The issues affecting the viability of media are complex, and require different interventions, from advocating at the level of governments to educating the public about the importance of reliable information. In other words, work should be done on various levels, and in various ways, to improve media viability world wide.
In this section of the resource guide, the focus is on what media outlets can do themselves to boost their viability. As indicated in the framework section of this guide, there are aspects to media viability that are outside of the (direct) sphere of influence of media outlets. This is not the case for all aspects; media outlets do have an influence themselves.
Having said that, it is important to mention that there is no specific recipe for a successful media business model. In fact, the concept ‘success’ or ‘successful’ in this context is very subjective. Is a medium successful if it continues to exist, if it grows (in terms of audience reach, staff members, or annual budget) or if it is no longer dependent on grant funding? This question does not have a simple answer.
However, studies about the business models of media have found some best practices for media, factors that can positively influence their survival. These best practices are outlined in this section.
Free Press Unlimited distinguishes between four different elements that media can influence, and which together can have a positive impact:
- A conducive operating model – this includes the structure of the organisation, the capacity, roles and responsibilities of staff members, the work flow and systems in place;
- A coherent business model – how the medium creates value (this can be monetary, but also social);
- The relationship with the audience – understanding and engaging with the audience, and building a loyal audience base;
- Delivering quality content – bringing reliable information that is relevant to the audience and inclusive in nature.