Internet Rivers and Paper Cathedrals at La Repubblica

March 19, 2014 • Media Economics • by

Continuing our series to mark ten years of the European Journalism Observatory, Ezio Mauro, editor of the leading Italian daily newspaper  La Repubblica speaks to the EJO’s Philip Di Salvo about the future of journalism.

In recent years the paywall has become one of the business models for digital journalism. has thought about it since the end of 2012. Are you moving in this direction?

Mauro: “The news flow will remain free but there will be a sort of paywall for extra services, something that could be called Repubblica Premium, where subscribers can find something extra or reports which at present are published only in the print edition. As it is, we don’t publish online more than five articles from the print edition a day; this number will drop to three and then eventually no more print edition articles will be available on the website. If you want the content of the print edition you’ll have to pay for it.”

Last autumn you restyled your site and it seems designed for mobile devices. Do you think that the future of online journalism will be more mobile than desktop?
Mauro: “Taking the American model as an example, we can see that the use of videos is now considered extremely important. We produce a lot, some 200 every day. We have invested in videos and in our ability to produce them. A new world has developed around the Repubblica brand; for example, RSera, a digital evening newspaper designed for the iPad and for digital and R7, a weekly magazine that  summarizes the week’s news. But above all RepubblicaTV, which in just one year has become a real catalyst for innovation; take WebNotte for example, a highly successful format that spotlights different artists every day. Then, in co-production with Feltrinelli’s laeffe (Feltrinelli’s TV), there is Gad Lerner’s programme which hails the return of investigative reporting TV shows that hadn’t been made in Italy for a long time. These are pilot formats we are testing and which work both in streaming and split into short clips that can be downloaded from the Internet. The numbers are incredible, up to 150,000/180,000 contacts per event.”

There is a leitmotif  in Italian information according to which Italians aren’t really interested in foreign news. Do you think this is really the case?

Mauro: “Listen, I think that that you can’t do good journalism if you remain holed up at home. I believe that a newspaper is the mirror of the domestic reality it represents because it is part of the life of a country and not of its representation. A newspaper must also bring into the life of a country information about what is happening in the world: the dynamics, the trends and the contradictions, the debate of ideas such as in the Ukraine, the East/West debate between democracy and the reality of those countries where, despite elections having been held, the reality is certainly not that of a fully-fledged democracy. This is the task of a newspaper, better, this is the specific task of a newspaper. A newspaper cannot follow Internet in terms of flow but it can create a context. The news that you think you know, because you have read it quickly in Internet or heard it in the passing on the radio, a newspaper can place in its wider context, can retrieve precedents, find the consequences and place it in an overall setting that only a newspaper can construct. This allows readers to get to the heart of the phenomena”.

We have never mooted the idea of reducing the contribution of our foreign correspondents or the use of envoys at trouble spots throughout the world. The future of the print media is that of keeping this information system alive. We have 60,000/70,000 subscribers that buy the newspaper on tablets.  Then, once a day this flow of information is chosen by an editorial team that produces a print edition which goes into further detail, offering quality and critical thinking on everything that has passed through the Internet. Indeed, if we think about it, Internet is the king of the flow. In the flow, like in a river, two elements are important: the carrying capacity and the speed of the flow. The newspaper cannot compete against the flow because it would lose and because it forms once only. The newspaper remains in the flow, discards a lot of the news and retains some. And with what it retains it builds something titanic and majestic, a paper cathedral which must give a comprehensive view of the times we are living. In this search for sense there is the supreme reason of our craft, and its survival”.

Credits external photo: Ijf / Flickr CC

This article was translated by Anne Jamieson from the Italian ‘Ezio Mauro: “La crisi ci ha fatto fare cose nuove”


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