Sustainability & viability

Academic research into the effectiveness of donor and foundation-supported programmes to support the sustainability and viability of journalism.

This resource page is a work in progress. Please get in touch to let us know what is missing using this form.

For non-academic research, reports and articles on sustainability and viability go to

pageSustainability & viability

Please note that this resource page focuses on the effectiveness of donor and foundation-supported programmes to support the sustainability and viability of journalism.

It does not attempt to summarise the wealth of material on the sustainability and viability of journalism.

Global Media Journal German Edition- TINAYU ZHANG

The PDF version of this journal article is available here.

"I will discuss the challenges I faced during my fieldwork in China and will reflect on a general level on how to access this non-western field for doing media ethnography. As a UK-based university researcher, doing ethnography in my own country, China, this brought me particular challenges. Some ethical guidelines in the UK were not applicable to issues concerning consent. Regarding this inapplicability, Chinese scholar Suiming Pan questioned the application of Western guidelines in a Chinese context: as sociology in China lacks local theories, should Chinese researchers apply Western theories in China or invent new theories based on phenomPDFena that have never occurred in the West?"

Global Media Journal: German Edition- Laura Gianna Guntrum, Mira KeBler, Jignesh Patel, Anna Varfolomeeva

The PDF of this journal article is available here.

"Journalists and ethnographic researchers, such as anthropologists, sociologists or media scholars, have comparable ways of establishing initial contacts with people from their fields of interest. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and consequential travel restrictions and social distancing, it has become increasingly difficult to access a field. Taking inspiration from social anthropologist Ulf Hannerz (2004, p. 226), who compared journalists and anthropologists as “neighboring groups engaged in a somehow parallel pursuit,” this article explores what researchers may learn from practitioners who conduct research without being on-site."

The Chronicle of Philantropy - JOSH STEARNS, TERESA GORMAN - (Nov. 2021)

MEDAS 21 and FOME- Michael Leroy - (Nov. 2021)

The latest publication from the "Research Reviews for Media Development Practitioners" series had three main findings: 

- Since gaining mainstream appeal in the 1990s, sustainability has become a key concept in the field of media action. Its proponents would like to make it an unquestionable imperative, while its objectors question its catch-all nature. There is no widely accepted definition of sustainability but the OECD proposed a criterion that has since been used as a benchmark: "the extent to which the net benefits of the intervention continue, or are likely to continue". Some donors (e.g. Japan and the United Nations Development Programme) also focus on the related notion of "human security".

- Overquoted but still often neglected, sustainability is more of a process than an externally driven goal to be achieved. Whether an activity, outcome or principle is sustainable can only be known afterwards and what is assessed is a likelihood or probability, along with the capacity to mitigate risks, learn from mistakes and adapt along the way. 

- Unsustainability is rarely questioned in humanitarian media projects, but it becomes critical when the emergency project becomes a long-term endeavour. The role of donors and their coordination play a key role, especially since not all of them have a formal policy on media sustainability, and there are even fewer cases with a concerted strategy. This is concerning because over the past three decades studies have shown that scattered, unrelated interventions have no effect or are even counterproductive.


“This article presents an analysis of how different major news media with different funding models (public service versus private sector media) and different organizational legacies (broadcast versus print) in six different European countries approach the social media platforms that they increasingly rely on for some of their online reach.”

Journalism Studies - RODNEY BENSON - (2017)

An important article that highlights, amongst other things, how foundations can place many news nonprofits in a Catch-22, ‘because of competing demands to achieve both economic “sustainability” and civic “impact,” ultimately creating pressures to reproduce dominant commercial media news practices or orient news primarily for small, elite audiences’. (Humanitarian Journalism)

International Journal on Media Management - REBECCA NEE - (2013)

As traditional news media struggle to adapt their practices to discontinuous changes resulting from technological advances, a digitally native nonprofit news model has emerged in the United States. Framed by management theories of creative destruction and disruptive innovation, this study explores how the journalists who lead these small firms view digital and social media as opportunities to revitalize public service reporting, re-create journalism practices online, and encourage consumer participation in the news-gathering process. Findings show online news entrepreneurs are strategically using their digital-first platform to focus primarily on their public service mission, engage consumers, publish information through a variety of methods and formats, collaborate with outside media, diversify revenue sources, and provide technology training to journalists and the public.


For non-academic research, reports and articles on sustainability go to

pageSustainability & viability


This resource page is a work in progress. Please get in touch to let us know what is missing using this form.

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