January 26, 2014
Last Thursday I finally caught up with Eric Maurice of PressEurop, which recently had its plug pulled by the EC following their decision to cancel its renewal tender some weeks after publishing it (sign the change.org petition, check out the team’s volunteer blog).
For those who don’t know it, PressEurop selected articles about Europe from newspapers across the continent and translated them into 9 other languages. As they point out, it was unique:
Nowhere else could you go to read Greek newspaper editorials, headlines of the Hungarian press or stories published by Baltic, Romanian and German newspapers. Nowhere else could you compare analyses from the most influential journalists in Europe. And most importantly, nowhere else could you read and write comments in all these languages, translated automatically.
It was unique, and uniquely expensive – human curation is one thing, human translation is something else, and their approach to handling multilingual user-generated content was brilliant. While a huge fan, however, I was not entirely surprised to see it disappear:
- any such effort to stimulate the emergence of the EU online public sphere with EU funds is going to be targeted as biased even when it’s not (exhibit A: Blogactiv’s birth, which was pilloried for being EC-funded when it wasn’t);
- as set out in Do we need more EU platforms, or sustainable EU media?, relying on public funds makes one uniquely vulnerable to both bureaucratic project management procedures (as shown), and bureaucrats’ ideas of what makes a successful media business (although the EC seemed to commendably keep a ‘hands off’ attitude during PressEurop’s first 4 years).
Salvage strategy[What the press say about PressEurop’s closure]
PressEurop was thus a mirror image of BloggingPortal, launched the same year – where BloggingPortal aimed to help alternative voices on Europe find an audience, PressEurop focused on established media; and where BloggingPortal was a 100% volunteer effort, PressEurop spent millions on professional editors, translators and web designers.
Today, Le Courrier International sits on a database of 1000s of translated articles, many thousand more comments, and the site code. All paid for from the public purse.
Immersed as I am in the BloggingPortal reboot, I can’t help thinking that there’s something to be salvaged from this. What sort of site would come from combining the legacy content of both PressEurop and BloggingPortal? Would it be a shambling Frankenstinian monster, or something brilliant?
Both Eric and I are going to explore this question over the coming weeks, possibly via a Hangout on Air. If you’d like to share your 0.02c, before, during or afterwards, leave a comment below.
PS. This Sunday is BloggingPortal’s 5th birthday. Our birthday present is a dedicated “reboot” tag, allowing us to aggregate together all posts about the BloggingPortal reboot. As I write this I’m hoping my posts won’t be the only ones there on the day.Mathew Lowry