It’s not only world leaders who have big dreams for the future. I have a dream myself: that one day the media industry will be credited with being the most innovative industry in the world, and that people everywhere will continue to rely on the industry as sources of truth, democracy and inspiration.
Ten years ago when I started thinking about how this dream could be achieved, I knew that innovation in newsrooms was seen mostly from a technological standpoint. How could we use technology to build stronger infrastructure for the news content we produced? At that time most of this thinking was developed by WAN–IFRA and its contemporaries. Tech companies – telcos, ISP, social networks – were thought of as little more than tools for researching and talking amongst ourselves as an industry.
But the world, even then, was changing quickly. One day in 2011, while contemplating the Namban screens from Japan XVII century, depicting the cultural clash of Portuguese commerce in Asia in a museum in Lisbon, I had a bit of a revelation.
That shaping the future of media was not only about selling content, advertising or looking for the necessary state aid to survive. Instead, we needed a revolution for innovation in the product of news itself.
The visionary Canadian professor and philosopher Marshall McLuhan, whose unique perspective on media theory has become gospel, said in 1982 at UNESCO, “the medium is the message". I could not agree more – that the future of the news industry lies not only in innovation, but at the intersection of news content and the platforms that deliver them to billions of readers every day and around the world.
Today’s news media are in an environment of ever–increasing plurality, and in many places the freedom of the press is under threat. But our mission and purpose remains the same. To tell the stories of the world around us – sharing pleasure and sorrow culture and destruction, pain and progress.
For me, accepting the challenge of chairing the DNI Fund Council, alongside 12 Council members, is about bringing that vision to life during a critical time for the media – and the world. Working together across industries isn’t just possible, but it’s necessary to help create a future of innovation in the news industry in Europe.
So after a year of progress I’m recommitting to the task of the DNI Fund, and together with Google to inform Europe and the world of the outcome of so many collaborative projects across national borders. As the head of the DNI Fund Ludovic Blecher says frequently, we’re encouraged to see innovation grow from within each EU member state, and now to begin blurring traditional European borders.
Perhaps one day a project funded by the DNI and originating in Portugal will form the basis for how we work as an industry across all of Europe. Judging by the increasing collaboration we’re seeing – and those Namban screens – I would not be surprised.
In closing, I would like to underline how firmly I believe that media companies can transform themselves to compete in a new digital and global world while staying true to the mission, the vision, and the curation that ensures citizens of the world get the information they need. I believe that as an industry we can do this while meeting our readers’ interests, because the content we produce and distribute is not only vibrant pieces of our shared history, but also vehicles of democracy, world peace and global well-being.
Let's go on.
This text by João Palmeiro was first published in DNI Innovation Fund report 2016-2017. Download the full report here to read more about some of our funded projects and key insights.