Media houses look for creative ways to stay afloat (DW Akademie)
“Do not bet when you are distressed or depressed” and “Do not bet using borrowed money” are two of the gambling tips featured on a sports betting site launched this spring in Kenya.
What’s unusual is that the site is run by a leading Kenyan media company, Royal Media Services. Revenue from the sports betting site pays for quality journalism content at the company’s TV and radio stations.
Royal Media’s move into the billion-dollar sports betting arena is an attempt to stave off its financial troubles. Like many broadcasters around the world, Royal Media had to lay off staff last year.
In the digital age, business models supporting traditional media are often no longer sustainable. Facing falling advertising revenues and the constraints of donor funding, media organizations are seeking creative ways to remain viable.
Media leaders from around the world explored these challenges at the Global Media Forum held from June 19 to 21, 2017, in Bonn, Germany.
Nigel Mugamu, the founder of the Zimbabwean media initiative 263Chat, shared good practices for dealing with funders.
Launched in 2012, 263Chat originally used Twitter to hold a weekly discussion on political, social, and cultural issues affecting Zimbabweans. Due to its popularity, 263Chat expanded to produce its own news content. The initiative now generates revenue from sources such as advertising and sponsored content, and also offers social media trainings.
“The key is to know exactly what you want to do and find funders who are ready to support your ideas, instead of the other way round, and doing only what the funders want,” Mr. Mugamu cautioned.
Mr. Mugamu cautioned that media-related startups should make sure they maintain their independence when seeking funding to avoid funders seeking to influence content, or the startup being perceived as a donor’s mouthpiece. He added that 263Chat receives no donor funding.
Rohit Singh is director of Gram Vaani (Voice of the Village), a community media initiative in India. His initiative is a citizen radio-over-the-phone platform that aims to improve public communication outside of the cities, helping those with poor literacy and low incomes to discuss common interests and easily share information.
“The challenge… is designing content relevant for our users, while also remaining relevant for our business partners to fund that content,” Mr. Singh said.
Although Gram Vaani is donor-financed, advertisers are becoming interested because it is one of a few media outlets catering to this particular audience, Mr. Singh said.
A fundamental question raised during the workshop was the extent to which media content should be treated as a product and media companies as business entities.
“This is walking the tightrope, but it is pretty clear that [the] media are a business,” said Ann Hollifield, professor of media research at the University of Georgia in the United States. “And although we have to be careful about adopting practices businesses use, we should at least look at them and think about them.”
Photo: 104.1 Kings FM in Njombe, Tanzania. Photo credit: IDRC / Bartay