"The crisis facing independent news media, whether online or offline or hybrid, presents an existential threat to our societies. This has been made clear particularly during the pandemic which highlighted a paradox: While media became more important than ever for citizens as a source of reliable information in an insecure and continuously changing world, newsrooms struggled to pay their bills.The pandemic brought to crisis point prior trends - for example, between 2009 to 2020, the share of newspapers – key producers of journalism – in global advertising spend fell from 23 to 6 percent.Amidst the gloom of increasing financial pressure, there is a lot to learn from the creativity and actions taken by media in their effort for survival: Journalists, publishers, educators and other media workers have developed and are developing innovative strategies to help strengthen the viability of independent media.
The Solutions Journalism Revenue Project (SJRP), which ran between February 2020 and February 2021, aimed to explore how a diverse range of newsrooms could leverage solutions journalism to generate revenue. Among the questions the project sought to answer were: Can reporting on responses to social problems help newsrooms attract financial backers and contribute to their economic sustainability? Is there a business case that supports this journalistic practice?Over the yearlong project, we gathered both quantitative and qualitative evidence indicating that producing solutions journalism can help news organizations bring in revenue.
- Financial survival is the biggest worry for the media outlets we profiled, followed by political risk and physical safety.
- The outlets remain dependent on donors. Advertising is hard to come by and raising funding from audiences has proven difficult. Donors need to accept this reality and be willing to commit to long-term support for outlets creating a public good.
- Amid the grim political climate, rise of right-wing demagogues, and attacks on the media, there has also been an outpouring of appreciation for independent journalism. They recounted tales of support and encouragement from their audiences, but this sentiment does not translate into sustainable forms of funding.
- The outlets have professionalized in the sense that many now have accounting software, bookkeepers, and full-time staff working on grant-writing. Many still rely on unpaid contributors and some use office space that was provided for free or rented at a discount.
- Membership models are in fashion, but we believe that these models, while able to provide niche funding, are even less likely to scale and provide core funding than crowdfunding. Selling memberships puts an additional demand on audiences, asking them for not just their money but also their time.
- There may be a need for an industry-wide body that would assist small civic-minded outlets in building capacity and doing international fundraising. At the moment, a group of donors offer some services but not others, but there is no one-stop shop. The Global Investigative Journalism Network is making attempts in this regard and has been answering requests for assistance from all over the world and helping with business strategies. They’ve also added an extensive section on the GIJN website’s Resource Center devoted to sustainability issues. Other organizations are also trying to assist. Certainly, media startups often do not make use of what does exist, partly because they are not aware of what is available or lack the time to plan for the future.It’s time for donors to accept that many of the outlets they support—which are so essential to society—need help to survive. The job for donors is to coordinate their efforts and to figure out how to help without creating market distortions. Indeed, too much competition for outside funding can create little incentive for innovative startups to pop up in the future. At the same time, donors need to ensure that they are not keeping alive outlets that do not have a significant audience. This is a difficult balancing act, but one that can be accomplished by better collaboration among donors.
This publication presents the training procedures and best practices of the biggest network of community media in Ecuador and recommends eight steps and tools to help community media achieve viability.
- States must recognise public interest media as crucial to fulfilling human rights and must ensure its survival through financial subsidies, which can be paid for by proper taxation of multinational technology companies.
- International actors partnering with public interest media should leverage audience demand for reliable information amid the infodemic into a post- COVID-19 business model that improves media literacy, monetises truth, and diversifies newsrooms.Saving journalism: a vision for the post-Covid world (2021)
This article places philanthropic funding of journalism in the context weakening civic communication in general and highlights ‘ways forward’ for philanthropic funding. It draws heavily upon conclusions and recommendations that emerged from an October, 2016 gathering in Turin entitled “Beyond Disruption” of 50 practitioners and scholars from philanthropy, nonprofits, government, and the media to explore the possible role philanthropy can play in addressing the contemporary crisis in civic media. (Humanitarian Journalism)