News media eyes financial diversification with ‘more funding than ever’ –

New collaborative funding models are proving crucial to media innovation and will be key to ensuring the long-term sustainability of newsrooms and beyond.

The media industry has seen rapid change in recent years, with the rise of online platforms and their challenge to traditional advertising revenue, forcing a fundamental rethink of the business models that support media – issues that have been further compounded by the financial shock of COVID-19. 19 crisis.

A number of initiatives have turned their attention to this issue, focusing not only on closing existing gaps in the industry, but also on how this can be pursued to foster a more sustainable media sector in its whole.

At the heart of this, industry stakeholders point out, is the provision of diverse and collaborative funding opportunities that make room for innovation within and across outlets.

Solid funding is essential to ensure media companies are able to innovate and test new ideas, Saura Lopez Leal, digital project manager at Spanish media company Vocento, told EURACTIV.

In a project led by the Stars4Media program last year, Vocento partnered with Swedish tech company Cruncho to develop an AI-powered guide to Malaga, generating new revenue streams for the newspaper local. Log On.

“Sometimes innovation departments [in media companies] don’t really have big budgets to test new technologies within the company,” said Lopez Leal, adding that funding is also often conditional on the profitability of the idea or product being tested, the likelihood of which is often difficult to determine.

“Thanks to this project, you have the opportunity to test something. Maybe you will do very well or you will fail, but you can try the product,” she said. “You take the risk away and test a new idea.”

The cross-border nature of this type of collaboration is also essential, not only because it means that products that work well in one country can be tested in another, but also because it allows companies to share their working methods. .

“Big companies are sometimes very slow to get things done,” Lopez Leal said. “When you work with a startup, like our partner [Cruncho], they work in a different way – they’re really quick, they’re really nimble. For us, it was a great way to learn how to work differently; it was the most important thing about the experience.

Jourová calls for cross-border media cooperation

“No journalist should die or be injured for doing their job,” said European Commission Vice-President for Values ​​and Transparency Věra Jourová as the EU prepared to focus on the safety of journalists during of a forthcoming European News Media Forum in November.

The third round of Stars4Media projects is expected to launch later this year, this time focusing on medium and large news media. Through the program, participants will have access to direct grants and coaching with the goal of driving innovation in the newsroom or business transformation.

Although Stars4Media is co-funded by the EU’s Creative Europe programme, industry stakeholders have highlighted the importance of fostering collaborative and diverse approaches to funding.

Speaking at an event on transforming media and strengthening democracy on Thursday 12 May, Max von Abendroth, executive director of Donors and Foundations Networks in Europe (DAFNE), noted that philanthropy remains a source of funding underutilized within the industry.

In part, he said, this is due to the existence of legal obstacles that prevent foundations in Europe from funding journalism due to the fact that it is not recognized as a charitable activity. Where it goes to media, he said, philanthropic funding mostly ends up with nonprofit journalism organizations, but there is great potential for this to be expanded.

Philanthropic support could not only help provide journalists with the infrastructure they need to work safely online and offline, he noted, but could also help spur innovation in media by enabling to develop new business models and ways of creating and distributing content. and tested.

Another benefit of philanthropy, von Abendroth said, is its potential to “create structures that can neutralize public funding for journalism.”

“We all know that public funding directly for journalism and content creation is problematic because it is not necessarily independent, or there is a risk of becoming dependent [on it]“, he said. “There are ways to neutralize this public funding through structures built by philanthropy.

Strengthening media independence will also be the aim of the forthcoming EU Media Freedom Act, due to be launched later this year. Vice-president of Commission Věra Jourová said at the same event on Thursday that the law “will enshrine, for the first time in EU law, common standards to protect media pluralism and media editorial independence”.

The EU also has a number of initiatives designed to fund journalism, such as the Commission’s European Journalism Partnerships, which aim to strengthen the sustainability of European news media.

“I think there have never been so many funding opportunities” at EU level, said Marie Frenay, a member of Commissioner Jourová’s cabinet, at the conference on Thursday. Journalism partnerships in particular are a “flagship” program of the Commission, she said, adding “we have a call which is now open and other opportunities will arise”.

[Edited by Luca Bertuzzi/Nathalie Weatherald]