Until recently, Stefan Groener, 46, was CEO of Germany’s Bauer Media Group and crisis manager of Europe’s biggest youth media brand Bravo (12 magazines, TV, websites, and more).
Unlike in Cambodia, almost everyone in Western Europe uses the internet and are purchasing fewer magazines and newspapers. This trend poses a problem for the publishing industry and a major change for journalists.
LIFT sat down with Groener, who is currently in Cambodia on a business trip, and learned how the internet has changed journalism in the West from a business perspective and what may happen to Facebook in Cambodia.
What impact has the internet had on journalism and publishing in the West in recent years?
It is very important to know that publishing houses consist of the editorial side where the journalists are and the business side that takes care of, for example, administration and sales.
In the past the editorial and business sides were operating independently from each other. Nowadays publishing houses sell fewer magazines because people read news and stories on the internet. To compete with the stories on the internet, journalists now have to understand what stories still sell to people in magazines so they need to understand the business side of publishing as well.
Can you explain that in more detail?
Because there is so much free news online the branding of a newspaper or magazine becomes much more important than it was in the past. The readers need the brand to know quality. Imagine you like white peppermint toothpaste but the next time you buy it the toothpaste is brown and tastes of vanilla – you won’t buy it anymore.
Before the internet newspapers had no competitors and readers bought them even though they did not match their taste all the time.
What does that mean for journalists?
They have to stick to an editorial concept which defines the brand. They are not so free to write what they want anymore. They basically become the product managers of their own stories.
It sounds as if journalism has become much more challenging. Is there anything else?
The way of reporting changed because the value of news lessened.
If a plane crashes this piece of news is all over the internet right after the accident, so a journalist cannot just write that a plane crashed in your paper like you could have done in the past. Everybody already knows and won’t buy your paper.
Now a reporter has to find out why the plane crashed. That is something only a professional journalist with investigative skills can do. But as long as there is good journalistic content the basic idea of newspapers and magazines will survive.
In this country, Facebook has become popular only in recent years. What do you think will happen to Facebook in Cambodia in the future?
In Cambodia, Facebook is quite new so it is still fun for people. In the West it has reached its limits.
Imagine that all of sudden your parents are on Facebook too. That makes it uncool. In the US you can see the number of accounts dropping and younger people have started to use mobile messaging apps. A picture-based chat app called Snapchat is really hot right now.
Because young people are mostly using social media on mobile phones in Cambodia I can imagine that Facebook will lose popularity here too.