Sustainability & viability
Research and reports about the effectiveness of donor and foundation-supported programmes to support the sustainability and viability of journalism.
The resource on this page are organised into the following sections:
The Media Futures East Africa Project, jointly implemented by the Aga Khan University’s Graduate School of Media and Communications and DW Akademie, set out to investigate the state of innovation and media viability in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. The research was conducted in two phases. The first phase studied the ecosystem – the political, economic, social, technological and community environment. The second phase of the research set out to examine factors at the organisational level that impact media viability and specifically analysed eight major variables which include: newsroom structure and resources, media ownership and business models, organisational capacity, innovation culture, journalism culture, financial trends and results, content quality and COVID-19.
The Economist Impact
Economist Impact Report - Covid and the global media industry.pdf
The 10 country case studies presented in this report give insight into media viability around the world. These countries were selected on the basis of their diversity: in size, population, language, market structure, and legal environments around freedom of expression and access to information... the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic varies from one region, country and outlet to the next.The findings outlined in this report confirm that media outlets in low- and middle-income countries have been the most severely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, with a rate of decline almost two times faster than the global average.Confronting the media viability crisis calls for increased public financial support for independent media—”the kind that favours public interest over political, commercial, or factional agendas”, as outlined in UNESCO’s World Trends Report
Center for International Media Assistance - COURTNEY C. RADSCH
As policymakers around the world consider how to rebalance the relationship between Big Tech and the news industry, it is imperative that they take a global view and consider the implications for independent news outlets in developing and low-income countries. Pioneering laws and policies like Australia’s 2021 News Media Bargaining Code and the European Union’s 2021 Digital Copyright Directive, which compel platforms to pay for the news they use, have inspired publishers globally and spurred other countries to pursue similar policies. This report examines three types of policy interventions: taxing digital advertising, empowering news media to collectively bargain with Big Tech, and requiring tech platforms to pay licensing fees for using news content. It finds that implementing any of these approaches is not just about political will, but also about institutional design, legitimacy, and trust.– Facebook and Google have a duopoly on the digital ad market, leaving news outlets struggling to generate revenue from online content.– To effectively design policies monetizing digital news content, more research is needed on the link between referral traffic and news site revenues.– Successfully implementing similar policies in developing economies requires strong institutions and professional associations that can represent media outlets, facilitate bargaining, and independently manage and monitor distribution of revenues.
"In January 2022 alone, 18 attacks were verified; in February, the number of recorded cases initially fell. The continuing increase in the number of cases is additional proof of the thesis of the Feindbild Journalist studies that journalists are fundamentally at risk everywhere and at all times when publicly and recognisably carrying out their profession in Germany."
"The challenge of sustainability affects media across the world. Media in the Global North face a business crisis due to the shift of audiences to online media, which has meant that money has moved to the digital platform giants. Media in Africa and other parts of the Global South have faced a sustainability crisis for longer, and due to different reasons. However, both forms of the crisis have a similar impact on information quality and flows"
UNESCO - LARRY KILMAN
"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.
This publication showcases some of these inspiring and educational micro-stories:
- success in cross-border collaboration for investigative journalism;
- revenue-earning fact-checking services that combat disinformation;
- new business models that leverage audience and advertiser needs;
- entrepreneurial education for the next generation of journalists; and much more.
The SDG16 Data Initiative is a consortium dedicated to the implementation and open tracking of progress towards the SDG 16 targets, using non-official data. It aims to evaluate global progress towards realizing the 2030 Agenda. It is intended to provide governments, UN officials, and civil society stakeholders with a resource to help understand progress on SDG16 targets and an evidence base for them to identify gaps and shortcomings in both implementing and monitoring SDG16.
Chapter 4 of the report is dedicated to Assessing progress on delivering public access to information and protecting fundamental freedoms. It "looks at the various methodologies developed by UNESCO and civil society experts to assess national progress on SDG Indicators 16.10.1 and 16.10.2, highlighting their strengths and weaknesses and showcasing their findings." This section was written with special support from the GFMD.
Center for International Media Assistance - NICHOLAS BENEQUISTA
"With independent media around the world in crisis, what is the role of international donors and private foundations? And how can these international actors provide effective support when the driving forces behind independent media ’s decline—simultaneously technological, financial, social, political, and institutional—are so complex and difficult to disentangle?
