Media Viability Workshop (Feb. 2022)

The Building Viability: Strategies and approaches for media organisations two-day workshop, held from February 1-2, 2022, was convened by the Media Development Investment Fund.

The password to access this recording is: workshop#1

What have we learned from PRIMED?

In this first session of the Workshop, Peter Whitehead, Director of Communications, and Behailu Shiferaw, Programme Manager for Ethiopia at the Media Development Investment Fund (MDIF), began by welcoming participants and introducing the agenda for the workshop.

Building media businesses in Ethiopia

Wazema Radio, Ethiopia: Organisational resilience

Argaw Ashine is the Managing Editor and Founder of Wazema Radio, an online independent media site established in 2015. He highlighted the following points in his presentation:

  • Wazema Radio was established for the Ethiopian diaspora- it is an exiled media organisation due to the uncertain political situation in Ethiopia.

  • So far, Wazema has developed a management structure, as well as a launched a journalism development programme, among others.

  • Wazema currently has 12 new formats in progress, and reviewed its mission and vision.

  • Wazema determines story treatments and media formats using the "Update me, Educate me, Give me perspective" system.

  • Wazema Radio would like MDIF's help to move from being an exiled media organisation, to being established in Ethiopia, and to develop Wazema's impact and visibility.

Argaw Ashine's full presentation is available below. The presentation video is available here, from minutes 5-20. The password to access this recording is: workshop#1

Addis Zeybe online platform, Ethiopia: Monetisation of credible content

Abel Wabella, Managing Director of Addis Zeybe, presented the 'Monetisation of credible content' panel. Addis Zeybe is a digital news outlet that focuses on urbanization and professionalism. It publishes content from Ethiopia, and beyond, daily. After a printed newspaper became unsustainable, the business model was shifted to a digital-only platform. Wabella made the following points:

  • PRIMED has improved the situation in Ethiopia by encouraging audience, digital, and revenue development, as well as improving organisational management.

  • Addis Zeybe currently faces a number of challenges: ranging from a lack of organizational structures that support the content generation cycle to an unstable political situation, a lack of available skilled staff, and a lack of revenue-generating streams besides grants.

  • MDIF has helped Addis Zeybe through scripting grant applications, consulting the managing director, editors, and social media manager on the general organization's operation, and capacity-building of the newsroom, among others.

  • Addis Zeybe has been able to monetize their YouTube channel while generating 1.2 million views, 256.8 watched hours, and gaining 21,100 subscribers, as well as earning $4,000 in revenue.

  • Addis Zeybe currently uses HaqCheck as a fact-checking mechanism.

  • Addis Zeybe is working on producing high-quality content to attract advertising, organizing live events to generate income, and considering revenue-diversifying options.

Abel Wella's full PowerPoint presentation is available below. His video presentation is available here from minutes 24- 40. The password to access this recording is: workshop#1

Addis Maleda newspaper, Ethiopia: Diversifying audiences

Michael Girma, Business Development Manager at Addis Maleda, presented the 'Diversifying Audiences' panel. Addis Maleda is an Amharic-language newspaper that focuses on news and analyses of socio-economic and political affairs published weekly on Saturdays by CHAMPiON Communications. It is distributed widely across Addis Ababa and to different degrees across the country. Its digital platforms on its website, and on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Telegram are dedicated towards developing new media implementation mechanisms. They have recently garnered support from BBC Media Action and the MDIF through PRIMED project. Girma made the following important points:

  • BBC Media Action has supported Addis Maleda in their Afaan Oroomo and Af Soomaali translation efforts, as well as through technical and editorial support.

  • The MDIF has supported Addis Maleda through the strengthening of organizational capacities and digital engagement in the areas of audience, digital, and revenue development. Additionally, the MDIF has supported the company by bringing core editorial and sales staff into the team.

  • Being a trilingual news organisation poses challenges going from a lack of marketing personnel that speak Afaan Oroomo and Af Soomaali, to concerns for independence when working with government bureaus and circulation limitations.

  • Addis Maleda is seeking to expand ad create original content in two languages rather than translating from Amharic. They're also seeking to employ journalists from other regions, and ensure financial stability to ensure viability.

  • There has been an increase of 181% on website views, going from a monthly average of 16,600 views per month during the first quarter of 2021, to 46,600 views in the fourth quarter.

  • An estimated 2.38 million people were reached though Facebook in the fourth quarter of 2021 with 301 posts.

  • Being a digital platform has drawbacks like others using content without being authorized, and the three languages being unsupported by Facebook and Google Ad-Sense.

  • Next steps for Addis Maleda include increasing revenue streams and engagement and producing audio and audiovisual content.

