The 'Publishing for peanuts' study examines 35 journalism startups, exploring how they stay afloat and the ways they innovate. The case studies give great insight into how smaller media outlets operate around the globe.
The report, which was published by Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs, includes case studies from 16 different countries. Although it details several Australian and US outlets, the study primarily focuses on journalism startups in developing media markets, ranging from Peru, Brazil and India to Malaysia, Lebanon and Jordan.
Publishing for peanuts: Innovation and the Journalism Start-up takes a close look at independent media outlets which are innovative, produce credible content, and in the words of the authors, “might actually survive financially.”
For the study, the authors Anya Schiffrin, JJ Robinson and Kristen Grennan explored how the outlets innovate to tackle editorial, business, distribution and security issues. The authors also identified the diverse ways in which the outlets sustain themselves financially.
With its emphasis on capturing the struggles and successes of media practitioners in developing countries, the study is essential reading for aspiring media entrepreneurs or those working for media development organizations active in the global south.
No one model of financial sustainability
With donors increasingly pushing media outlets to become financially sustainable in the long-term, the 'Publishing for peanuts' study provides insights into the makeup of journalism startups in developing countries. The study found:
The authors also wrote of their surprise in not finding common elements, or a clear model, for success. Of the three key properties they focused on (technological innovation, news quality and financial sustainability), they found “few [outlets] have fully succeeded” with most being “good at one, but not all three.”
“Grants, donations and haphazard business endeavors”
In terms of financial sustainability, the authors noted the outlets were supported by a hodgepodge of revenue strategies, including:
Interestingly, interviewees, including those running for-profit organizations, “were idealistic … and did not seem motivated by a desire for wealth,” the authors found. “Indeed, financial success is incidental to the outlets we spoke with.”
Recommendations, innovations and case studies
The report includes recommendations for aspiring journalism entrepreneurs:
And recommendations for the media development community:
Further, an innovation index details the outlet's innovations in the categories editorial, business, distribution and security.
The study also includes