A new report from the International Press Institute (IPI) takes an in-depth look at how local news publishers outside of the United States and Western Europe are innovating to serve their readers, overcome challenges and thrive. “Local media has been the most disrupted sector of news media,” writes Jacqui Park, author of the report, Local Media Survival Guide 2022. “It required rethinking every aspect of the business model.”
“The ability of local media to simply adapt the subscriber-based model of national media is limited both by the size of their audience and, often, by the disadvantaged nature of their communities,” she adds.
The report is based on discussions with more than 35 journalists, editors, media leaders and entrepreneurs from Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and Eastern Europe. These are both new digital start-ups and traditional media in transition. He also shares many case studies showcasing innovative ideas that can serve other publishers as well.
“There is no single model that works for all local news media,” Park notes. “Instead, we are witnessing many experiments. It is essential that these ideas – and the lessons that can be learned from them – can be shared so that they can be adapted (not simply copied) by others.
Each experiment (successful or not) lays another stone in the foundation of the sustainability of local information.
Jacqui Park, Manager, Network Strategy and Innovation, International Press Institute
“Be really creative about the type of products we create”
Zimbabwe’s 263Chat, for example, uses Whatsapp to broadcast its journalism. It publishes an electronic document Monday to Friday in PDF format on about 200 WhatsApp groups that collectively reach 50,000 Zimbabweans. The publisher also broadcasts the news via its web page and on social networks, in particular Twitter. It is driven by the goal of making factual journalism easily accessible to all Zimbabweans, especially those living in rural areas.
Using Whatsapp makes it easy for the editor to get direct feedback from readers, as well as identify issues that need to be covered. 263Chat also seeks to go beyond news content and meet the informational needs of the community. For example, it has six WhatsApp groups for farmers where they can connect, share information and solve problems together.
We have six whatsapp groups for farmers, that’s right. And we sit in these groups and the farmers share information: “Hey, my chickens are dead. Here is a photo of them. Can anyone tell me what it is and how I can fix it? ” Law. It has nothing to do with journalism, okay. But we are responding to a community need.
Nigel Mugamu, Founder, 263Chat
The publisher generates revenue through advertisements, documentary work, and offers multimedia services such as live streaming to other businesses. He is currently developing an SMS platform for information distribution and as a new source of income.
“I look at the market in Zimbabwe and in Africa,” says Mugamu. “We’re not there yet… the disposable income is not there yet for you to pay a monthly subscription amount. So we have to be really creative about what kind of products we create and how we serve the community we serve.
“So how do we get the subscriber to pay, you know, a small amount to get the news every day via text message for someone who’s not on the internet? ” he adds. “Because we must not forget this person, you know? So that’s literally what the SMS product is all about.
Product design requires a willingness to pivot to retain existing audiences or expand the line to reach new audiences. Previously, media organizations required large capital expenditures (in, for example, new presses) to launch a new product line. Now there is freedom to experiment, to prototype at low cost, to see what works. Successful media must be open to adapt and change
Local Media Survival Guide 2022, IPI
“Whatever it takes to reach more (people)”
While 263Chat was launched in 2012 as a Twitter handle and hashtag, Paraguay’s El Surtidor (also called El Surti) was founded as a Facebook page in 2016. The publisher bets on the power of visual journalism and mainly uses poster-style elements that present information. graphically. “Visual storytelling is a very powerful way to mitigate the infodemic, improve the impact of journalistic work, and deepen engagement with new audiences and community management,” says co-founder Alejandro Vazquez.
Other formats used by the publisher include vertical scrolling narration, animated videos, longer reports, data journalism, timelines, magazines, fanzines, exhibits in public spaces and exhibits in museums .
El Surti distributes content through its website and Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and WhatsApp. The latter is currently its main distribution channel. It affects 200,000 people every week. In addition, 10,000 subscribers listen each week to his podcast distributed via Whatsapp and a network of local radio stations.
“I’m optimistic that good journalism has more channels than ever to pass,” Vazquez says. “If there is good journalism, if this journalism serves a community, no doubt it will find the TikTok, the tweet, the web, the fanzine, the play, whatever it takes to reach more (of people).”
The full report can be downloaded from the IPI:
2022 Local Media Survival Guide