Michael Girma's full PowerPoint presentation is available below. The video presentation is available here from timestamps 44:00 to 1:04:52. The password to access this recording is: workshop#1

ARTS TV, Ethiopia: Restructuring the marketing and sales department

Dula Tessema, CEO of ARTS TV presented his panel alongside Genet Tadesse, Marketing Director. ARTS TV is a television channel that includes programming on entertainment and news based in Addis Ababa. It was launched in 2018 with the purpose of having a politically neutral television station with an Africa-centric perspective. The following important points were made:

  • The organizational structure of ARTS TV has been was updated on Jan. 29, 2022, and is made up primarily by the CEO, and the departments of administration and finance, sales and marketing, program manager, the news editor-in-chief, and the CTO and COO.

  • ARTS TV is a program-heavy organisation.

  • The sales and marketing department has been updated recently. Some of the new structural additions are a marketing manager, a sales and research support employee, and a social media manager.

  • The most recent investment of ARTS TV has been their presence on social media. They have not hired a social media manager yet, but are planning to do so in the near future.

Dula Tessema and Genet Tadesse's full PowerPoint presentation is available below. The video presentation is available here from timestamp 1:06:40 to 1:21:21. The password to access this recording is: workshop#1

Bangladesh: Viability through digital transformation

Gramer Kagoj newspaper, Bangladesh: Transition into digital news

Media Landscape in Bangladesh

Araf Siddique, Media Training Officer at BBC Media Action described the media industry situation in Bangladesh as booming, with a diverse group of television and radio programmes and shows. The market has been traditionally dominated by television and newspapers, and media activity has been concentrated on the capital. However, coverage in rural areas is patchy. Additionally, the revenue base to sustain daily publications is inadequate, and many are unprofitable or turn to government advertising. As such, many newspapers are owned or aligned with politicians. This makes self-censorship common.

New technology has made information-sharing easier, and now most of the population owns a cellphone. Facebook is massively popular, and cable has made international TV channels accessible.

Activities in Bangladesh

The Gramer Kagoj (The Village Paper), was launched in 1999 in Jessore, but also circulates in rural areas. 42,000 copies circulate daily, and sells more copies that the next 10 Jessore newspapers put together. It is the only local news paper not aligned with a politician or political party. Recently, the pandemic reduced the advertising income and sales have fallen, which prompted the shortening of the paper from eight pages to four.

The pandemic and the changes in audience behaviour because of the rise of the internet compromise a threat to the sustainability of the newspaper. As such, the Gramer Kagoj launched a website where it publishes more than 100 stories daily, and includes an e-paper tool. The Kagoj has also started producing video news summaries, and a Facebook page.

The Gramer Kagoj is an effective approach to the transition into digital news. There has been incredibly good engagement in the new platforms, but there are still areas for improvement, going from television skills, technology, a more effective organizational structure that considers sustainability, and becoming more acquainted with their online audience. As such, PRIMED and BBC Media Action has been helping Gramer Kagoj to enhance their television skills, reporting and editing, as well as introducing new sustainable systems and methods, among others. Three conditions for success were also shared: momentum, continuity, and a champion.

Perspective from Gramer Kagoj Editor

Finally, Mobinul Islam, the Editor of the Gramer Kagoj highlighted how BBC Media Action has been helping through upgrading the skills of staff on digital creation and production, as well as supporting them in getting now sources of income and the creation of a new branding.

The full PowerPoint presentation is available below and the recording is available here from timestamp 1:36:00 to 1:56:29. The password to access this recording is: workshop#1

Sierra Leone, BBC Media Action, Improving programming as a pathway to media viability

BBC Media Action, led by Maha Taki, presented their partnership programmes in Sierra Leone. Isac Sessay, Programme manager at BBC Media Action, began the intervention by explaining that BBC Media Action is currently working with Classic Radio, Voice of Kono and the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation, among others. Their main focus at the moment is improving programming by building on previous structures and already existent technical skills to create inclusive, engaging and interactive programming, as well as improving the inclusivity and relevance of audiences by promoting the understanding of their needs. One of the ultimate goals is to increase the representation of women and adapting content accordingly.

Further on, BBC Media Action has increased mentoring and training, especially in the areas of script development and writing, presentation and production skills, recording and editing, practices in gender-inclusive media and public interest programming, among others. Abir Awad, Projects Director then continued by stressing that the work of the BBC Media Action in Sierra Leone at the moment serves the people, in order to encourage more investment.

The full PowerPoint presentation is available below. The full video recording is available here, from timestamp 2:19:57 to 2:40:00. The password to access this recording is: workshop#1

The password to access this recording is: workshop#2

Beyond PRIMED: What other lessons can we learn?

