FML Blog

EU copyright reform in chaos, benefits of membership models, and Facebook's impact on democracy

Friday, June 16, 2017      Future Media Lab.       0

Karin Fleming

(Left) Karin Fleming, Communications Manager at EMMA/the Future Media Lab.


In this bi-weekly news round-up, Karin Fleming shares the news that caught her eye over the last two weeks. The news round-up is a way for the Future Media Lab. team and members of the Future Media Lab. network to share articles about innovations and developments in the media sector, including references to relevant media policy debates. To get this round-up sent directly to your inbox, subscribe to our newsletter!


European copyright reform: "if you are getting 1000 amendments, something must be wrong."

In a recent interview with POLITICO Europe Vice-President of the European Commission Andrus Ansip heavily criticized the chaos in the European Parliament surrounding the reform of the copyright directive, particularly the drawn-out debates around hyperlinking, the value gap and the approach to text and data mining. He asked, “if we start with never-ending discussions, when will be [finalize] this? In my lifetime?”


He also backed down on the Commission’s plan to review of the Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement Directive, saying that something needs to be achieved with the copyright proposal first and that it’s not good to have too many changes at once.


Last week the lead rapporteur of the copyright file in the leading Legal Affairs Committee, Therese Comodini Cachia (EPP/MT) announced that she will leave the European Parliament for a position in the national parliament in Malta. MEP Axel Voss (EPP/DE) will replace her. While amendments were already submitted to MEP Comodini Cachia’s report, negotiations on compromises have yet to begin.


Scare tactics, myths and misinformation surround EU copyright debate.

The debate on the reform of the copyright directive has been a particularly emotional file, with some anti-copyright organisations using blatant scare tactics to derail the proposal for a press publishers’ right. The most misleading is the false equivalency they put forward of citizens reading and linking to an article online and the use of publishers’ content by commercial aggregators without agreement or remuneration.

In reality, the publishers’ right is very similar to rights already enjoyed by the music, film and broadcasters in Europe. As the first committees begin to vote in the European Parliament, European publishers – via their Empower Democracy campaign launched last year – urged MEPs to ask themselves what value they put on a free and independent press.


Calls for platforms to be de facto censors renewed.

Following the recent attacks in London, UK Prime Minister Theresa May called for more legal measures to be put in place to make platforms responsible for the content published on their sites, particularly extremist content. It’s not a secret that Facebook has a terrorism problem – and the company has been working on adding more transparency to how they are dealing with the issue by combining AI and human expertise. But recent calls by some EU member states to put forward legislation that would make platforms legally liable for not removing hate speech or illegal content is worrying. The result could make Google and Facebook de facto censors; as written in an Op-Ed article in the New York Times last week, research shows that most platforms remove too much content, effectively “silencing contested speech rather than risking liability.”


How Facebook has changed democracy: fake news is only a subset of the problem.

Precision targeting, secret campaigns, cheap ads and fake news; Facebook has undoubtedly had an impact on how information is shared, and this is also the case when it comes to election campaigns and policy issues. As written in the Financial Times: “on social networks, lying is rarely punished. You don’t have to source claims.” Additionally, “targeting specific voters [on Facebook] is more effective and cheaper than speaking on TV to the ‘general public’.” There’s also the problem that readers tend to trust homemade, unbranded content more than branded mainstream content and there are always fake commenters available for hire to continue chatting about whatever topic you want them to talk about.


Can membership programmes help drive revenue? Some success stories from the US.

Membership programmes have been paying off for some news organisations in the U.S., so much so that the News Media Hub – which, for a price, helps news organisations set up membership programmes – has been able to move beyond its origins as an initiative of the nonprofit news site Voice of San Diego and become its own standalone organisation. The first step is for the news organisations to learn the value of fundraising and asking audience members often for donations. The strategy has had success in a variety of news organisations, from those with national and global readerships to other niche sites.


New Facebook feature will allow users to subscribe directly to news publications.

Facebook announced recently that it is building a new feature that will help push users to pay for news, something previously unseen on the platform. The feature will allow users to subscribe to publishers’ content directly from the mobile app, and is expected to be launched at the end of the year. Current discussions revolve around whether the feature would be available exclusively for content published via the site’s Instant Articles. There are also discussions on how it will be structured, with Facebook leaning towards a metered-payment model and how payments would be processed (i.e. whether Facebook will get a cut of the profits).


Publishers have asked Facebook for a subscription option on Instant Articles since before the format was launched in May 2015, but there was an internal reluctance to introduce barriers between users and content. This new feature may be a concession that Facebook is making to publishers, who have increasingly expressed their dissatisfaction with Instant Articles in recent months.


The Economist reveals its secrets for increased engagement with audiences – and how that drives subscriptions.

In an interview with FIPP, the marketing director of The Economist, David Humber, discusses the magazines content engagement strategy, particularly by combining engagement activities with direct response messaging to deliver subscription growth. The model has been created with social media audiences at its core, and leans heavily on sampling the best-performing content in order to try to tip passive readers into becoming paid subscribers. It also relies heavily on leveraging The Economists’ known audience, particularly via paid Facebook posts and email campaigns. Humber said, “We are bucking the trend in our industry in terms of circulation growth, and believe there are still large audiences of globally curious readers who may not be that familiar with our content. By creating these engagement programmes we can increase purchase consideration amongst known audiences and drive conversion to paid subscription.”


Don’t miss the opportunity to apply for the Next Journalism Award!

Harvard University’s Nieman Foundation for Journalism (USA), the Centre de Formation des Journalistes and Ecole W (France) have teamed up develop the “Next Journalism Award,” which seeks to innovation in the field of media. The award is will recognize a journalistic innovation that is not yet operational, and is based on the belief that entrepreneurial talent deserve support in creating media companies of the future. More information about the prize and how to apply can be found here.

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