A new study, based on interviews with dozens of media entrepreneurs across Latin America, reveals how online news sites are sustaining themselves financially in this region, findings that could help other digital news outlets around the world refine their business models.
SembraMedia, a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting Latin American digital journalism (founded and run by ICFJ Knight Fellow Janine Warner), published the study on July 20, compiling their findings after surveying 100 independent news sites in Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico. The study was done in partnership with the Omidyar Network.
The report found that the online news startups most likely to become sustainable and profitable are those that combined multiple ways to bring in revenue, mixing advertising with crowdfunding, training, event planning and so on. Meanwhile, those dependent on just two or three sources of income are either struggling or stagnant.
“We found two paths to growing revenue: building audience to drive traffic and advertising or leveraging the loyalty of your audience to earn revenue with crowdfunding, training, events, and other sources,” the SembraMedia report stated, adding, “These paths are not mutually exclusive.” (Read more...)
Digital media entrepreneurs are serving an increasingly important role in Latin America. Since the first venture in this study was launched in 1998, hundreds of digital natives have appeared in the region and grown to serve millions of readers.
This study is the first comprehensive examination of the impact these entrepreneurs are having, the risks they face, and whether a viable business model has emerged for quality, independent, digital journalism. To conduct this research, SembraMedia, with the support of Omidyar Network, commissioned a team to study 100 digital news startups, 25 each in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico.
Many of the researchers were entrepreneurial journalists themselves, and they brought personal connections and a deep understanding of the media in their countries. In 2-hour interviews with founders or directors, they asked more than 130 questions about management and innovation, challenges and opportunities, audience size and engagement, income and expenses. (Read more…)
Disrupting the status quo — often at great risk
Increasing numbers of women in Latin America are starting digital media businesses. And they’re producing some of the region’s best journalism.
Authors of a new study of the impact of digital media startups in Latin America were shocked by their own finding: women are involved in starting 62% of the 100 sites surveyed in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico (though only 38% of total founders were women). The study was backed by Omidyar Network.
The researchers from SembraMedia, a Los Angeles-based media resource non-profit, went back to their full database of 600 digital-native media companies across the Spanish-speaking world: 40% of all founders were women.
“The significance of this is hard to overstate,” they write, given the dismal numbers of women owners in traditional media. In Mexico, for example, only 1% of TV station owners and zero newspaper owners are women, according to a 2014 study.
Women are taking advantage of the low barriers to entry for digital media startups (more than 70% were founded with $10,000 or less) “to go around the glass ceilings of traditional media,” says SembraMedia. Their publications are more collaborative and “producing some of the more important coverage of underserved communities.” (Read more…)
SembraMedia, a nonprofit that supports entrepreneurial journalists, in partnership with Omidyar Network published Inflection Point, the most comprehensive study to date on the growth, impact, and threats to independent digital media in Latin America.
The research report, which studied 100 digital media outlets across Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico, reveals that these organizations are increasingly influential in covering issues that promote better governance and fight corruption but face escalating pressure and threats that could force them to self-censor or terminate operations.
Many of the platforms – run by dedicated journalists seeking greater freedom to cover the critical issues facing countries across the region – are accessing new audiences and building impactful, profitable, and sustainable businesses. More than 70% of the ventures in this study started with less than $10,000, with 12% now bringing in at least half a million dollars a year in revenue. 66% of these outlets have had their stories picked up by international press and 55% have won leading journalism or humanitarian awards.
However, in many cases, this independence and success is coming at a high price. Economic and physical attacks are hindering these media platforms’ ability to operate and are pushing them towards self-censorship. 45% of the organizations questioned have been subject to violence or threats as a result of their reporting, while 20% have changed the topics on which they report as a result. (Read more…)
In Latin America, a digital community of media startups hopes to make entrepreneurship easier
Entrepreneurs tend to take for granted how easy it is to start media companies in the U.S. The abundance of capital and potential ad revenue and lack of governmental censorship make it relatively simple for anyone with an idea to get something started. (Whether they’ll be able to sustain it is another question entirely.)
Other countries aren’t so lucky. Take Venezuela, where years of inflation have tripled food prices and brought economic growth to a standstill. That’s made daily life hard not just for Venezuelan citizens, but also for the country’s media entrepreneurs, who have struggled to find the funds they need to get started and stay afloat.
Media entrepreneurs in other South American countries face similar challenges, and they lack a central place to share ideas on how to solve them. SembraMedia hopes to fill that gap.
The site, whose name is a play on “to sow” in Spanish, is trying to build both a directory and digital community of media startups in Latin America. The hope is that by bringing them together, SembraMedia can help founders turn ideas into reality, and startups into sustainable businesses. (Leer mas)
New digital native media outlets are proliferating throughout Latin America. They have been created by journalists who have become entrepreneurs, driven by necessity—oppression from governments, a crisis in traditional media, different types of censorship—or because they felt the drive to innovate online.
Some of these entrepreneurial journalists from the region came together during the second panel of the 9th Ibero-American Colloquium on Digital Journalism organized by the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas. Nearly 100 journalists from the region attended the event.
Eight of the featured initiatives are part of the new non-profit organization SembraMedia, which seeks to create a community of digital journalists from Latin America and Spain that will support them in their process of becoming sustainable.
Janine Warner, its founder and executive director, began by expressing her delight in presenting the project in the same place “where it was born,” making reference to the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) “Development of Journalistic Projects for the Web: an Introduction to Entrepreneurial Journalism,” offered by the Knight Center in 2013 and taught by Warner.
Warner remembered how she “stole” the phrase “just do it” during the MOOC to push several of the journalists in attendance at the Colloquium to execute their ideas. Many of these projects make up SembraMedia today, which was founded in October 2015 and now has 200 affiliated media outlets in its directory, she explained.
Although there are several ideas and projects to be carried out by SembraMedia, she highlighted that the topic of sustainability is one of the most important ones—taking into consideration that this is one of the most common concerns among entrepreneurs.
The first successful case study was that of Chequeado from Argentina, which Warner said was one of the “best in the world.” (Read More…)
View video of the presentations from the media startups session at the ISOJ conference on SembraMedia’s site: https://sembramedia.org/curso/coloquio/
For years, Janine Warner has traveled Latin America, teaching as a guest professor at universities, speaking at conferences and meeting entrepreneurial journalists along the way. She wanted to find a way to connect all these people.
So, in October 2015, Warner launched SembraMedia, a new nonprofit organization and online portal that aims to create a community of digital journalists in Latin America and Spain, providing a place where they can share information, strategies and resources.
“The real vision behind this is about helping digital media companies become more sustainable,” said Warner, a journalist and consultant from the United States. (Read more)