German bloggers' Internet Manifesto on journalism's future makes waves

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After stirring up their own country, the German blogger elite has launched an international version of their Internet Manifesto in English. Fifteen authors of Germany’s most popular blogs have signed a declaration about How journalism works today. The 17 articles run down from statements like “the Internet is different” and “the Internet improves journalism” to sideswipes like “tradition is not a business model” and “the web constitutes an infrastructure for social exchange superior to that of 20th century mass media”. The manifesto is causing a lot of interest and briefly took the site out at one stage.

It’s pretty much an onslaught on old-school media and a reaction to German publishing heavyweights who feel “sneakingly expropriated” by the Internet. At least that’s how Hubert Burda, publisher of more than 250 print magazines and President of the Association of German Magazine Publishers, puts it. Especially when he demands his share of advertising revenues that search engines like Google make from his content.

Since their site remains hit by traffic, here are the statements below. Let us know what you think in the comments.

Internet Manifesto
How journalism works today. Seventeen declarations

1. The internet is different.

It produces different public spheres, different terms of trade and different cultural skills. The media must adapt their work methods to today’s technological reality instead of ignoring or challenging it. It is their duty to develop the best possible form of journalism based on the available technology. This includes new journalistic products and methods.

2. The internet is a pocket-sized media empire.

The web rearranges existing media structures by transcending their former boundaries and oligopolies. The publication and dissemination of media contents are no longer tied to heavy investments. Journalism’s self-conception is, fortunately, being bereft of its gatekeeping function. All that remains is the journalistic quality through which journalism distinguishes itself from mere publication.

3. The internet is our society is the internet.

Web-based platforms like social networks, Wikipedia or YouTube have become a part of everyday life for the majority of people in the western world. They are as accessible as the telephone or television. If media companies want to continue to exist, they must understand the world of today’s users and embrace their forms of communication. This includes basic forms of social communication: listening and responding, also known as dialogue.

4. The freedom of the internet is inviolable.

The internet’s open architecture constitutes the basic IT law of a society which communicates digitally and, consequently, of journalism. It may not be modified for the sake of protecting the special commercial or political interests often hidden behind the pretense of public interest. Regardless of how it is done, blocking access to the internet endangers the free flow of information and corrupts our fundamental right to a self-determined level of information.

5. The internet is the victory of information.

Due to inadequate technology, media companies, research centres, public institutions and other organisations compiled and classified the world’s information up to now. Today every citizen can set up her own personal news filter while search engines tap into a wealth of information of a magnitude never before known. Individuals can now inform themselves better than ever.

6. The internet changes improves journalism.

Through the internet, journalism can fulfil its socio-educational role in a new way. This includes presenting information as an ever-changing, continual process; the forfeiture of print media’s inalterability is a benefit. Those who want to survive in this new world of information need a new idealism, new journalistic ideas and a sense of pleasure in exploiting this new potential.

7. The net requires networking.

Links are connections. We know each other through links. Those who do not use them exclude themselves from social discourse. This also holds for the websites of traditional media companies.

8. Links reward, citations adorn.

Search engines and aggregators facilitate quality journalism: they boost the findability of outstanding content over a long-term basis and are thus an integral part of the new, networked public sphere. References through links and citations — especially including those made without any consent of or even remuneration of the originator—make the very culture of networked social discourse possible in the first place. They are by all means worthy of protection.

9. The internet is the new venue for political discourse.

Democracy thrives on participation and freedom of information. Transferring the political discussion from traditional media to the internet and expanding on this discussion by involving the active participation of the public is one of journalism’s new tasks.

10. Today’s freedom of the press means freedom of opinion.

Article 5 of the German Constitution does not comprise protective rights for professions or traditional business models. The internet overrides the technological boundaries between the amateur and professional. This is why the privilege of freedom of the press must hold for anyone who can contribute to the fulfilment of journalistic duties. Qualitatively speaking, no differentiation should be made between paid and unpaid journalism, but rather, between good and poor journalism.

11. More is more – there is no such thing as too much information.

Once upon a time, institutions such as the church prioritised power over personal awareness and warned of an unsifted flood of information when the letterpress was invented. On the other hand, pamphleteers, encyclopaedists and journalists proved that more information leads to more freedom, both for the individual as well as society as a whole. To this day, nothing has changed in this respect.

12. Tradition is not a business model.

Money can be made on the internet with journalistic content. There are many examples of this today already. Yet because the internet is fiercely competitive, business models have to be adapted to the structure of the net. No one should try to abstain from this essential adaptation through policy-making geared to preserving the status quo. Journalism needs open competition for the best refinancing solutions on the net, along with the courage to invest in the multifaceted implementation of these solutions.

