Dr François Nel

Communication, Culture and Media - Media Innovation Studio

Dr François Nel is a Reader in Media Innovation and Entrepreneurship at UCLan. His work is at the centre of trying to answer the theoretical and practical questions about innovation in the news media. In particular, he focuses on the context of technological change, and how this affects and is affected by policy and other forces in the media ecosystem nationally and internationally.

“I consider myself a boundary spanner,” say Dr Nel. “As a researcher, I’m driven to generate original insights that helps connect the academy with media innovation and development actors inside and alongside the industry”  In doing so, he uses his base as member of the Media Innovation Studio at UCLan to lead a variety of academic and industry initiatives.

Innovation Research Group

Dr Nel and Dr Coral Milburn-Curtis established the Innovation Research Group (IRG)  with the goal to drive business performance through delivering actionable insights.

The IRG currently works on two major projects with its global network of collaborators which informs the work of industry policy makers and other development actors, including the World Bank.

In 2018, the IRG took on World Press Trends, which has since 1989 been providing authoritative insights into the dynamics of the global news industry. With Dr Nel as editor and Dr Milburn-Curtis as chief data analyst, the IRG will be responsible for three editions of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA)’s seminal annual report until at least 2021.

The IRG is also collaborating with WAN-IFRA on research to better understand and benchmark the responses of senior decision makers to the challenges across the news company value chain. The research is based on a 20-question survey that is available in ten languages and completed by editorial, commercial, technology and senior management in organisations across the world.

The data from both projects and more are used in efforts to create an annual Media Sustainability Barometer in collaboration with the Global Forum for Media Development (GFMD) and draws on work by UNESCO and Deutsche Welle Akademie. Following a successful 2018 pilot study of data from the G7 and BRICS blocs of nations, the group are working to secure funding to roll out the project globally.

Not only does the research behind this report involve a worldwide network of researchers, but the data also serves as a building block for even more, deeper research on a national basis.

As part of this work, the IRG is building a panel of experts in media and media policy from across the world to contribute to the research. Read more about the IRG and its projects here.

The global, collaborative approach is a trademark of the work both of the IRG and Dr Nel, who is also responsible for the Digital Editors’ Network.

Digital Editors’ Network

Collaboration and community are at the heart of the Digital Editors’ Network (DEN), of which Dr Nel is one of the co-founders and convenors.

Since 2007, the DEN has connected those involved in media innovation with cutting-edge insights, tools and talent.

DEN meetings are typically hosted by a news media company and takes the form of a half-day programme of presentations, discussions and networking,

Anyone from the community can get involved in DEN meetings through speaking, hosting, sponsoring or attending, and more information is available on the DEN website.

Opportunities for collaboration

The projects which Dr Nel works on are always on the lookout for collaboration with others with similar objectives. In addition to building a panel of experts who can contribute to the Media Sustainability Barometer, there are a variety of further collaborative research opportunities for:

Doctoral students through the recently-announced PhD in collaboration with with WAN-IFRA or the rolling research degree programme

Dr Nel, who has been named a National Teaching Fellow of the UK Higher Education Academy as well as a Fellow of the European Entrepreneurship Educators Programme,  currently supervises dissertations and teaches modules on journalism innovation, data journalism and future media within the the School of Journalism Media, and Performance. He also delivers bespoke courses on Journalism Leadership for those working both in strategic and operational roles in newsrooms.

To discuss any of these opportunities, contact Dr Nel at FPNel@uclan.ac.uk