This report argues that complexity is no excuse for inaction. Solutions to this crisis will require that political agency rise to the daunting level of the challenge, and that the structures of international cooperation—forged as the global response to World War II—are now put into motion to safeguard the foundations of independent media. Based on input from media actors, freedom of expression activists, implementers, and donors, the report puts forward three interrelated objectives that, if achieved, would help to international cooperation in the media sector."
Forum on Information & Democracy
"This report has been produced by the Working Group on the Sustainability of Journalism of the Forum on Information and Democracy, in response to a worsening international crisis facing the economic viability of independent professional journalism everywhere.
The report calls for immediate and sustained action from, and collaboration between, governments and other influential actors to improve the policy, funding, and enabling environment for independent professional journalism – a New Deal for Journalism amounting to up to 0.1% of GDP annually in direct and indirect funding worldwide. The measures we outline in this report are evidence-based and can already point to broad support in many countries around the world.
The gravity of the crisis facing journalism is severe, but, if policymakers and decision-makers can find the political will and imagination to take these choices now, and to build on them over the next decade, we believe this has the potential to be an inflection point for the sustainability of journalism, and for the health of open societies everywhere."
"The Media Sustainability Essentials guide was developed to help media managers identify and choose the most relevant business models and practices that fit with their missions and operating conditions. It provides a common language around core concepts of media business functions and provides leads to further resources. It offers practical, straightforward guidance on growing audiences and diversifying revenue sources."
PRIMED Learning brief_MediaViability_GFMD.pdf
"This learning brief aims to summarise the main strategies and approaches embraced by media development actors seeking to tackle the challenges associated with media viability." Although it was written in 2020 during PRIMED's co-creation phase, it was edited and published in 2022.
The Media Pluralism Monitor (MPM) is a tool developed to "assess the risks for media pluralism in a given country." The tool has been implemented 21, 2017, 2016, and tested under two pilot-projects co-founded by the European Union in 2014 and 2015.
"This literature review aims to trace the social construct of sustainability in the context of media development and define what is to be sustained, at the level of the intervention (the process of change) or its outcome (the impact on the medium itself ). It is intended for all those who are concerned, closely or remotely, with ‘media action’ – and this expression is used here to mean any intervention (inside or outside a given media system) that promotes either communication for social change (the use of media for development purposes) or media development (the targeted development of independent outlets)."
This report presents a "critical analysis of the trends in media freedom, pluralism, independence and the safety of journalists." As well as focusing on gender equality, it also addresses media viability, as it claims that "without urgent action by governments, civil society, and private companies, trustworthy journalism will remain under threat, and information as a public good severely undernourished." It recommends state subsidies to trustworthy news outlets, greater state support for public service media, more media development assistance, as well as a redoubling of philanthropic investments.
The Inflection Point International study was conducted by SembraMedia in collaboration with Luminate and CIMA with the purpose of studying the “impact, innovation, threats and sustainability of digital media entrepreneurs in Latin America, Southwest Asia and Africa.” Through 201 interviews with media leaders, the following are some of the key recommendations made:
- Training in business management and finances is sometimes more needed than financial aid.
- Teams including people with experience in business, sales, accounting and technology in addition to journalists and editors are necessary for up-and-coming media sites.
- Diversifying revenue sources is important, but most digital native news organizations can effectively manage only one or two new projects at a time.
- It is important to reduce dependence on grants.
- It is important for founders to support consultancy and business planning.
- There is an imminent need for better digital protection, as journalists have often faced threats and violence stemming from their presence online.
"Governments have historically played a major role in the media, financing, managing or regulating media outlets. With radio and television broadcasting rising to prominence in the 20th century, the role of the government in the media further increased."
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.
This report does not purport to offer the solution to media sustainability in South Africa. It does, however, present a series of policy options to promote media sustainability drawn from local, regional, and international comparative practices and examples for further deliberation and debate. Notably, this report complements a variety of recent and ongoing media sustainability initiatives and offers the reader a high-level overview of options that may be tailored for SouthAfrica’s unique media landscape. Specifically, this report presents eight media sustainability strategies and over fifteen direct policy considerations.
