Janina Benz: Hi Holger – could you briefly introduce yourself to our readers?
Holger Schmidt: Of course. After 14 years as a journalist for the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, I joined the news magazine Focus at the start of the year and will be writing for them about the digital economy. When I’m not working, I enjoy spending time with my family and going mountain biking.
JB: You’re one of Germany’s best-known online journalists. What do you think the future holds for journalism – will it be predominantly driven by the print or online market?
HS: Print and online journalism will coexist for a long time to come. As a journalist, it makes sense for me to be active both in print and online to reach as many readers as possible. So while my column on the digital economy is appearing in the print edition of Focus, I’m also launching a blog soon on the Focus website, focus.de.
JB: You’re also very active on Twitter. What are the differences between the way you use Facebook and Twitter?
HS: Twitter is my preferred news source and I use it intensely, to share news as well as consume it. I use Facebook more for entertainment and communication, less for information. If I had to divide up my social media time, I’d say about 70% is spent on Twitter, 15% on Facebook and 15% on Google+.
JB: We’ve been making good use of social media to publicize the CODE_n contest. In turn, this has allowed us to attract well-known interviewees and jury members. During the campaign, we also saw very clearly that Twitter and Facebook have very different strengths and possibilities. What do you think the strengths of these two networks are?
HS: Twitter’s clear strength is its ability to spread news rapidly. It plays a more important role in many other countries than in Germany, and is less suited to communication than Facebook is. I sometimes wonder if people spend as much time on Facebook as they used to.
JB: How come Twitter is mostly only popular among internet professionals in Germany?
HS: Twitter’s great for news junkies, but the entry barrier is too high for most people to use it as a practical information channel. If you don’t mind reading the news with a slightly delay, you don’t need Twitter. I think news aggregators will definitely help in extracting the most important information from the 250 million tweets sent every day. Twitter also wants to open an office in Germany to gain a foothold here.
JB: How do you think Facebook and Twitter will continue to develop?
HS: Facebook will hit the limits of its growth in the foreseeable future, so it will have to focus more on making money. Twitter will likely undergo fairly major change to make itself attractive to more people. But I see both as established, central parts of the web infrastructure.
JB: What does the future hold for Google+?
HS: Google+ has made a good start, but I’m not sure what role it’s supposed to play next to Facebook and Twitter. However, integrating content from Google+ into Google search results will serve to populate Google+ almost automatically.
JB: Managing trust is a hot topic in the media at the moment due to its choice as the theme for this year’s CeBIT, and also in light of other issues, such as the current debate about the enforced introduction of the Facebook Timeline. How do you see this discussion? Where do you think privacy is most threatened?
HS: Anyone using social networking sites needs to understand that their advertising models are based on user data. I’m neither surprised nor appalled that Facebook shows me advertising tailored as closely as possible to my stated interests – it’s a sensible business model for a social network. What I do have concerns about is what happens outside Facebook via Facebook Connect, which records which websites I visit. It’s none of their business. Apart from that though, I keep to one basic rule: Everything I post on social networking sites can be read by anyone – today and in ten years’ time.
JB: Thank you for the interview.
HS: My pleasure. All the best!