WRITTEN BY MediaMonks
Freedom of the press is one of the most important principles for any society—and while it’s something that some of us take for granted, government censorship remains an issue in many parts of the world. And even in countries that enjoy a free press, intense polarization can blur the line between fiction and reality, calling the accuracy of stories into question and even putting reporters in danger.
We’ve always believed in pushing technology harder to deliver unique digital experiences that drive cultural impact—and our team has used that ingenuity to support journalism in unexpected ways. Earlier this year, we partnered with Reporters Without Borders to build the Uncensored Library, a massive library in Minecraft that provides users access to important stories by authors who are censored in their own countries.
Now, we’ve taken a more hands-on approach to support the health of the press everywhere. This week, MediaMonks, NEP and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs collaborated with the World Press Freedom Conference to bring its 2020 edition online, opening the important event to the masses through a seamless integration of broadcast and platform. The virtual venue mixes in-person and digital experiences, setting a new standard for a new era of digital content and serving as a model for how digital platforms can bring people together for healthy conversation and debate.
Digital trade shows can be tough to navigate—typically just a playlist of broadcasts, finding the content most relevant to you often means scanning countless menus and translating time zones. More than just a broadcast or another Zoom call, our team sought to build on the experience of visiting an event in-person, augmenting it through useful digital tools.
As attendees log into the experience, for example, they’re met with an open, airy welcome hall. From there, they can explore galleries in the virtual exhibition hall, explore articles in the library or enter the cinema to watch content on demand. Of course, they can also tune into live segments and interviews—the bread-and-butter of the event. With content organized around the metaphor of an event hall, attendees can better find the content most relevant to them. And in addition to exploring the space, they can easily book their own schedule to receive reminders when their chosen events are ready to begin.
Networking is an important component of any trade event, and a cause like WPFC’s thrives on facilitating conversation with people across borders and communities. “The upside of virtual events is that you don’t have to be physically present to join the event and that you can meet people from all over the world,” says Rik Spruijt, Producer of Experiential and Digital Solutions at MediaMonks. “There’s fewer barriers to participate and interact.”
Enabling conversation is a critical component to the event platform’s design and takes several forms: asking speakers questions directly, connecting one-to-one with other attendees and forming group chats and breakout sessions centered around specific topics of interest. With the platform approved by Fox-IT, the Dutch Government’s national security partner, attendees could rest assured that communications were safe.
Because the World Press Freedom Conference gathers together journalists and media luminaries from around the world, it’s incredibly important to hear and learn from voices that are often marginalized or underprivileged—and perhaps never could have attended such an event before it went digital. This truth becomes especially evident at a time when we’ve come to rely on digital more than ever before to understand and experience the world around us.
“Especially with an event around press freedom, it’s even more important to have inclusive design,” says Spruijt. “So, we’ve took this into consideration while designing, developing and testing the platform.” 15-20% of the world’s population live with a disability, and while accessibility is required by over 1 billion people around the world, accessible options provide a better online experience to audiences overall. In addition to accounting for disabilities, the team also realized that some attendees may tune in from places with slower connections, using an adaptive video player to ensure everyone can still participate.
Press and journalism have the power to challenge the status quo and bring people together. The industry has profoundly transformed through digital over the past two decades—and has taken on a new urgency in the past year—so it’s exciting that the WPFC platform can serve as a model for how virtual conferences can adapt to provide a stronger, more interactive and intuitive digital experience to audiences around the globe.