13. Copyright becomes a civic duty on the internet.

Copyright is a central cornerstone of information organization on the Internet. Originators’ rights to decide on the type and scope of dissemination of their contents are also valid on the net. At the same time, copyright may not be abused as a lever to safeguard obsolete supply mechanisms and shut out new distribution models or license schemes. Ownership entails obligations.

14. The internet has many currencies.

Journalistic online services financed through adverts offer content in exchange for a pull effect. A reader’s, viewer’s or listener’s time is valuable. In the industry of journalism, this correlation has always been one of the fundamental tenets of financing. Other forms of refinancing which are journalistically justifiable need to be forged and tested.

15. What’s on the net stays on the net.

The internet is lifting journalism to a new qualitative level. Online, text, sound and images no longer have to be transient. They remain retrievable, thus building an archive of contemporary history. Journalism must take the development of information, its interpretation and errors into account, i.e., it must admit its mistakes and correct them in a transparent manner.

16. Quality remains the most important quality.

The internet debunks homogeneous bulk goods. Only those who are outstanding, credible and exceptional will gain a steady following in the long run. Users’ demands have increased. Journalism must fulfil them and abide by its own frequently formulated principles.

17. All for all.

The web constitutes an infrastructure for social exchange superior to that of 20th century mass media: when in doubt, the “generation Wikipedia” is capable of appraising the credibility of a source, tracking news back to its original source, researching it, checking it and assessing it — alone or as part of a group effort. Journalists who snub this and are unwilling to respect these skills are not taken seriously by internet users. Rightly so. The internet makes it possible to communicate directly with those once known as recipients — readers, listeners and viewers — and to take advantage of their knowledge. It is not the ‘know-it-all’ journalists who are in demand, but those who communicate and investigate.

  • Mark

    Absolutely agree with this. People who refuse to change find themselves perfectly aligned with a world that no longer exists!

    Journalism needs to move with the times, and embrace the opportunities that are out there!

    • bbc comment

      If good old bbc allows tree-style comments like TC, they will generate far more pageviews and ad impressions.

  • Richard

    What arrogant self-satisfied jumped-up elitists!! The internet is A, not THE, means of cummunicating and networking news and information. Stating that “…Web-based platforms like social networks, Wikipedia or YouTube have become a part of everyday life for the majority of people in the western world..” is a vast exageration. Maybe > 50% of homes in the western world have one or more computers with some form of internet access but I am far from convinced that a majority use these sort of services on an everyday basis.
    …and outside the western world the internet and personal computing is any years off becoming ubiquitous.

  • @bougie

    There is an amusing addendum to the manifest by the German Blogger Malte Welding:

    a very quick translation for those who can’t speak German:
    -Ubiquity will prevail
    -If you can’t create content that people will pay for, you can consult people with money to show them how to loose it.
    -We’re right, we’ve been doing this for five years already
    -You’re too old
    -You’re too young
    -40 is the new black
    -Hair is overrated
    -One of us is a woman
    -Please just give us money
    -Just a little bit of recognition, please?
    -We want to be exactly where you are
    -Those who cannot always find someone who can do it for them
    -Please sign here
    -Have you seen this ad banner yet (that we have absolutely nothing to do with)
    -Hey Fans
    -Whoever find loquacity gets to keep it
    -Man, do we look good

  • blues


  • caschy

    Many german bloggers (me incude) laugh about this piece of….arrogance ’cause we are millions – not “a few elite-bloggers”…

    • Chris

      Caschy is right. Don’t call it manifesto, it is a stupid peace of shit from some wannabes.

      They’re fishing for links to sell them.

      • Erik

        I’m also from Germany and I can only second that. These people are nothing but wannabes. Everything they write, say or do is ridiculous. So is this “manifesto”.

  • John

    Yes, the Internet is different than print, but the medium shouldn’t matter in the long run. News outlets are starting to monetize their content (e.g., via subscriptions) and making other adjustments to the usually “everything is free” internet. However, possibly too late as the Internet reduced barriers and allowing many to enter the news market at a greatly reduced cost increasing competition. Those that provide quality timely news will win.

    Moreover, a blogger isn’t necessarily a journalist just because he/she posts nor is someone writing print articles. It depends on the “news” they report and how they report it. Traditionally, “sources” played a key role in news reporting.

    One concern is whether “shield laws” and related protections will be applied to Internet “journalists”. Judges can be unpredictable. If they don’t apply, could impact the quality of news.

    Vogue model Liskula Cohen wins right to unmask offensive blogger

    Judge: Shield law doesn’t protect online commenters

  • pierre

    This is ridiculous paperwork… elite ??… those guys are NO entrepreneur nor they are NO pioneers.. They are normal editors working for large publishing houses… the whole paper is a paper without a plan.. it’s a document which demonstrates how far they are away from the pure nerve..
    The guys are hanging around when you serve free pizza and enjoying free invitations but that’s all about it.. to be a pressman today is not a privilege any more.. but they did not get it so far.

