Gambling with integrity | Media viability | DW | 20.01.2016
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Media viability

Gambling with integrity

Media organizations around the world are searching for new revenue sources. Since often the best lessons are in miscalculations, #mediadev collected real-life stories of times when things didn’t go to plan.

Can you imagine how boring life would be if we succeeded at everything we did, if we never had to respond to dynamic situations or unanticipated interruptions? We are socially programmed to think that failure is a bad thing. However, sometimes the best lessons are in those precise mistakes or miscalculations that don’t bring about the expected results. Against the background of emerging global trends, new technologies, and rapidly changing communication environments, media organizations around the world are constantly searching for sustainable revenue sources. For all of us it is vital to exchange mutual challenges and learn from each other.

Here is a real-life story from a media outlet in the field that could easily happen to any of us as we try to pursue new ways for media viability:

Finding a balance between honest, unbiased, and uncensored reporting as well as ensuring that the interests of key advertising clients are not compromised, is crucial.
Imagine that you are a new national newspaper beginning to establish a robust and strong advertising network that is diverse enough to ensure a steady and reliable income stream. Developing a strategy that includes networks is often a good way to achieve this as people and companies often base support on word of mouth or association.

At the same time a story emerges from a parliamentary debate on abortion which is currently an illegal practice in the country. A member of parliament who is also a renowned gynecologist testifies that he has performed many abortions – even on Catholic nuns. You naturally run the story which is a huge revelation in the country as there is a sizeable Catholic community and rather conservative way of life.
The Catholic community is outraged by the story and what it perceives as an attack on its values; it is received as a personal attack by you on Catholicism rather than your paper covering news from the parliament. The backlash from the Catholic Church is to boycott your newspaper. This is felt directly with the withdrawal of advertising: The Catholic Church is made up of a plethora of organizations – schools, universities, churches, NGOs – and is therefore a rich income source in terms of advertising.
This is sorely felt as you have lost a key client whilst carrying out your core duty of covering the news. This leads to much painstaking retribution where the decision to run the story is hotly debated internally. Nevertheless, in the end you feel positive that you made the right decision for your readers and the integrity of the newspaper as a whole.

Unfortunately, those that feel they have come out of the situation badly (in this case the Catholic Church) often fail to forgive and move towards reconciliation. In this real-life example, 8 years later the boycott continues. Still not one Catholic agency advertises with the newspaper.

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