21 takeaways from the Journalism Festival in Perugia

May 5, 2014 (updated on May 8, 2014)

The Perugia Journalism Festival forces you to be selective. At any given time, you miss more sessions than you can attend. So consider this a very subjective list of takeaways I took back home from Perugia. I’ll link to a couple of other reviews at the bottom of this post and invite you to add your own takeaways in the comments.

So, in no particular order, but rather in the order I found them at the back of my mind, in my notebooks and tweets.

1. Perugia and the Festival are wonderful and I need to come back. Turns out the date has already been fixed. April 15-19 2015.
Early morning in Perugia

2. Felix Salmon knows how to rant smartly (or, if you prefer, to speak wisely with some well-placed punches in between). He put the current hype around wonk/explainer journalism in historical perspective.

Key quotes:

  • «Explainer journalism is just journalism, but journalism as it should be rather than how it had to be due to constraints.»
  • «We’re losing the bundle, we’re going back to something web-native.»
  • «No one ever in the history of the world has paid for news.»
  • «Breaking news is the most masturbatory thing journalists do. And only journalists are interested in it.»
  • «The best journalism school is your own blog.»
  • «Develop a distinctive voice and people will want to give you money.»

3. This quote by Chartbeat founder Tony Haile.

And while we’re at it, this one: «Attention is the only scarcity on the web. Nobody can add a 25th hour to the day. That’s what we should measure.»

4. I liked how Wolfgang Blau used his keynote to ask an important question to which he didn’t have an answer.

5. Chicas Poderosas – a force to reckon with.

6. Note to self: Thou shalt not miss a workshop with Giannina Segnini again.

7. «Every news event creates its own community.» Among everything Storyful CEO Mark Little said, this stood out. It explains what Storyful is doing and highlights an potential most news organisations make poor use of. From a technical perspective, it’s interesting to remember that Storyful measures «velocity of conversations» in social media to identify topics and places where something unusual is happening.

8. Also this:

9. Austria really sucks at transparency. Wasn’t aware of that. They are at the very bottom of the worldwide Right to Information Rating. The good news: There are people fighting to change that.

10. Tear down your «Get shit done» motivational poster and spray those two words on your wall instead: Martin Belam. Once he’s set up a new venture in a couple of weeks (as he did with UsVsTh3m and Ampp3d), this is his magic trick (well, maybe just one of them):

11. In the water, he said actually. Dead in the water. But considering the amount of water we got from the sky above Perugia, you might as well leave it out here.

12. This.

13. De Correspondent keeps impressing me a lot. Noted at their founders’ talk (for a more thorough summary, check journalism.co.uk or De Correspondent’s own notes on the talk):

  • «We see our journalists as conversation leaders and our readers as experts.»
  • «Forget about all the hypes. They are always about the past.»
  • «We wanted to go from the exceptions (news) to the underlying rules of society (new).»

14. I think we’ve passed «Peak Tweets on a Map». Good to remember:

15. More than 17’000 people have signed up for the data journalism online course by the EJC (you can still join).

16. The NYT’s Aron Pilhofer on the state of data journalism: The best pieces are those where the data part is fully immersed in the story. Data journalism should be part of the story, not the story itself. His examples for that: NSA Files Decoded, What Your Activity Tracker Sees and Doesn’t See, Giant Slalom: Ted Ligety.

17. Snowfall got its obligatory mention. «You can’t reblog Snowfall. NYT was the only place you could see that.», Felix Salmon said. John Burn-Murdoch of the FT added a few more thoughts.

18. «The fact that PGP hasn’t really become easier to use in the past 15 years shows that governments and corporations don’t want us to use it.» – Dan Gillmor

19. You might want to rethink your realname strategy for user contributions. Says Disqus founder Daniel Ha (paraphrased):
«The quality of comments from people using their real name and those using pseudonyms is the same. The comment quality gap is between anonymous vs. pseudonym/realname. And people with pseudonyms are most active.»

20. Data journalism with a revenue model baked in: The Star Health, built by Code4Kenya, lets users check if their doctor is to be trusted, can be accessed via premium SMS, the publisher gets a share of 50% for each SMS.

21. So many people who are passionate and optimistic about the future of journalism.

More on the International Journalism Festival 2014 in Perugia:

If you thought this wasn’t all that bad, you can follow me on Twitter. You might also be interested in this:

Hello, nice to meet you. I'm a curious generalist, my main areas of expertise are strategy, journalism and leadership.


Consulted and worked at organisations to develop, refine and execute strategies for digital transformation.


Formal training and 15 years of experience in journalism. Specialised in visual, data-driven stories.


10 years of experience in leading projects and teams. I believe in inclusive, purpose-driven leadership.

Weekly Filet

My newsletter brings you the five best links of the week, every Friday. Making sense of the big issues of our time (with a healthy dose of serendipity and nerdiness).

Explore & subscribe


My work has appeared in Neue Zürcher Zeitung, The Guardian, Quartz, Republik, Der Spiegel, Das Magazin, Tages-Anzeiger, SonntagsZeitung, TagesWoche, among others.

🆕 Vaccination Flags

Covid-19 vaccination rates worldwide. See how colour returns to the world.


You (Still) Don't Know Africa

A simple, tricky game. Played more than 1.5 million times in over 200 countries.

Try it nowTry the sequelLearn more

I think, write – and speak, if you ask me to – about technology and how it changes media and everything else.

My book, KurzbefehlBooking

Get in touch