Business models and online community news

Pazar, Mart 19, 2017 |

Slavka Karakusheva
Sofia University

“There is no place in big media in Turkey for our small problems... Nor there is in the national media in Bulgaria.” This is how Mr. Nahit Doğu started the conversation during the meeting in the small town of Kardzhali (Kırcaali) in South-Eastern Bulgaria in April 2015. He is the owner of and the main contributor to a small ‘local’ online news agency – AjansBg. It aims at publishing news from the region of Kardzhali as well as news from the “big media” in Bulgaria and Turkey which may be of importance for the local population. This local population consists of 66.2% Turks and 30.2% Bulgarians (Census, 2011) and this makes Kardzhali the town with the highest concentration of Turkish population in the country. Mr. Doğu is a professionally trained journalist. He works as a correspondent of Al Jazeera Turkey covering the region of Bulgaria. His professional experience has passed through some “big media” - the Anatolian Agency (Anadolu Ajansı) in Turkey, Agency Focus and TV 7 in Bulgaria. He started his first news website (weblog) in 1996 after he left the editorial team of Нов Живот/Yeni Hayat [New Life] – the local newspaper published in both Bulgarian and Turkish language. Later he continued reporting news in the blog of AjansBg.

AjansBg is his personal idea and one of the important projects in his life which he does “for the society, for the people”, he says. He does not do it alone but together with a friend of him. The agency publishes news in the fields of politics, culture, religion and reports different events occurring in both national states – Bulgaria and Turkey. The news is often being selected on one basic principle – to be useful and informative for the Turks in Bulgaria or the Turks, migrants from Bulgaria to Turkey72. “People want to see themselves in the news. They want to see their small world; they want to recognize their problems there. If they are able to see this, they would watch or read the media. Especially if the media can provide information that no other mainstream media does”.

The example of AjansBg is one of the many similar online platforms which publish content targeting Turkish speaking population in Bulgaria (See Appendix 1). According to the last Census results 8.8% of the population in the country or 588 318 people self-identify as Turks, while 605 802 (9.1%) claim Turkish as a mother tongue (ibid). This is a relatively small market, especially in relation to the nature of the medium – as an online platform its content is limited only to those actively using computers, smartphones and internet. Even if we add also the number of the migrants from Bulgaria to Turkey – a few hundred thousand (with the same condition for internet usage limitation), to the target group of the online news platforms – the market does not increase significantly. Moreover, that traditional media play still an important role among the Turkish speaking population in Bulgaria who, as bi-lingual people, are able to get informed on one hand from the national and cable TV channels in Bulgarian but also from the satellite broadcasted Turkish TV channels.

There has been significant number of regional and national press in Turkish language. Acaroğlu describes 173 printed newspapers, journals and magazines in the period 1865 – 1985 (Acaroğlu, 1990). A similar descriptive attempt is done by Deliorman who lists 188 printed materials in the years 1865 – 2009 (Deliorman, 2010). Despite the quantity however most of them have existed just for short periods of time (1-3 years), or those who survived longer have been published under the very strong communist party supervision. We shall also mention here that there is a 10-minute news programme in Turkish language on the Bulgarian National Television daily but its time schedule at 16.10 p.m. makes it more a political reverence than a real informative medium. For 2,5/3 hours daily the Bulgarian National Radio broadcasts a special emission in Turkish language in the regions with compact Turkish population and supports a special section of their website in Turkish language.

What makes the difference however between those traditional channels and the online news platforms is the content – the first being engaged with national politics, events, and concerns, and the second – informing on issues with local significance. This could be illustrated with an example from the last elections in Turkey – while the Turkish TV channels were following the election results city by city within Turkey and showed a summary of the vote abroad, those in Bulgaria broadcasted and commented only on the final election results, AjansBg was the first one who published and commented on the results of the election boxes only in Bulgaria. The piece of news started circulating in different Facebook groups of Bulgarian Turks who were trying to understand and comment on the election results. This production of locality is the big advantage that the ‘local’ online news agencies have in competing with the mainstream media channels. They provide the services of 1) selecting only content which is related to Bulgaria from the Turkish media context and only content which is related to the Turkish population from the news in the Bulgarian media and 2) translating the selected content to Turkish language so that people can read it in their mother tongue. 80% of

the content that AjansBg publishes is in Turkish language and 20% in Bulgarian, says Mr. Doğu.

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