Dear @wblau, I got some new questions for you


Wolfgang Blau is annoyed by media journalists, who keep asking him the same questions for years. Well, he rather wrote a rant. And he is right. Paywalls, the threat of citizen journalism – aren’t there any new things we could discuss in digital journalism? As for myself, I wondered about a few things for a while and still lack some answers.

Blau is the Director of Digital Strategy at the Guardian — which belongs to some of the more innovative ex-newspaper-now-digital-media-concerns in Europe. He should not only have an answer to the good old question about paywalls but to some more progressive questions concerning the future of journalism, as well.

So, Wolfgang Blau, I wrote down some new questions for you (with a few thoughts of mine, I couldn’t hold back).

Here they are:

1. When do we start to combine the possibilites of digital journalism with the needs of the user?

I wondered, who has ever read every letter of Snowfall? (Sorry for mentioning Snowfall at all, I know, it’s so 2012.) I am impressed by big and expensive scrollytelling pieces as well. But I hardly have the time to read all of them — and I’m a journalist, I read more news than most other people.

The other extreme: Who really raises his wrist to read the latest news on a screen that’s barely a quarter of a smartphone in size? I haven’t caught me doing that in nearly four weeks with the Apple Watch. And I’m… you know.

Which leads to:

2. When do journalists start to value what their users want?

In US media companies, there seems to be a huge movement to scrape more user data than just counting clicks. I wonder why that wasn’t done years before? In digital journalism we have the chance to really get to know our users for the first time. Instead of just asking a handful of people every few months, how they think about their newspaper. Why did (or do) journalists keep thinking they know better what the world wants to read/see/hear, as the world itself?

3. How can we better use the texts, videos and Periscope-streams,
people provide us for free?

You mentioned the citizen journalist — whoever that is. I see great possibilities in those sources as well. But when do media companies start teaching their people where to find the best content? And who is the first one to build a proper technical solution for newsrooms to skip through those livestreams and curate the best on their own Facebook (or every other platform) page? (My guess: someone in the U.S.)

4. Most journalists don’t have a clue about coding. How can we make journalists and coders understand each other better?

I often hear journalists should simply learn how to code. For me, that’s no solution. It would last at least five years in which no journalistic piece would be published, because everyone is busy writing lines of code. And should coders then learn how to write articles as well?

5. Why (the hell) do so many young journalists still want to write
the title story of a print (!) magazine?

I admit, I wanted this as well when I started journalism school. Education was pretty classic: print, radio, tv, one week of “online” in a nine-month-program. I learned about the real possibilites of digital journalism afterwards. Since I threw myself into the digital world, I have not only more ideas how to make journalism better in the digital space but more opportunities to do that than before.

I wonder why so many young talents hold to the traditional journalism (and praise it), when they could have so much better job opportunities in the digital world?

6. And last: In which medium should we tell our stories?

A thing that occured to me just a few weeks ago. The last century, we were restricted to our medium. TV screens got video, radios got audio and newspapers got text and pictures (later on). Online, we can use any medium we want to tell any piece of a story. Text, photo, video, audio, infographic and the-thing-we-haven’t-invented-yet. I am excited about these possibilities. But I wonder: How should we decide?

In my opinion, we have three options:

  • We can use the medium that’s best for the story. Someone rafting through white-water is great to see in video. An expert explains things in most times more interesting and understandable in text.
  • We can use the medium that’s best for the situation of the reader, when he sees the story. Someone who’s riding a bike has only his ears free for consuming journalism. When he’s sitting in a train, he can better read things. When he has WIFI, he can watch videos.
  • We can use the medium, that fits best in the channel where the news is distributed. The tv screen isn’t the best way to display long texts, a tweet works better with a picture and a quotation.

Which is best? Should we split stories? Tell the same story several times, in any medium? Or is there a chance to bring this three ways together?


So, what do you think @wblau — are these questions, you’d rather like to answer to?

And if anybody besides Wolfgang Blau got some answers, or even more questions — I’d love to read them!

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