On March 3, 2021, at 15:00 pm (CET), the International Press Institute (IPI) will launch the new IPI Turkey Digital Media Report: ‘The New Mainstream Media’ is Rising (And It Seeks Support).

The report contains the findings of an extensive study on digital capacity, impact and needs of independent journalism in Turkey. The study was conducted by IPI Turkey National Committee Vice Chair Emre Kızılkaya and associate researcher Burak Ütücü.

The launch event for the report will be held in English on Zoom platform and broadcast online on YouTube. Please register here.

A brief description of the report can be found below.

As 2020 closed, dozens of journalists remain in Turkey’s jails, with hundreds are on trial with baseless indictments that demand heavy imprisonment and hefty fines. Authorities cut the ad revenues and issue millions of liras in financial penalties targeting newspapers and broadcasters over their critical reporting. Dozens of outlets have been shut down either by their intimidated owners or directly through government decrees. Even as thousands of news websites and articles remain blocked by authorities who increasingly seek to exert control over the internet, most recently with the passage of the new Social Media Law in October 2020, the digital domain remains the primary refuge of independent journalism.

But how does independent media perform on the internet and how does it compare to the reach of pro-gorvernment media? Do Turkey’s independent media have the tools and skills necessary to flourish in the digital space? What barriers are there to independent media and how do the policies of the gatekeepeers of the internet such Google, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter effect the viability and potential of the digital news producers?

What did the study do?

  • Studied 28 national and local outlets
  • Analyzed their overall digital reach
  • Collected 84,430 rows of data on Google’s search engine and Google News
  • Acquired dataset based on millions of interactions with Turkish news articles on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram
  • Conducted in-depth interviews and surveys with 20 independent media executives

Main findings:

  • Independent media’s digital reach (33.5 million users) is catching up with that of pro-government media (47.8 million users)
  • Independent outlets present a more fragmented media landscape
  • Independent media outlets receive 16.5% more interactions on social media and are closer to breaking through the echo chambers
  • 90.6% of Google’s Top Stories slots were given by the search engine’s algorithm to three pro-government media outlets
  • Google search results also amplify pro-government outlets’ hateful rhetoric and disinformation targeting democratic civil society
  • YouTube’s recommendation algorithm mostly keeps the viewers of Turkey’s pro-government media outlets in an echo chamber
  • Independent media executives report that most of their visitors come from social platforms and search engines.
  • Only half of independent media outlets expected a net profit in 2020

Conclusion and recommendations:

As Turkey’s independent news outlets need help on their way to become “the new mainstream” with financial sustainability and democratic prowess, study’s recommendations for all stakeholders, including the donors, are based on three articles of the IPI’s 2021 Action Plan:

  1. Connecting (and uniting) journalism: Turkey’s independent but fragmented media should unite and join forces in order not only to share digital newsmaking skills and resources but also to engage with digital giants and the government as an alliance to demand fair access to and treatment by digital platforms.
  2. Understanding (and overcoming) key challenges: Turkey’s independent media has two difficult problems: Monetization and human resources. To succeed in the evolving business and technology of modern journalism, independent media outlets should have affordable access to full-stack consultancy groups, incubators, and accelerators. The new structures and parameters for quality journalism should be determined through more dialogue and cooperation between all stakeholders.
  3. Promoting journalism and dispelling disinformation: Search engines and social networks’ effects on Turkey’s news media should be closely monitored, and the necessary actions should be taken to cope with their negative impacts on democratic processes. New and more effective methods to expand the reach of quality journalism and to enable competition for digital news businesses should be developed.

Event will be held in English. Participants will be invited to ask questions.

Emre Kızılkaya, IPI Turkey National Committee Vice Chair, Senior Researcher
Burak Ütücü, Associate Researcher
Scott Griffen, IPI Deputy Director (Moderator)

Funded by the European Union