14. July 2016–
In my circle of friends watching TV is out. A big telly in the living room is considered showing off. But Netflix is great for many and Youtube is sometimes quite funny. The public broadcasters don’t have it easy if my friends are the German average. The younger and smarter people are, the more likely they claim that they never watch TV. The common exception: The "Tatort" on Sunday nights.
It’s a pity actually. The public broadcaster - sometimes even the private channels - produce some fascinating programs. To find them, it takes some time. I've already spent hours searching.
The founders of Mediasteak Anne Krüger (29) and Laura Pohl (30) could be my salvation. Their concept: looking out for interesting documentaries and films from media libraries and presenting the findings to their readers on the blog "Mediasteak". The target group is 18 to 35 year olds. For almost three years, the site has been up and it has already been nominated for two famous media awards - the Grimme Award and the Lead Awards. Divided into "politics", "drugs" or "sex & love", visitors can see documentaries from Arte, ZDF, ARD, Vice, BBC as well as other sites. In one month Mediasteak reaches 120,000 people, the founders say.
But how do the two earn any money? And what makes a good documentary? To ask these questions and more, I met the friends for coffee in Berlin-Kreuzberg.
Your site saves a lot of work for documentary fans. How did you come up with the idea for Mediasteak?
Anne: I grew up with the public broadcasters program. In my home it was totally taboo to watch commercial TV. During my studies at the University of Arts in Berlin, I constantly recommended films and documentaries to my classmates from the media libraries. At a university party a friend finally asked why I don’t start a blog with my tips.
Statistics show that people in our age group no longer watch TV. The average age of the ARD audience is for example 61 years old.
Anne: But I love TV! What’s available is great. It's totally the trend to say: "I don’t have a TV anymore" and get excited about avoiding the license fee. But really there is a lot of good stuff in the media libraries. That's why I finally developed Mediasteak for my final thesis at university.
Anne: That's a pun. The media library is kind of like the whole animal. And we only serve the best parts, just the steak. And all the rind and the fat come off.
How would you describe your working life?
Laura: In the beginning we sat down every night after university and filled the blog with content. The positive responses we received have motivated us to keep on going. Last year we got a grant from the MIZ-Babelsberg. So we quit our jobs which we had started after college. Since then we have been working full-time for Mediasteak.
How many hours do you spend trying to sift through media libraries for good documentaries and films?
Anne: This has become less and less over the years. I often watch while doing another activity, for example, while brushing my teeth.
Laura: Maybe one hour per day. We’re now very experienced. We already know in the first five minutes whether we like a documentary or not.
What makes you realize that a documentary isn’t good enough?
Laura: For example, if the synchronization is poor or the cut is too fast. There really are documentaries that sound very interesting but are simply not well done.
Anne: Many times, the narrator repeats what is shown in the film - that's bad! This week I had a documentary recommended about a right-wing extremist, who withdrew from the scene and now educates young people. The documentary is great, but the music is just terrible, far too dramatic. This is what I mentioned in my reply to the person who recommended it.
The public broadcasters have their programs often only for a few days in the library, at Arte for example they are only available for seven days. Do you check manually or is it automated?
Anne: We have now a system that automatically controls it. Previously, we actually did it ourselves (laughs). It was exhausting.
There are several sites that present the best of media libraries. How are you different from your competitors?
Anne: We stand out since we really watch everything - from start to finish. If we like the documentary or the movie we recommend it to our users. Also the texts are not guided by press releases, but our own scoring criteria - the site is significantly more personal.
On your site there is no advertising. Do you make any money?
Anne: With the scholarship of MIZ, which enables us to develop a Mediasteak app for Apple TV, we currently have the luxury to work full-time for Mediasteak. We also earn money through collaborations, for example with the Spiegel-Magazin Bento or advertorials about movies.
Your support will end soon. Then what?
Laura: We strive to expand the cooperations. If that works, we can carry on with this as our main occupation. Otherwise, we have to look for a second job.
Actually you do the public broadcasters a great favor because it advertises the productions. Why is there no cooperation that brings you money?
Anne: We now have a good relation to the broadcasters and sometimes get advice from them too. But a cooperation, through which we would really make money - for example in the form of paid previews on our side - has not yet been realized. Hopefully that will come.
Thank you for the interview!
This interview was originally published on Gründerszene.
Picture: Hannah Loeffler / Gründerszene