Grady College researcher presents ideas for news media sustainability at Global Media Forum

Ideas for creating news media sustainability around the globe were the focus of an interactive TED-style presentation given by Grady College faculty member Ann Hollifield at the Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum in Bonn, Germany, last month.

“Media viability in many places will depend upon developing ‘resource models’ rather than ‘business models,'” Hollifield told attendees at the session.

Hollifield was a featured speaker and discussion leader in the IdeaLab session at this year’s Global Media Forum. The IdeaLab discussion, titled “Money Talks and Media Development Should Listen,” examined creative approaches to building media organizations able to produce high-quality journalism in differing types of media systems and under different economic and press freedom conditions.

The Thomas C. Dowden Professor of Media Research in the Grady College, Hollifield has previously worked as a consultant for DW Akademie on a project DW Akademie led to develop globally useable measures of media viability. Based on that and related work, Hollifield and her DW Akademie colleagues have published several collaborative works on global media viability.

That research identified seven resource categories critical to news organizations’ ability to sustain the production of high-quality journalism, Hollifield told the session. Those are: a dependable revenue source; a content niche for which there is audience demand; audience attention to the news organization’s content; the ability to deliver content to users where and when the users want it; the ability to attract and retain qualified content producers; a legal regime that supports press freedom; and access to basic production inputs such as electricity, the Internet, or other materials required for content production and distribution by a particular new team.

Hollifield told participants that there were some indications in the research she had done that media viability might be achievable with different combinations of these resources. In other words, it might be possible in the digital era to produce and sustain high-quality journalism by substituting more of some types of resources for resources the news organization didn’t have and couldn’t get.

“The challenge then becomes what resources, and how much of each resource, will produce viable, quality journalism under different sets of conditions,” Hollifield said.

During the discussion that followed her remarks, participants from news organizations from a number of different countries said attracting and keeping experienced journalists was one of their biggest challenges. “As soon as we really have them trained, someone else hires them away,” one attendee commented.

The IdeaLab presented ideas for achieving media viability from four presenters. Daniel Blank, country representative, Ghana, for DW Akademie, discussed innovative strategies for financial management and marketing for news groups, while Nigel Mugamu, chief storyteller for 26Chat in Zimbabwe, and Rohit Singh, director of programs and partnerships for Gam Vasni in India, shared best practices for media viability that they had developed through their experience launching media startups.

The 2017 Global Media Forum was the 10th annual conference organized by Deutsche Welle, a German Public Service Broadcasting organization that produces news and information in numerous languages for distribution around the world. Deutsche Welle’s foundation, DW Akademie, is one of Germany’s largest media non-governmental Organizations (NGOs). DW Akademie supports media-development and journalism training projects in developing countries around the world.

The theme of this year’s Forum was “Identity and Diversity.” More than 2,000 participants from 70 countries traveled to Bonn for the Forum, which was held June 19-22.