A light is illuminating Europe – the light of independent media. In the last decade new forms of public interest media organisations have flickered into existence across Europe, beginning to fill the darkness left by the retreat of legacy media.
But outside of their devoted audiences, they often lack recognition for the value their journalism provides – to their communities, and democracies – and also lack sustainable funding. Without more understanding and support, this kindling future of journalism risks being blown out. Arena is happy to have co-founded and to host Reference, which just obtained EU-funding to develop independent media structures.
This is why we are embarking on a major new project to address these challenges. Through Monetising Value, we aim to support European public-interest media to become financially sustainable through better monetising the value they provide to society. And through nurturing a network of resilient independent media organisations, we aim to transform the political and economic consensus on journalism’s social value, in the light of this new constellation.
What will we do?
The project will involve three key strands:
- Research and analysis of the context and opportunities for European independent media;
- Facilitating peer-to-peer collaboration between the 26 members of Reference – the European Independent Media Circle, on concrete business challenges;
- Changing the conversation on the agreed social value of public interest journalism.
The consortium carrying out this project consists of four Reference members (Arena for Journalism in Europe, the project coordinator – which is currently incubating Reference – Fumaça, Átlátszó Erdély and Investigate Europe) and the journalistic research organisation Netzwerk Recherche. The project will be delivered over the next two years, and is made possible through a grant award of nearly €520.000 from the European Commission as part of the call on Journalism partnerships. You can read more about the project details here.
We believe it is an ideal moment to deliver this project. The independent public-interest media sector is relatively new in Europe – with the oldest outlets being around for little over 10 years old – and currently in the phase of maturation and consolidation. Start-ups have become scale-ups, and business models are being put to the test. This is the moment where the sector needs to prove that it is viable and resilient, and can consolidate its relevance in the larger journalism landscape.
We believe we are uniquely positioned to deliver this unique opportunity. Reference, currently being incubated by Arena, is a self-organised network bringing together a diverse range of 26 public-interest media organisations from across Europe. Existing since 2021, we provide a supportive space for the managing directors of these organisations to come together to support and learn from each other with their key business and operational challenges.
Reference members are defined by their commitment to serving the public interest with high-quality journalism, produced in close interaction with their audiences, with social inclusion, democracy and radical transparency as key values in many of their organisations. They represent a cross-section of the new sector of public interest independent media from across Europe, with a diverse range of organisation sizes and business models.
By focussing on sector-wide exchange and fostering a network, we aim to create beacons lighting the way for systemic change across the sector. And with a deeper understanding and stronger evidence of successful business models and powerful value indicators in hand, we will share relentlessly to support the wider European independent media sector, aiming to kindle a new era of resilient, thriving public interest media in Europe.
“Good journalism has value. But how to appreciate it properly, and how to make it sustainable? With this project we hope to gain important insights and develop practical approaches to this eternal challenge. This group of partners brings together a strong mix of innovative journalism practice combined with insights into the struggles and the strengths of getting support for public interest journalism. The practice oriented approach in this team promises the development of workable models. “Brigitte Alfter – Founder and editorial director, Arena for Journalism in Europe
Investigate, experiment, iterate and communicate – these four fundamental elements come together in the Monetising Value project in synergy. Not only will we look at the current financial make-up of the independent media sector, we’ll also strategise as to what are the most sustainable solutions in various country contexts. In crossborder bilateral exchanges we will put these solutions to the test and document our findings so we can also inform the wider sector. I strongly believe that this powerful cocktail of approaches, combined with the multidisciplinary skill set of the consortium will be instrumental in advancing the professionalism and sustainability in our sector.Maike Olij – Coordinator of Reference, the European Independent Media Circle
When we co-founded Fumaça, we had no idea what we were doing. None of us had ever created a journalism project, and none of us were even journalists back then. So, for the past seven years, our road to sustainability has been one of trial and error, learning by doing. It has been working for us so far, but to create a healthy environment for independent journalism in Europe and around the globe, that’s not enough. We need to share the accumulated knowledge that is present in our newsrooms with the ones coming next. Monetising Value comes from that will to share what dozens of public interest media newsrooms have been learning that works and doesn’t work for them, mapping the techniques and strategies they use for their sustainability, in the hopes that by doing so, others can learn from them, and we can all learn from each other.Ricardo Esteves Ribeiro – Journalist and Co-Founder, Fumaça
Investigate Europe (IE) started in 2016 as a pilot project led by a group of European journalists who came together to try something unheard of – a journalistic collaboration that runs across borders, national discourses, and the rapid news cycle of legacy media. Today, IE is registered in Berlin as a European Cooperative Society with a recognized charitable status and owned by its team working on collaborative public interest cross-border journalism. We joined the consortium behind the Monetising Value project because we believe that journalism is and should be public interest based. We see value in providing citizens with verified information, insights and opinions from a multi-angled perspective and in diverse types of formats. We are therefore excited to work along other partners who share our vision but have a different experience, approach and know-how, to demonstrate the value of such journalism and explore how to best monetise it to help sustain the ecosystem of public interest media in Europe.Peter Matjašič – Executive Director, Investigate Europe
With this outstanding team, we want to learn more about how to put investigative journalism on a solid financial basis. The knowledge that we collect in our research should help journalists across Europe to lead a media start-up to success.Thomas Schnedler – Head of Grow Greenhouse, Netzwerk Recherche’s Center for Nonprofit Journalism
Átlátszó Erdély is a small investigative journalism outlet covering local stories in the Hungarian community living in Romania. As we are doing in-depth, public interest journalism in a “news desert”, we are forced to explore alternative ways towards financial sustainability and audience engagement. This project enables us to learn from the real-life practices and experiences of the members of the Reference network. Our hope is that the mutual exchange facilitated by this project will be beneficial for the financial sustainability of the new European independent public-interest journalism sector as well.Zoltán Sipos – editor-in-chief/manager, Átlátszó Erdély
Reference is a network a self-organised network of independent European news publishers, currently being incubated by Arena for Journalism in Europe. Reference supports members to address non-editorial organisational and business challenges, and advocate collectively for the wellbeing and financial sustainability of independent, public interest media.
This post was originally published on https://referencecircle.eu/2023/05/from-value-to-revenue-lighting-the-path-to-sustainability-for-independent-media/