Many news publishers are still realising how the COVID-19 crisis "will impact their business, journalism and future." In response, this report covers everything from publishers surveys, reader revenues, audience and traffic trends, and technology trends, among others, from the 2020-2021 period.
This report explains the 30 findings of a mapping on how media has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. It considers the input and comments of more than 1,400 English-speaking journalists from 125 countries. "At a time when the public needs to rely on credible independent journalism to stay safe and informed, journalists and news organizations are grappling with a mental health crisis, financial peril, physical safety threats, and press freedom attacks, while simultaneously battling pandemic levels of disinformation."
"At a time when digital journalism organisations operating in fragile contexts need urgent answers to the question of revenues, action research is presented for discussion and application to connect theory and practice for journalism revenue model innovation and within the under-researched sector of fragile media."
"Now, more than ever, a clear understanding is needed of how news media outlets can stay – or become – viable. Which aspects should be considered when trying not only to survive financially as a media outlet but to produce quality content and attract enough income to run a successful business? What political frameworks need to be in place to foster a vibrant media landscape? To answer these questions, DW Akademie has developed a new set of indicators."
"This document describes how the OECD DAC Network on Development Evaluation (EvalNet) revisited the definitions and use of the OECD DAC evaluation criteria in 2018-2019."
"The goal of the Review has not been to protect news publishing companies themselves, but to advocate measures that will ensure the market in which they operate is efficient, and to defend their most democratically significant outputs." Because of this, two themes are highlighted: the market in which publishers work is experiencing rapid growth of big online platforms, and how society can continue to support the monitoring and reporting of activities of public bodies not only in central government, but also in localities.
"The Media Sustainability Barometer (MSB) is underpinned by data on 264 countries and terrestrial regions drawn from a range of global databases including the World Bank, Transparency International, OECD etc. as well as data from an expert panel."
The purpose of this paper "is to illuminate and guide thinking a set of outstanding challenges in media support. It is focused less on why media is important as a source of domestic accountability and more on when it is appropriate to support media, how can support be most effective and what achievements can be expected through such support."
The MDIs highlight indicators on media development based on a mapping of the main existing initiatives to define them. They were endorsed in 2008 by UNESCO, and have thus served as a resource for several organizations including the Council of Europe, the Doha Centre for Media Freedom and the World Bank, among others.
This report is based off a meeting of experts who gathered in Beirut (September 2019) to discuss perspectives for media development in the MENA region.
The group identified four paramount challenges that could provide the basis for greater cross-border collaboration in support of independent media in the region
- Fighting media capture through transparency, public pressure, and public education
- Promoting economic sustainability for independent media under threat
- Establishing self-regulation: capacity building and ethical norms
- Building stronger solidarity against repression and for reform
"This detailed study provides an overview of the entities that are active in the fight against information disorder in the MENA region, and the methods and responses they use. It also discusses and analyzes legal and human rights issues and the context of freedom of opinion and expression in which they operate."
This study "sheds light on a number of topics that revolve around podcasts: founders of podcast initiatives, the type of journalism presented, the audience of Arab podcasts, business models (funding) adopted in the initiatives, issues covered, success stories, challenges they face, and recognition of the extent of interest in podcasts, in media faculties in the Arab world as a new form of digital media."
This report presents and analyses consultations on media viability in Brazil, El Salvador, Indonesia, Jamaica, Lebanon, Namibia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Senegal, and Tunisia.
This technical report aims to assess how the pandemic and its side effects are reshaping the news media environment in the European Union in the context of
- a deep, pre-existing crisis of the traditional news media business model
- an ongoing search for responses to the challenges of digitalisation
- a tradition of public intervention in news media regulation and financial support
Following a summary of the relevant literature on COVID-19 and the media industry, the report evaluates the impact of the first wave of the pandemic on the news media economy in Europe.
The report uses the methodology of the Media Pluralism Monitor (MPM), a tool developed by the Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom (CMPF).
This paper concludes that investing in safety and security measures not only saves lives but also strengthens the business models of media outlets.
