Social Democrats look to new media

So it is finally ready: the Social Democrats' official post-election analysis. It came out in a bulky 157-page volume and I am not going to bore you with a summary.

Instead I would like to focus on the sections dealing with the bearing the media had on the election result, and the role the analysts feel that the Social Democrats should play in the media sector.

The election analysis maintains that the glory days of A-pressen are long gone. A-pressen was a newspaper group owned by the Social Democrats. Formed in 1947, the group went into bankruptcy at the beginning of the 1990s. Only a handful of A-pressen’s newspapers are still owned by the Social Democratic Party or affiliated groups.

“In Sweden’s ten largest municipalities there is just one newspaper with a Social Democratic editorial line: Folkbladet in Norrköping. It is owned by its right-wing competitor Norrköpings Tidningar.”

It seems to me that the analysts have been very careful to avoid drawing the conclusion that the press support system in its current form has evidently not solved this problem. But sooner or later we are going to have to face up to this challenge.

The strategy of putting on the blinkers and stubbornly defending a press support system which clearly does not guarantee the diversity for which it was designed is no longer sustainable.

The authors of the election analysis ask how the social democratic movement should position itself with regard to the emerging media landscape, and what we should do to put across our vision for the future.

And the analysts do in fact supply some answers. They write that “the workers’ movement needs to stop crying over lost A-pressen newspapers” and instead “see the possibilities in the new media society”.

They argue that the social democratic movement needs to become better at using new media, primarily “the web” (written like that, with quotation marks). As an example they mention the need to “develop interactive home pages, internet newspapers and blogs”.

All of which undeniably sounds promising. It just remains to be seen how many of the ideas and proposals that have emerged from the election analysis actually result in concrete measures.

I readily sign up to the notion that the social democratic movement needs to become better at selling its message. But that is easier said than done.

Jonas Morian is chairman of Socialdemokratiska pressföreningen (the Social Democratic Press Association). He also runs his own Swedish-language blog, PromeMorian, where this article first appeared.


Google News to return to Spain after seven-year spat

Google announced Wednesday the reopening of its news service in Spain next year after the country amended a law that imposed fees on aggregators such as the US tech giant for using publishers’ content.

Google News to return to Spain after seven-year spat
Google argues its news site drives readers to Spanish newspaper and magazine websites and thus helps them generate advertising revenue.Photo: Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP

The service closed in Spain in December 2014 after legislation passed requiring web platforms such as Google and Facebook to pay publishers to reproduce content from other websites, including links to their articles that describe a story’s content.

But on Tuesday the Spanish government approved a European Union copyright law that allows third-party online news platforms to negotiate directly with content providers regarding fees.

This means Google no longer has to pay a fee to Spain’s entire media industry and can instead negotiate fees with individual publishers.

Writing in a company blog post on Wednesday, Google Spain country manager Fuencisla Clemares welcomed the government move and announced that as a result “Google News will soon be available once again in Spain”.

“The new copyright law allows Spanish media outlets — big and small — to make their own decisions about how their content can be discovered and how they want to make money with that content,” she added.

“Over the coming months, we will be working with publishers to reach agreements which cover their rights under the new law.”

News outlets struggling with dwindling print subscriptions have long seethed at the failure of Google particularly to pay them a cut of the millions it makes from ads displayed alongside news stories.

Google argues its news site drives readers to newspaper and magazine websites and thus helps them generate advertising revenue and find new subscribers.