Interview with Jan Jasper Kosok of freitag.de: “It’s ridiculous not to link to websites outside of your own”

Der Freitag is a weekly newspaper from Germany which has been focusing a lot on connecting their print to their online product (the print edition actually was nominated as one of the best designed newspapers in the world) and on making the readership part of it, promoting its community and blog network more prominently than most other newspaper websites we have seen. And they are using Twingly. We spoke with Jan Jasper Kosok who is in charge of the paper’s online presence freitag.de about the newspaper’s decision to integrate user generated content, abut the German blogosphere and the importance of social web channels as traffic sources.

Hi Jan. You are in charge of Der Freitag’s website and also for the community.  How did you get into that role?
In 2007 me and a friend ran a blog about Berlin pop culture. One day I was contacted by Der Freitag and they asked me if i could imagine working for them. At that time I wasn’t really ready but we stayed in touch and in April 2009 I joined them.

So it was your blog that created this career opportunity?
Yes. They wanted to hire somebody with a blogger background, who understood the dynamics of the blogosphere and social media.

How do you distribute your time between the two roles – working with the community and with the website in general?
The community part (moderation, commenting, projects involving users) takes definitely less time than working with the day-to-day-tasks as well as with the overall website strategy, especially since we are creating the concept for a relaunch for 2011.

You might be the German newspaper which is focusing the most on blogs and user generated content. How come?
The groundwork for this was laid before I joined. But once the basic mind set was created, the implementation went step-by-step, and today the combination of online and offline and the integration of the readership are part of Der Freitag’s philosophy. Readers like to be able to identify themselves with the product, and they want to have the possibilities to get in touch with it, even contribute to it. About 30 percent of the content consumed on freitag.de is generated by users. Besides our own editorial content and the articles we are syndicating from The Guardian the community has become our third main pillar.

What about the combination of online and offline?
We are actually publishing some of our community content in our weekly newspaper. Our goal is to create a feeling for the people who buy the newspaper that they are part of it, and part of the creation. So far it seems to work: Our readers have a closer emotional connection to us than what readers usually have to other newspapers. For a small-sized company like ours that is a powerfull concept. For the future our main challenge will be to grow the community and at the same time maintain the familiar atmosphere.

What are your thoughts regarding the current state of the German blogosphere?
In my opinion the (few) leading blogs in Germany have become more professional. Some people say the blogosphere is getting smaller and less active. On the other hand I today see a lot of blogs covering the topics that we wrote about in our blog back in 2007 – at that time we were pretty much alone in our niche. So I think your own thoughts about the blogosphere always depend on your personal areas of interests. Different people will tell you different things about where the blogosphere stands in 2010. However, citizen journalism in Germany is still in its early beginnings. I’m convinced that we’ll see a lot happening in the future.

You link a lot to external blogs…
Yes, we pay a lot of attention to the blogosphere and try to connect to external blogs. We also think it is important to not only link to our own articles via our Twitter account but to whatever content the editorial team at Der Freitag thinks is worth reading. It’s kind of ridiculous not to post a link to a good article or important information just because it has been published elsewhere.

When you link out a lot, you probably also get many incoming links from blogs (which you track with Twingly)? Yes that’s true. And since we are still fairly small we really feel the effects of when bigger blogs are linking to our articles. We are using the Twingly widget to show incoming links for everybody.

If you look at the incoming traffic from blogs, Twitter and Facebook. Where do you get the most visitors from?
That’s difficult to measure, because the heavily used URL shorteners make it difficult to track the exact source. But my impression is that Facebook is growing more rapidly than Twitter and is sending increasingly readers to us. On the other hand, in my personal opinion Facebook has become the place very everybody is, but Twitter has successfully gathered opinion leaders, other bloggers, journalist and media profiles which actively are distributing links.

What’s your vision for freitag.de for the next years?
We see our site as permanent work in progress. We want to deliver modern cross medial journalism and to be open for new trends, approaches and experiments. We hope to be able to establish ourselves in that niche.

2 thoughts on “Interview with Jan Jasper Kosok of freitag.de: “It’s ridiculous not to link to websites outside of your own”

  1. ikono December 7, 2010 / 22:40

    what if programmers could push small apps to freitag.de, via a “plugin-interface” for the community. programmers could write widgets for special content (e.g. citations, new ideas for linking and formatting, wiki extensions, embedding of content) – or any other aspect of online discussion. when combined with git to share the code, programming as a means of expression could be made more well known, democratic, transparent. embedded in a community of normal people.

  2. ikono January 1, 2011 / 01:08

    here’s what i found on the net that resembles my idea: http://bbone.ideone.com/

    it is a plugin for the phpbb bulletin board that allows for compilation and execution of source code written by forum users.

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