Media managers and editors such as Maria Ressa of Rappler (Philippines), Jade Ramírez from Periodistas de a Pie (Mexico), Roula Mikhael from the Maharat Foundation (Lebanon) and Jean-Baptiste Sawadogo from the Community Radio Radio Vénégré (Burkina Faso) share how investing in safety and security measures not only saves lives but also strengthens the business models of media outlets.
They see clear links between media viability aspects such as quality journalism, audience engagement, collaborations, and capacity building on the one hand and physical, psychological and digital security as well as secure working conditions on the other.
To put their experiences into a wider context, the publication also contains articles from the ACOS Alliance, IWMF and digital security expert Daniel Moßbrucker.
Global Investigative Journalism Network - LARS TALLERT
"This report gives an accurate and comprehensive picture of the financial situation of our Members in 2019 and 2020."
"This paper explores the opportunities and challenges innovative media face in the regions where IMS works, as well as the link between innovation and media viability." The paper also defines "media innovation" as finding new ways through which media can be disseminated and produced. As such, while technological innovation is included, "media innovation" as a whole is not limited to it.
This paper argues that "what is needed is a broader view of Media Viability, one that looks beyond money." It establishes five dimensions (economics, politics, content, technology, and the community) and three levels (media organizations, networks, overall framework) from which it examines media viability.
"Independent journalism, the kind that puts public interests above the interests of media owners or political masters, is now on the wane, ending a historic two-decade expansion."
- 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 report responds to extensive surveys and retrieved data on market trends and the impact of media assistance. It analyses the case studies of Egypt, Georgia, Guatemala, Mozambique, and Vietnam, "to indicate how trends may vary in diverse regions."
"This report presents findings and recommendations from an assessment of the media sector in Bangladesh, with the objective to provide USAID/Bangladesh with a comprehensive, overarching picture of the media sector and identify opportunities for potential USAID investments."
"This Media Landscape Guide provides a snapshot of the media in Pakistan, including the audiences, the producers, the preferences of different groups in the community, the communications culture, and the languages associated with the media. It gives an insight into the role of media in development work, crisis preparedness, recent disasters, and the (at time of writing) ongoing COVID-19 response. The guide also gives an overview of each media sector including, digital and social media, radio, television, print and other traditional forms of mass communication."
"The problem of this study consists of determining the strengths and weaknesses of media startups and the environment in which they operate."
This report presents how after the events that have impacted Lebanon since August 2020, donors and implementors have considered and sought new ways to support the media sector. There have been new calls for proposals that have responded to the implementors' concerns of having demand-led programmes. However, this report presents an overview of the funding landscape in Lebanon, reviews of recent calls for proposals, and conclusions, geared towards how donors can support implementers better.
"As part of the Kingdom of Netherland-funded Advancing Diverse Voices in Lebanon, Internews and Maharat Foundation conducted a Media and Information Landscape Assessment (MILA) to explore the media habits and preferences of women and youth in underserved areas and capture the role of new media outlets in the country." Read the full summary here, and the full report here
In the first study of its kind, DW Akademie applied its Media Viability Indicators (MVIs) in Lebanon. "Media Viability in Lebanon" assesses the financial sustainability as well as the quality of journalistic content and production in Lebanon.
This GFMD report on journalism sustainability and support in Lebanon encompasses reflections on how to build the following to reach journalism sustainability: project design, fitting donor support into a business plan, and embedding a sustainability component in each project. Furthermore, it considers the legal context, networks of knowledge-sharing, and the external environmental aspects in Lebanon that affect sustainability.
This study is jointly implemented by the Arab Resource Center for Popular Arts (ARCPA/ Al‐JANA), Maharat Foundation, and DW Akademie. It aims at giving an overview of media platforms/ citizen media platforms in Lebanon producing quality public interest journalism in print, radio, television, or digital formats. It encompasses profiling information about various existing alternative media platforms and provides information on user interaction, including information on which media/ citizen media people are using and why, how are people using the media platforms, and what people’s information needs are. Concurrently, the study works to identify alternative media platform pressing needs and challenges faced.
This report "provides indications of the media habits of the population of Myanmar as well as people's understanding of news and information flows." Some of the findings that the report showcases are that there is a "widespread preference towards local media" because it is perceived as presenting more relevant information, as well as television being the preferred medium for news consumption although social media is quickly catching up.
