The roadmap to journalistic sustainability lies in industry leaders asking the right questions and focusing on tailored revenue models that can effectively address the unique financial and operational challenges faced by their news organizations.

These lessons were learned during the panel Revenue Roadmap: Navigating Media Sustainability in a Changing Landscape, held during the 2024 Media Innovation Festival in Sarajevo. The panel brought together key voices in media innovation to discuss the challenges and strategies for sustaining media organizations in today’s dynamic environment.

The discussions also marked the launch of the Revenue Roadmap, a guidebook created by IPI and Report for the World to help media leaders navigate editorial strategies, technology challenges, and business models.

>> Download the guide for free here

Ryan Powell, head of innovation at IPI, noted the need for the industry to ask the right questions in order to uncover the most effective approaches to revenue diversification and identify actionable insights.

“In short, the idea is to start by asking questions and find the elements to start answering those questions,” he said.

This is what Esra Karakaya, founder of Karakaya Talks, which serves young people from traditionally marginalized groups in Germany, has been constantly doing in her news venture. As an example, she said that despite more than 20% of Germany’s population being of color, they do not receive proportional media coverage, a question that underscores the need for media platforms like hers. A keen conscience on business and costs is what keeps Karakaya afloat.

Working with limited resources it really pushes us to be so sharp in our focus and not to spend too much money in spaces that don’t serve us
– Esra Karakaya

Another good example of journalists addressing specific opportunities comes from Africa. Musikilu Mojeed, editor-in-chief of Premium Times Nigeria, discussed how his organization leverages Nigerians and their relatives living abroad as a way to generate revenue, emphasizing that the diaspora has significant economic power and remains deeply invested in what is happening back home. This interest in the news and financial capabilities of those readers present unique opportunities for media funding and audience engagement.

The move to identify and reach specific audiences is one that resonates everywhere in the media business. Juliana Mori, from Brazil, explained how the organization she leads, InfoAmazonia, was able to reach a broader, more engaged audience in the past few years by doing geojournalism and investing in data visualizations.

Preethi Nallu, Executive Director at Report For The World, also touched on the challenge of converting engaged audiences into paying subscribers. Feedback loops are crucial in this process, but implementing them without being overwhelming is a delicate balance.

Ryan advised starting small and focusing on the most critical data. He highlighted that different regions might require specific business models tailored to their unique contexts, as subscription or membership models may not be universally applicable.

>> Watch the innovation panels live on IPI’s YouTube channel.