How Technology Changes Slovak Media
Slovak news media are highly dependent on the distribution power of the global tech giants. That makes them highly vulnerable.
Slovakia has been a fast adopter of new technologies. During the past decade, internet and mobile penetration in the country has exploded, significantly changing news consumption and access to information. The country has a mobile penetration of over 130%, one of the highest in Europe, as many Slovaks use more than one mobile SIM card, and nearly 83% of them are online via a mobile device.
Changing lifestyle and more affordable services allow Slovaks to boost their media diet on mobile devices, according to the 2020 edition of Technology, Public Sphere and Journalism in Slovakia report, published today as part of the Media Influence Matrix series run by the Center for Media, Data and Society (CMDS).
On the internet content market, foreign players are dominant: Google is leader on the browsing and searching market and Facebook is by far the most popular social network, with nearly 68% of Slovaks using it. The most competitive local player is Zoznam.sk, a search engine that offers aggregated content, email and many other services, including news content, which gives them a big advantage in the news media market.
Ringier Axel Springer, a Swiss-German publisher, is also gaining increasing power in the digital news market. It moved its focus in the past year on the news portal Aktuality.sk, which has become the most visited website in Slovakia.
Although the remit of regulators does not cover companies like Google and Facebook, international technology companies are likely to be soon regulated in Slovakia. “Authorities have been adopting laws that will force them to pay taxes on all revenue generated in Slovakia. They also want Facebook and other foreign technology companies to open a local office in Slovakia (as Google has done already) if they want to invoice Slovak customers,” Marius Dragomir, CMDS’ director and the report’s author, wrote.
Although news media have a relatively low outreach on social networks, all of them rely on social media, particularly on Facebook, to distribute content. However, an experiment run by Facebook in 2017, consisting of removal from its main feed of posts generated by professional media clobbered news media in Slovakia. According to the report, some of them experienced day-to-day declines of 60% in their user interaction (Facebook’s definition of likes, shares or comments).
Of all foreign technology companies, only Google got involved directly in supporting Slovak journalism. Through its grant-making project Digital News Initiative (DNI), it has given some €1.2m to locals to develop journalism projects in Slovakia. However, “although Google’s funding helped a couple of Slovak projects get off the ground, it hardly influenced the balance of power in the Slovak news market,” the report concludes.