Patricia Torres-Burd, Managing Director at the Media Advisory Services (MAS) department, from the Media Development Investment Fund began Day 2 of the Media Viability Workshop by introducing her area of work. The Media Advisory Services works as an in-house agency within MDIF, supporting projects through technical support. Torres-Burd highlighted the following important points:

  • MAS works specifically in audience development, technology, management and operations, financial management, and corporate governance, among others.

  • MAS stresses the importance of revenue business development, as it is extremely challenging in many parts of the world. Corporate governance is also highlighted.

  • The resilience of the projects MAS works with is highlighted as crucial to make "the magic happen."

  • Collapsing revenues have continued, making digitalization crucial.

  • Management and HR have been dealing with the stress of trying to keep their media organisation afloat in light of these collapsing revenues.

  • A lack of understanding of media organisation's audiences has been identified as prevalent. Thus, research is crucial in order to best serve the audience needs.

  • Audience-specific content is very important.

  • Many media organisations have been adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic using audience understanding and tools such as Google Analytics, Facebook Audience Insights and surveys, among others.

  • The Membership Puzzle Project has a membership guide and handbook information that is accessible to all media organisations who might be interested.

  • Market research and analysis is important, but it is challenging because media organisations might be affected by the political, social and economic situation of their countries.

  • A map for media organisations was also presented with the following core pillars: business opportunities, new audiences, data and audience metrics, and long-term relationships.

"I was very moved by not only the openness by all parties, the coaches and the projects that we're working with, but also all the projects that we're working with. Because the media organisations in Ethiopia, Sierra Leone and Bangladesh are doing the heavy lifting."

The full PowerPoint presentation is available below. The presentation recording is available here from timestamp 00:01:00 to 00:36:35. The password to access this recording is: workshop#2

Patricia Torres-Burd also led a Question and answer session. The English version is available here. The Spanish version is available here.

Lessons from Myanmar: Public Service Announcements and other ways to support media viability

Tessa Piper, MDIF's Programme Director for Southeast Asia, joined the conversation and made the following relevant points:

  • MDIF works in the region through the Myanmar Media Programme and the Southeast Asia Technical Assistance Initiative. Through these programmes, the MDIF works with 20 mostly news-based organisations. Limited support is also provided for 20 smaller media organisations.

  • COVID-19 halted advertising opportunities that media organisations depended on.

  • In Myanmar, a military coup also halted media companies. However, almost all partners have continued to operate both from the ground and from exile.

  • The Myanmar PSA initiative began as a response to the hardships that emerged from 2020 onwards. It provided the public with reliable information about COVID-19, and media organisations with provisional revenue. PSAs were published in a variety of formats, from cartoons, pamphlets, and even songs.

  • PSAs had not been explored much prior to the Myanmar PSA initiative.

The full PowerPoint presentation is available below. The presentation recording is available here from timestamp 01:38:44 to 01:58:20. The password to access this recording is: workshop#2

Case study: Building Audiences in Tanzania

Maha Taki from BBC Media Action, as well as Halima Kassim, Senior Mentor for Tanzania, Anna Bwana, Country Director for Ethiopia, and Pandael Omari, Partnerships Development Manager, took the stand to explain their work in Tanzania.

BBC has been working in Tanzania for 10 years, with an office established in 2012. It has supported over 50 media partners.

The full PowerPoint presentation is available below. The presentation recording is available here, from timestamp 02:08:03 to 02:33:18. The password to access this recording is: workshop#2

Gender and viability: Business coaching case study from Central America

Larissa Buschmann, Programme Coordinator for Gender and Media, and Paloma Lainz, Project Officer at Free Press Unlimited (FPU) presented their 'Gender and viability: Business coaching case study from Central America'.They made the following important points:

  • There are three business coaching processes: environmental, organisational, and team.

  • The Case Study includes: the incident, the development of a gender and inclusion policy, and protection in the form of its implementation.

  • Transparency is a key aspect of the development of a gender-equal policy.

  • Participatory processes make the development of gender-inclusive policies more successful.

  • A Gender and Inclusion Policy has the following key characteristics: Analysis, legal environment, issues, gender and inclusion committee, and car roles and processes.

  • The ideal Gender and Inclusion Committee has the following characteristics: participants (director, external advisor, representative of staff), a structure, a monthly meeting, and the allocation of 2% of the annual budget of the media outlet to the Committee.

The full PowerPoint presentation is available below. The presentation recording is available here, from timestamps 02:50:00 to 03:15:00. The password to access this recording is: workshop#2

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