Journalists and academics, researchers and experts from all countries, unite to make information and knowledge accessible to all! It is on this great universalist idea that The Conversation started in 2011, in Melbourne, Australia, on the initiative of the English journalist Andrew Jaspan, former editor-in-chief of The Observer. Or how to bring the Enlightenment encyclopedist project to the age of the “age of access” by creating a newsroom associating journalists-editors with academic editors. The French version of this international journalism and knowledge will be online this Monday, after having spread to the United Kingdom (2012), the United States (2014) and more recently in Africa.
Led by Fabrice Rousselot, former correspondent in New York and former editor-in-chief of Release, and Didier Pourquery, former deputy director of World (also passed by Libé), The Conversation France therefore has the same ambition as the sites that preceded it: “It is a question of popularizing information in the noble sense of the term, that is to say bringing it down from the small circles of the elite to the streets. We want to make news intelligible to everyone and shed light on it in all its complexity ”, explains Fabrice Rousselot. Contrary to the mad acceleration of information on Twitter and continuous news channels, this new pure-player of online news, completely free, will therefore rely on journalism in-depth who gives himself the time for reflection and explanation.
“All the news that makes the world go”
Because in a world where news runs in a loop on all screens and where the attention ofa digitalized becomes more and more difficult to capture, The Conversation believes in the reader’s “available brain time” when he is not taken for more stupid than he is. The difficulty is getting everyone to write, in a didactic way and why not funky and impactful feathers from the academic sphere. Academics and experts are thus solicited on current events, “All the news that makes the world go” : politics, economy, environment, education, health, science and technology… It will be the work of a small pool of five to six journalists who are experts in their field (including Thomas Hofnung, ex-Libé for the international, Aline Richard ex-The research etc.) who will order, angle and edit the papers in connection with the authors. “We will not refrain from any subject, Fabrice Rousselot told us on Friday. Monday, we will undoubtedly open on Greece with, I hope, a signing that will surprise. There will be a large article by demographer Hervé Le Bras on migrants, but we will also put a background paper on sexual fantasies online. ”
No click race for The Conversation who does not need it, given its completely free model, based on open source and information sharing: all articles can be picked up, published and rebroadcast by anyone and any licensed media Creative Commons. “That’s the point ! The more we are picked up, the more the article is read and the happier we are because the objective has been reached ”, specifies Rousselot, who cites as an example this paper by Pierre Leriche, research director at the CNRS, on the archaeologist of Palmyra Khaled al-Assad assassinated by the jihadists of the Islamic State, which had 820,000 readers in two days on 30,000 sites.
23 million direct and indirect readers
But by the way, how does a network of completely free news sites with a 100% social purpose work? Non Profit, at a time when the press is desperately looking for a viable economic model on the internet? “We have three sources of funding: partnerships with universities, donations from major foundations and those from government organizations”, answers Fabrice Rousselot. Most of the major Anglo-Saxon universities are already partners of the platform. And for its French site, The Conversation received the support of the Conference of University Presidents, the Institut universitaire de France, the Sorbonne and even Paris-Saclay …
On the donor side, The Conversation is funded among others by the wealthy Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (which has released $ 3 million for the African platform), the Howard Hugues Medical Institute, the Knight Foundation … With its small team which will include around ten people in 2016, the French version works, for the moment with a small budget of one million euros. For their part, Reuters and AFP offer access to their huge database of photo archives. And contributors are not remunerated, writing without being asked: the logic of dissemination of knowledge and knowledge goes hand in hand with the notoriety offered by dissemination on a global scale. With its four editions, The Conversation today claims 2.7 million direct readers per month, a figure which rises to 23 million with the republication of papers. And the fund of 32,000 copyright-free articles continues to run on the Internet.
After the launch of the French site, the ambition is to spread over the five continents to make conversation everywhere. Next steps, Spain, Italy and Germany, then Asia and South America. “The advantage is that we are a global media in essence, we talk to everyone about the major topics that concern everyone: Climate and migration, war and terrorism, technological and scientific progress …, concludes Fabrice Rousselot, who should return to New York once The Conversation France installed, to manage the platform’s global newsroom. Even if it means making conversation, as much as it is on the scale of the planet, since we invented the Internet for that.