"The Media Landscape Guide for Ukraine was researched and written just before the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This text is a snapshot of the media landscape in Ukraine as it was up to January 2022. While, of course, the media environment is changing rapidly, the information contained herein may still be useful as a snapshot of the landscape as it was, and for background and contact information."
This report examines the following areas in the Hungarian media landscape in order to produce a series of recommendations as to improve media viability and independence in Hungary:
- Pluralism and takeovers of independent media,
- State control over public advertising,
- Media regulation,
- Competition regulation and media concentration,
- Public service media,
- "False news" legislation during pandemic,
- Access to information,
- Delegitimization of journalists and online harassment,
- Pegasus and the surveillance of journalists,
- Investments in media abroad
"Ukraine has a relatively young media market. Audience members have yet to develop the habit of contributing financially to digital news organizations. But the coronavirus pandemic has given fresh urgency to the need for newsrooms in the country to find alternative sources of revenue, and shone a light on the value of a two-way relationship with loyal readers."
"Most of Scandinavia scores relatively highly compared to the industry average (at about 10%), but Norway is just off the scale at (42%). This is strange because the Nordic countries are usually very similar, and most other studies there rarely differ more than a few percentage points."
"This Media Landscape Guide provides a snapshot of the media in Morocco, including the audiences, the producers, the preferences of different groups in the community, the communications culture, and the languages associated with the media. It gives an insight into the role of media in development work, crisis preparedness, recent disasters, and the (at time of writing) ongoing COVID-19 response. The guide also gives an overview of each media sector including, digital and social media, radio, television, print and other traditional forms of mass communication."
"This Media Landscape Guide provides a snapshot of the media in Burkina Faso, including the audiences, the producers, the preferences of different groups in the community, the communications culture, and the languages associated with the media. It gives an insight into the role of media in development work, crisis preparedness, recent disasters, and the (at time of writing) ongoing COVID-19 response. The guide also gives an overview of each media sector including, digital and social media, radio, television, print and other traditional forms of mass communication."
"This Media Landscape Guide provides a snapshot of the media in Malawi, including the audiences, the producers, the preferences of different groups in the community, the communications culture, and the languages associated with the media. It gives an insight into the role of media in development work, crisis preparedness, recent disasters, and the (at time of writing) ongoing COVID-19 response. The guide also gives an overview of each media sector including, digital and social media, radio, television, print and other traditional forms of mass communication."
CIMA - MARY MYERS, NICOLA HARFORD & MARTIN SSEMAKULA
This research focuses on how eight small, independent radio stations in Uganda and Zambia were coping with the pandemic.
"This Media Landscape Guide provides a snapshot of the media in Colombia, including the audiences, the producers, the preferences of different groups in the community, the communications culture, and the languages associated with the media. It gives an insight into the role of media in development work, crisis preparedness, recent disasters, and the (at time of writing) ongoing COVID-19 response. The guide also gives an overview of each media sector including, digital and social media, radio, television, print and other traditional forms of mass communication."
Changes and transformations in the production models, sources of income, and products of Latin American media.
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.
Hussman School of Journalism and Media - PENELOPE MUSE ABERNATHY
"We can measure the loss of local news in recent years in two ways: the loss of newspapers and the loss of journalists. In the 15 years leading up to 2020, more than one-fourth of the country’s newspapers disappeared, leaving residents in thousands of communities – inner-city neighborhoods, suburban towns and rural villages – living in vast news deserts. Simultaneously, half of all local journalists disappeared, as round after round of layoffs have left many surviving papers – the gutsy dailies and weeklies that had won accolades and Pulitzer Prizes for their reporting – mere “ghosts,” or shells of their former selves. Compounding the problem, there has been a lack of capital and funding available to support a variety of for-profit, nonprofit and publicly funded news organizations attempting to thwart the rise of news deserts."
"Dozens of plans to help save journalism have emerged since the Covid-19 pandemic decimated media outlets around the world. This report summarizes some of the trends we’ve seen and evaluates where they currently stand. Most promising are Australia’s efforts to get Google and Facebook to pay for news and efforts in the U.S. to get laws and investment that would support local news."
- 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)