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“We see the virtual MEDIENTAGE as a great opportunity.” – Interview with Stefan Sutor

By Petra Schwegler

The MEDIENTAGE MÜNCHEN 2020 goes digital. This means seven days of speeches, discussions, master classes, networking sessions, as well as the acclaimed Medientage summit, will be held in a virtual space. What’s more, the content of the conference this year is much broader in scope. In an interview, Managing Director Stefan Sutor explains how he intends to address additional target groups and goes on to talk about what additional elements should be incorporated into the new format.

The Corona pandemic is forcing events to take place online. The MEDIENTAGE MÜNCHEN will also go digital in 2020. Emergency solution or real opportunity?

Stefan Sutor: We would, of course, love to meet everyone again in person. Our digital concept is therefore an emergency solution, given the situation. However, we want to make the best of it!

Completely digitizing an event like the MEDIENTAGE, with all its different facets, is just not feasible. We’ll therefore have to take a closer look the at various advantages of the virtual edition and see how they can be developed further. As a result, we decided to extend the fair from just a few days to a full week in order to highlight the different program events throughout. However, we are also looking forward to the possibility of diving deeper into aspects of the virtual conference and what they may hold.

We also see the virtual MEDIENTAGE as a great opportunity. Access will be easier, which means that we can target a larger audience. It will also be an excellent way for us to experiment with digital content and open up virtual spaces to our public.

You have planned a digital conference with a virtual exposition, AR applications, chatrooms, and networking tools. A novelty! Where do you get your inspiration from?

Sutor: We are constantly learning new things. At Medien.Bayern GmbH, we have already been organizing smaller events with various online tools the past few weeks. One thing we did, for example, was incorporate the MTMDigitalks into the MEDIENTAGE conference so that the most important discussions regarding the media industry can continue to be at the forefront, especially during the Corona period.

The entire team at Medien.Bayern GmbH has played a vital role in providing new format ideas and techniques. In the media industry, innovation is a never-ending goal, and our work towards it has given us the chance to put everything into application ourselves. Media Lab Bavaria, MedienNetzwerk Bayern, and XR Hub Bavaria are wonderful in-house partners that continue to provide us with their know-how regarding online conferences, virtual rooms, and digital networking.

The challenge is, nevertheless, very great. I am unaware of any digital format that can completely replace a real meeting.

Stefan Sutor. © Medien.Bayern GmbH

What will long-time visitors recognize when they enter the one-week conference in the virtual space?

Sutor: Of course, proven highlights will remain, such as the MEDIENTAGE Summit as well as the TV and Audio Summit, for all relevant aspects of the industry. The variety of topics is enormous, many things have proven to be even more significant with Corona. This pandemic is a catalyst for media development in both a positive and negative way. From this, new questions are emerging, which we are looking to examine and answer at the digital MEDIENTAGE.

Thanks to the online format, we can also address a new audience. The many young media professionals that have not yet attended the Medientage now have the chance to watch an interesting presentation or webinar, for example.

The event will take place from October 24th to 30th. There will be several digital video conferences and a lot to learn leading up to this date. How do you deal with the digital competition?

Sutor: We have all had some experience with digital events; some things work, others not so much.

At MEDIENTAGE MÜNCHEN, one thing is certain: we will extend our content and avoid focusing too much on the Interstate Broadcasting Treaty and similar acts. New entertaining formats and music will now be a priority in order to adapt to the needs of our viewers at home. We have also set up a creative virtual framework. We look forward to surprising you!

However, we cannot ignore one particular aspect when discussing upcoming digital events. Even when the Corona restrictions are lifted, the MEDIENTAGE taking place in late October may provide a digital framework to accompany the first analogue meetings after the crisis.

Is it possible that the MEDIENTAGE will also implement virtual concepts following the Corona crisis?

Sutor: We will wait and see how our digital event at the end of October will unfold in practice.  Once again–and this definitely applies to times post-Corona—there is nothing like a real meeting! While we won't exclude anything, things are definitely changing.

Last year, for example, a speaker we had invited to the conference offered to connect to the event via video. In 2019, we rejected his proposition, but in 2020, we see it from a different point of view. I imagine that we will keep some digital extensions of the standard conference in the future. Perhaps we will even have virtual meetings.

“This is Media NOW” is the slogan of the 34th edition of the MEDIENTAGE MÜNCHEN. What kind of media do you address?

Sutor: This slogan demonstrates the fact that media is very present in every aspect of our life. This has become particularly clear during the current Corona crisis. Standard media structures have done a great job under such difficult circumstances by developing new formats and being present on every platform.

Players like YouTubers, podcasters, bloggers, and influencers also play an important role in shaping our media landscape. Today, there is a plethora of new channels and formats. For a younger target group, for example, an Instagram Story can be more relevant than a program of the news broadcast “Tagesthemen”. This is the shape media is taking on in our current day and age.

With master classes and networking sessions, the MEDIENTAGE can influence areas beyond the conference. What has the industry learned from the Corona crisis so far?

Sutor: I think the media industry has shown that it is able to react quickly and promptly respond to the needs of the public through the creation of new and interesting media. This may be why it receives such positive feedback in return. However, I am troubled by the fact that media representatives have become the target of violence on the fringes of demonstrations.

I think, in general, media has made a lot of progress in regaining the public’s confidence, though there is still much more to be done.