Friday, July 21, 2017

100 digital news startups in Latin America show paths to achieving sustainability


The new study of 100 digital news startups in Latin America by SembraMedia in partnership with Omidyar Network -- Inflection Point -- offers many clues to achieving the elusive goal of sustainability.

Extensive interviews with the founders -- 25 each from Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico -- produced data that clarified the elements of successful business models and showed the best places to invest resources and training.

Janine Warner, co-founder of SembraMedia and an ICFJ Knight Fellow, directed the study, which was managed by her co-founder, Mijal Iastebner. (Disclosure: I participated in the study as an editor.) Among the insights:
  • You don't need a lot of money to get started. 71% of the media in this study had startup capital of less than $10,000, but a tenth of those now generate at least $500,000 in revenues (p. 8). 
  • Those that focus on business development do best. Those with at least one sales person reported median annual revenues of  $117,000; those with no sales staff had a median of $3,900 (p. 9).
  • Women are playing a key role in development of new digital media in a region where men traditionally have held almost exclusive control of the industry: 62% of the 100 organizations  had at least one woman founder, and women represented 38% of the total founders of all the media (p. 41).  
  • Differentiation is key. In terms of content, technology, distribution, or style, these media positioned themselves as offering something different from traditional media and independent of political or business interference. In some cases, they exposed the cozy relationships between big media, politicians, and business (p. 25). 
  • Even a small organization can have big impact nationally and internationally. Although these organizations had median staff size of 13 employees, 72% have had their stories picked up by national news media in their home countries and 66% by international media (graphic above).

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Top reason globally for paying for news? Mobile access



Richard Fletcher of the Reuters Institute has produced an in-depth analysis of the top reasons people around the world gave for paying for news online.

The Digital News Report 2017 included interviews of more than 70,000 adults in 36 countries.

Fletcher observed that the most common reasons people gave for paying were they wanted access on their mobile devices (30%), they like to consume news from a range of sources (29%), or they were offered a good deal or package (23%).

My take on Fletcher's data: The message to digital news publishers should be clear: they need to make sure their content displays rapidly and adapts well to the small screen--responsive design. Also, they should be testing various prices and packages for online content to see which ones produce the best returns. 

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

When they trust media less, they're willing to pay more

Alfonso Vara-Miguel
A new study of internet users in Spain shows that those who trust "the media" less are more willing to pay for news online. 

The explanation for this counterintuitive behavior is that those distrustful folks "are willing to pay for those specific media that they trust", according to the researchers, Alfonso Vara-Miguel of the  Universidad de Navarra and Manuel Goyanes of the Universidad Carlos III of Madrid.  

(The full text of their article is in Spanish:  "The probability of paying for digital news in Spain," in El Profesional de la Información.)

In other words, trust and confidence have an economic value that media organizations can monetize


Manuel Goyanes
Getting people to pay

Media economists like to say that the Spanish are legendary cheapskates when it comes to paying for any form of media. But the researchers believe they have identified some of the market segments most likely to pay for news

They base their conclusions on the Digital news report 2016, which came from a survey of a representative sample of 2,100 Spanish adults, executed by YouGov and coordinated by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford University. The most relevant findings follow.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Why digital networks are ruling the world

For the last few years, the name Manuel Castells kept popping up in things I read about digital media, social networks, and mass communications. He is a Spanish sociologist who spent much of his career at UC Berkeley.

Recently I have been reading his "The Rise of the Network Society," the first of three volumes in a series "The Information Age." He wrote them two decades ago, but he seems to have predicted many of the trends we are living through now.

The free flow of money, information, and power through global networks means those networks, not nations, are the source of power, he wrote. Institutions, societies, and ethnic groups with rigid structures that cannot take advantage of these flows will be left behind.

He wrote a new preface for the 2010 edition, before the Arab Spring, before the Syrian civil war, before Brexit, before Trump. He pointed out that structural changes were taking place in society because large sections of the world's population were being exluded from the global networks that accumulate knowledge and wealth.

Highly educated elites from financial and technological centers were profiting from the flow of money and power, while the rest of the world was being left behind.

Email bulletins help news media beat the duopoly

We talk too much about the New York Times when the crisis of journalism is also about saving local news operations and digital entrepreneurs.

But the latest news about how the Times is using email newsletters can be applied to all news organizations. Digiday reported that the Times has 13 million subscribers to more than 50 email newsletters.

What this means is that the Times has a direct communications channel with its users in a walled garden that Facebook and Google, the giants of digital advertising revenue, cannot touch.

When users get an email and click on a link, they go right to the Times website and the newspaper's own advertisers.

It also means that the people who subscribe to the free newsletters by registering have a more intimate relationship with the publication.

Versión en español

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Slovakia is latest to prove subscription model online

Home page of Dennik N
Contrary to all the predictions about the public's unwillingness to pay for news when it is freely available online, more publishers of high-quality, in-depth reporting are making money.

The latest example comes from Slovakia, as recounted by Rob Sharp in Nieman Lab. The editors of a popular national newspaper there discovered that a news organization tainted by corruption accusations was about to buy a significant stake in their paper.

Versión en español

Anticipating restrictions on their work, the editor, Matus Kostolny, and a team of his lieutenants decided to start an independent online news publication, Dennik N.

As Sharp describes:

The outlet attracted €1 million of private investment and advanced subscriptions of around €300,000. They launched their daily website in January 2015, and a printed paper shortly afterward. Now, just over two years later, they are among the top five quality newspaper websites in Slovakia. In a country of 5.4 million people, the paper has 23,000 paying digital subscribers, the most nationally, and 110,000 registered readers.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

'Know your clients, give them what they need'

Ingelmo: "Clients don't want to wait three hours for a graphic."
Manuel Benito Ingelmo has blended his knowledge of data, technology, and journalism to establish a news service with some of the biggest media in Spain as his clients.

His data-visualization service, Porcentual.es, just finished its most successful year, and Ingelmo continues to innovate and improve his products.

He and a team of two programmers have developed software that pulls data from public databases and produces graphics in minutes for media organizations to embed in their web pages. They can also customize the data geographically so that a newspaper in the city of Seville, for example, can get the latest unemployment figures for its area.

"We're very fast," Ingelmo says. "Speed matters. Our clients don't want to wait three hours for a graphic. They want it right now," he told me recently in a Skype interview from his home in Vitoria, northern Spain.