand Pecquerie: The German model will win: a newspaper at three or four euros per day, aimed at an elite audience that still wants to read a print newspapers. Advertisers will follow with luxury or high-brow ads. But newspapers will not remain mass media, they will become niche media, as they were before the 1850s.

One or two reference newspapers will emerge per country. It will become impossible to have four to six as is now the case in Spain, France, Italy, etc. Their success will depend on their capacity to attract native readers living abroad. Already at The Guardian (London), almost 70 percent of their audience is based outside the UK.

Which newspapers will decide to be pure online players by 2018? 

Bertrand Pecquerie: I don't see general newspapers making the shift, but the first ones will be financial newspapers and sports newspapers. When data are key, these topics are first in line to become online-only. 

See Also:

2020: What Does the Media Look Like?

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