  • anuj

    well i agree with them search engine earn so much from the content which is provided at huge cost. There should be some sharing and caring formula

  • caschy


  • DotComGuy

    In the US we should rethink the first amendment from Freedom “of” the Press to Freedom “from” the Press.

  • dcgdfas

    self righteous peace of garbage. Screw the bloggers… most have no clue how to write an article, how to set it up so its easy to read, that it makes sense, provide a structure, etc. (and hate to say this, this one here included). Sure its the web and the same email is less formal the a letter, blogs are less formal then a newspaper. However everytime someone loses a job, there’s a new blog – that’s a revers evolution that is happening in the blogosphere.

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  • Seth

    they put it in a wiki for improvement

  • Rob

    The German blogosphere is so much different than the English. There is so much envy and hatred everywhere.

    Who cares if they call themselves Elite. They are probably not, but they have worked hard to have at least some influence here in Germany.

    So stop complaining, work hard and form your own Elite;)


  • jon

    I agree with the principle, the internet and the blogosphere are the logical evolution of the press.

    also anything that will help break the corporate hold on the news and curb the influence of people like Rupert Murdoch will always get my vote, decentralization will only make things better, seemingly the insignificant trivial stories run repeatedly on the 24h new channels look more at home on the web, and beyond that the quality might just pick up.

  • hehateme

    this is all well and nice but how is a journalist/blogger supposed to pay the rent? when these “elite” bloggers turn 70 and have no pension or nest egg because they gave all of their work away for free in some deluded act of grandeur….the old media barrons well whisper we told you so!

    • nafhan

      This really doesn’t matter to people READING the news.
      The important thing is that on the internet, it’s all about unique, interesting content. Republishing the same news stories from AP over and over is no longer good enough.

  • jon

    I don’t think we should help preserving the jobs of unreliable and outdated journalists and journalist organizations, it will only worsen things as they are part of the problem we see today of 24h corporate self-interest watered-down, entertainment driven, harmful, news channels and newspapers.

  • Matthieu Stefani

    @Richard you’re a journalist?
    @Richard again : 99% of occidental journalists use internet to write an article… (and no I have no official stats about that, it just seems obvious)

    I totally agree, internet and UGC improve journalism.

    If anyone thinks it’s wrong… show me how you write without using mails, google, wikipedia and so on!

    It doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be any control anywhere.

  • Pete Austin

    Too long, too opinionated, citations needed. Just like real journalism.

  • Hercule Poirot

    No, dcgdfas is the journalist. :)

  • CuriousBystander

    My take on this:

    1. The internet is different: Duh!
    2. The internet is a pocket-sized media empire: No, but a lot of greedy people with it were
    3. The internet is our society is the internet: catchy phrase but the internet is only a mirror of our society NOT our society
    4. The freedom of the internet is inviolable: only until “the powers that be” find a way to control it
    5. The internet is the victory of information: very idealistic. The internet is more a war of information vs misinformation vs disinformation
    6. The internet changes/improves journalism: only to a small degree
    7. The net requires networking: as did life before the net hence the phrase “The more things change the more they stay the same.”
    8. Links reward, citations adorn: somewhat true. Then again, how well can most people filter out the “background noise” of meaningless rambling on the internet.
    9. The internet is the new venue for political discourse: Not in general, it should be but it’s just another means of spreading one’s own political opinion as “the truth.”
    10. Today’s freedom of the press means freedom of opinion: actually the “press” generally espouses the opinion of the owner. It’s not real journalism which should take a neutral stand.
    11. More is more – there is no such thing as too much information: would be true if all the information was of a high quality rather than someone’s ill thought out opinion
    12. Tradition is not a business model: change is good but almost everyone hates it when it shows up at their house.
    13. Copyright becomes a civic duty on the internet: copyright is absolutely used to control content on the internet and it is only about the money.
    14. The internet has many currencies: you’d like to think so but the internet, like TV, has by-and-large been co-opted as a cash cow.
    15. What’s on the net stays on the net: somewhat true. But mostly you’ll find old news is just old news. Wrap the fish scraps up and out to the bin.
    16. Quality remains the most important quality: readers will just as likely follow a twit as a quality journalist. Shall we discuss The Onion…
    17. All for all: and no one is influenced by money, right…

    The bottom line: the internet is a bologna slice of our human society. You can find literally anything on the internet. One has to choose their slice carefully. Be aware much of what is on the net is there to sway and influence rather than report. Journalism isn’t dead but the internet hasn’t made it immune to disease either. Be careful…

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  • Simon

    Also interesting fact:

    Check the rankings

  • mediumsizedrob

    It would suck, but also be awesome if traditional news outlets really started going out of business and these bloggers were forced to leave the basement and find news for themselves to rant about and quote liberally. They’d probably have to find investors to get started and hire reporters to keep up and get exclusives. Oh wait.. then they’d be the traditional media outlets!

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