Local Journalism Project Case Study: The Centrum Media (Pakistan)
Centrum Media launched in 2016 when Talha Ahad returned to Pakistan from his UK studies and saw a gap in the country’s traditional media landscape for a centrist non-aligned media voice for younger audiences. He saw, too, that social media delivery of streamed video could reach these audiences where they already were. He also saw an opportunity for a media outlet to show neutrality by presenting expert sources directly to the audience rather than through its own analysis.
Centrum Media’s core audience is young people (16 to 35) in Pakistan, with a secondary reach to South Asia, South East Asia, Europe and the U.S., and generally the well-educated (including students) They are seeking to build their audience by subtitling their Urdu-language videos in English. Within Pakistan, they are using in-depth local stories, often with a human interest angle, to reach and build local audiences outside the major cities.
Centrum Media offers a news platform for people who want to contribute to the debate around change by putting human faces to news stories and providing deeper context around contemporary political issues, particularly those of concern for its target audience. Their focus on youth extends to the voices and experts in their stories as they seek to present the views of younger interviewees and subjects.
Products and distribution:
All material is video and distributed via social media particularly Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. The outlet’s core pillars for content are in-depth interviews, contextual news videos, mini-documentary series, memoirs of influential people, and entertainment. Their videos range in length from one to 25 minutes. Although they attempt to pull audiences to their own website, video content is usually consumed directly on the social media platforms.
Beginning with just one editor and producer working out of a team member’s apartment, Centrum has grown to a team of about 35 full-time employees including journalists, producers, graphic designers, researchers, video editors, and videographers.
Starting with a small investment from family and friends, the founders have since bootstrapped growth organically by adding revenue streams: ad revenues from Facebook and YouTube, collaborations with other media organizations and brands. (For example, an eight-part documentary series called ‘Wonder Women’ in partnership with the UN Women.) They aim to do three to four long-form collaborations per year as well as smaller videos each month. They are experimenting with audience revenues and have recently set up a Patreon account where they offer access to their full interviews in exchange for financial support. However, technological barriers such as the lack of online tools like PayPal create additional barriers for this revenue stream.
Centrum Media aims to address misinformation by interviewing sources who are “in the game” and can give an accurate depiction of an issue rather than “bias analysis”. By focusing on bringing the views of experts and key players directly to a young audience where they are, they see an opportunity to better engage and inform the next generation. In an environment where there are complaints of repression in the local media sphere, TCM says it has successfully managed to address critical issues on security, law and order, and politics while retaining a sense of credibility in the audience without leaning towards a certain ideology.
Centrum Media is aiming to develop its YouTube revenues up to 40 percent by 2030. They are also hoping to expand internationally into countries including the UK, the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, Norway, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia where ad rates are much better than in Pakistan.
Ask them about:
The importance of having young voices represented when creating content for a younger audience.
In their words:
On the gap they saw: “In Pakistan entertainment is politics… from the age of 15 to 55, everyone is into politics. But one of the things I think I started seeing [in Pakistan] was that the media is very polarized. So it’s either extreme rightist or extreme leftist.”
“I have noticed that there’s so many positive untold stories about Pakistan and generally about humans that a lot of Western outlets are not really interested in because whenever you hear about Pakistan in the Western media, it’s mostly about terrorism and mostly about extremism and politics.”
Source for information and views in this case study: Interview with Talha Ahad, founder and editor, The Centrum Media.
This story is part of IPI’s Local Journalism Project. The publication of these case studies – part of IPI’s wider work mapping, networking and supporting quality innovative media serving local communities – is supported by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation.