African digital media platforms achieving impact despite tight budgets, threats: report

0
  • Digital media entrepreneurs are producing ground-breaking journalism and achieving a significant impact on their societies
  • African media entrepreneurs achieved civic engagement, criminal investigations, and changes in the law through their articles
  • The researchers found that more than 85% of the media interviewed had contributed to significant political and societal changes

A new report has revealed that digital media entrepreneurs are producing ground-breaking journalism and achieving a significant impact on their societies, despite often tiny budgets and constant online threats and attacks.

The Inflection Point International report indicates that more than 85% of the media interviewed had contributed to significant political and societal changes.

SembraMedia, a non-profit that supports entrepreneurial journalists, published the report in partnership with the global philanthropic organisation Luminate.

It carried out more than 200 international interviews and interviewed 49 independent digital native media organisations in African countries, namely: Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa.

Civic engagement 

According to the report, African media entrepreneurs achieved civic engagement, criminal investigations, and changes in the law through their articles, with almost half saying they were engaged in some form of solutions journalism – compared with 15% – citing solutions reporting and investigative journalism as key factors in achieving social change.

At the same time, 57% of the African digital newsrooms interviewed had won national awards, and 28% had won international awards in recognition of their work. However, they had done so in the face of ongoing harassment, with more than a third reporting cyberattack on their news platforms.

Some entrepreneurs also reported a degree of self-censorship in avoiding stories that could lead to legal challenges because they could not afford attorneys to defend themselves. Media in Nigeria and Ghana reported significantly higher lawsuits and legal attacks than the media organisations interviewed in other countries.

Yet, most of the entrepreneurs appear to have survived the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The report comes just a month after the award of Nobel Peace Prizes to journalists Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov for their achievements in defending the freedom of speech and upholding democracy.

The researchers found that more than 85% of the media interviewed had contributed to significant political and societal changes.

Kenya’s 1.2 million digital workers making billions monthly

The report comes just a month after the award of Nobel Peace Prizes to journalists Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov for their achievements in defending the freedom of speech and upholding democracy.

“While there are differences across the three regions, what struck us most as we reviewed the data were the similarities that emerged among these news organisations as they strive to cover their communities and build sustainable business models,” said Janine Warner, co-founder of SembraMedia.

The researchers found that more than 85 percent of the media interviewed had contributed to significant political and societal changes / UNSPLASH

Advertising 

Some of the outlets were established news sites, such as the Daily Maverick in South Africa, but many were much smaller, with 60 per cent of the outlets interviewed globally earning less than US$50,000 in revenue.

Overall, the African digital media reported higher levels of advertising revenue than Latin American and Southeast Asian digital media, with advertising contributing around 29% of incomes for the African press in 2019, falling to 26% in 2020.

The top tier digital media on the continent was also found to be earning more for smaller audiences – measured as page views – than equivalent media in Latin America and Southeast Asia.

However, the African entrepreneurs had the most limited financial records, with around half unable to identify their total revenues or revenue sources.

Those that shared financial details were also benefitting from a lower proportion of grants than digital media elsewhere, at 16 per cent of revenue in 2019.

However, during the Covid-19 pandemic, the grants to African media rose to account for more than 19 per cent of revenues in 2020.

Stephen King of Luminate said: “This report demonstrates the vital role that grant funding is playing in supporting digital media organisations through this pivotal moment of change. This is not about funding without end – it’s about helping a vibrant new generation of media entrepreneurs to evolve their business models so they can build pathways to sustainability while continuing to produce important journalism in the public interest.”

The researchers also investigated the staffing structures at the media outlets and found that those who employed a staff member to drive revenue earned six to nine times more income in 2019 than those who didn’t. Similarly, media with a dedicated tech or innovation lead reported three times higher revenue.

However, fewer of Africa’s digital entrepreneurs were women, at 13%, than in other regions, with 32% of the founders of the companies studied worldwide being women.

But this proportion still represented a far more significant role for women in media ownership than exists in the mainstream media, where the ownership by women is as low as 1%.

Most Kenyans turn to digital lending to grow small businesses: report

Wanjiku Njuguna is a Kenyan-based business reporter with experience of more than eight years.

Leave A Reply