Any news venture of any size operating in any medium needs to embrace the fact that business is as important as editorial if it is to have long-term prospects of viability.
Malaysia’s leading political news site, Malaysiakini, built its success on both content and business innovation
Effective news organizations approach the financials with the same focus and enthusiasm they have for creating and curating content.
The main distinction between companies that are navigating the current media environment with some success and those that are not lies in how they approach the business side of the operation. To take business as seriously as editorial, a news organisation should have a senior leader dedicated to business development – ideally a founder or CEO. This leader should embody values that are essential to survival and sustainability in the digital world. They must be innovative, collaborative, adaptive, and their everyday decisions should be data-driven, as opposed to intuitive.
When applied consistently and in tandem, business and content are mutually reinforcing pillars of success. While having a focused business approach in itself is no guarantee of success, without it a media organization is sure to struggle.
By way of example, Malaysia’s leading political news site, Malaysiakini, has been at the forefront of digital media for nearly two decades. Its success is built on both content and business innovation and excellence, with one co-founder taking primary responsibility for business and the other for editorial. The organization has relentlessly experimented with income-generating initiatives, from paywalls and subscriptions to setting up its own native content studio, and editorial projects, such as creating "an election promise tracker" and an online tool to help readers understand how the 2019 budget will affect them personally. And Malaysiakini’s innovative approach spills over into other areas, from running educational courses to providing web services (CMS and hosting) for other publishers, and even crowdfunding to cover a fine for defamation after exposing environmental damage by a mining company.