Working together & sharing knowledge: this is how you survive as a media organisation

An interview with Sarah Geeroms (Future Media Hubs) - 15.10

Media & Culture Fast Forward will take place in two months, which is still quite a long wait. So we reveal a part of our programme every week. Today, we interview Sarah Geeroms, head of the Future Media Hubs.

Let’s start at the beginning. What’s Future Media Hubs?

Sarah: Future Media Hubs acts as an international network of public and commercial media organisations. We promote innovation through collaboration and knowledge sharing via various hubs and we focus on the further development of the media industry. We now have about 50 members from 25 different media companies. Also important to mention: Future Media Hubs is a VRT initiative in cooperation with RTBF.

That’s an interesting detail, because although VRT and RTBF are in the same building, there’s not a lot of fraternising going on. 

Sarah: All the more reason to set up this collaboration. We are both well placed within Europe to play a prominent role in media innovation. We really want to make use of our position in Brussels and it is very interesting to be able to do that together with RTBF.

So you’ve got different hubs gathered under one umbrella hub. What are their areas of expertise?

Sarah: The Sandbox Hub started off with the internationalisation of our own VRT Sandbox. We want to give start-ups the opportunity to scale up their business by bringing them into contact with media organisations, by offering them pitch opportunities, and so on.

Similarly, there is the Video Snackbar Hub which is an international extension of the regular Video Snackbar. The focus is on content makers and technology experts who experiment with the latest technologies and media workflows.

Finally, there’s the Open Labs Hub, the youngest of the three. This one aims to support young and creative digital talent within companies. Above all, the goal is to bring together the already existing ‘Young Labs’ under a single European initiative.

All those hubs and this overarching hub were founded pretty recently. To what extent do you seek guidance to be successful?

Sarah: The oldest of the three, Sandbox Hub, started in 2018. At the beginning of this year, we created the Video Snackbar Hub and a few months ago, we set up the Open Labs Hub. Future Media Hubs as a brand hasn’t even been officially launched yet. We are planning on doing this in 2021, in the hope that we’ll be able to meet physically with all the members.

It is indeed important to look for support, that’s why we picked an advisory board of six members, three from commercial media, three from public media. All six of them have extensive experience in the European media industry. They are our ambassadors and think along with us about our long-term strategy. 

Before we talk about long-term projects, perhaps we should have a look at the near future. Any prospects?

Sarah: Next week, on Tuesday 20 October, we organise a session for Slush. This is one of the biggest start-up festivals in the world. Normally, Slush takes place every year in Helsinki. But this year, I won’t have to pack my snow boots and warm winter coat, because the organisers opted for an online event instead. In recent years, we have always organised a media side event for them, but this year, we are part of the official Slush Node programme for the first time!

What are your plans?

Sarah: We’ll do a session about managing a start-up or a company in crisis. It’s the third time in a row that we collaborate with Flanders Investment and Trade. And we’re also joining forces with Media & Culture Fast Forward. ‘CTRL ACT DEL’ is a relevant theme for start-ups nowadays. That’s why we’ve invited a few start-ups, such as Bothrs, to talk about how they have dealt with this crisis. And there’ll be a musical intermezzo by Charlotte Caluwaerts & Reinhard Vanbergen

What does the programme look like?

Sarah: First, we’ll stay in Finland for a while with Noora Alanne, head of the ‘New Growth’ department of Finnmedia. She will discuss how media companies can reinvent themselves in times of crisis. After that, it’s Dado Van Peteghem’s turn. His expertise lies in guiding organisations through a transformation, something that certainly applies now. By the way, Dado is also a speaker at Media & Culture Fast Forward. To conclude, we’ll give the floor to a few start-ups from our network. 

Definitely something to look forward to! And speaking of things to look forward to, in December, we can also expect Future Media Hubs at Media & Culture Fast Forward. What do you remember best from the last edition?

Sarah: Our main goal is to connect the right people. The story of Red Bull Media House and Azilpix, as shown in the aftermovie, partly happened thanks to the hubs. It’s very nice to see the result of such a collaboration afterwards. And last year, we organised a strategic session with the Sandbox Hub the day after Media Fast Forward. We wanted to do the same this year, but of course with the virus that’s a little tricky…

So what is happening this year?

Sarah: A number of our hub members and start-ups participate in sessions and panel discussions. You’ll notice a touch of Sandbox Hub in the VRT Sandbox Sessions and a pinch of Video Snackbar Hub in Meet the Makers. And we’ll also be present in the meet-and-greet sessions, replacing last year’s Startup Street. 

Networking will be mostly digital this year. How important is personal contact for the hubs?

Sarah: Very important. Before the crisis, we tried to meet face-to-face as often as possible. Now, it’s all happening online, which makes you even more aware of the value of seeing someone in person. The present situation forces us to think out of the box in order to guarantee the quality and impact of all the hubs. 

For example by organising online events. We already put October 20 on our calendar! Do you have one last piece of advice?

Sarah: As a local media company you are too small to survive on your own in this fast-changing world. So it is very important to work together with other media companies and start-ups. My message is: you really must invest in your network and in knowledge. It’ll only help you! 


Interview by Jacotte Brokken
Analog & digital creative