This article was written by the Baynana team and lightly edited by IPI for length and clarity. Receive regular updates on IPI’s innovation and media sustainability work by subscribing to our newsletter, The Outlook: Media Innovation Unlocked.

The journey is challenging for any independent news media outlet striving to provide curated and quality information to its audience, but it becomes more demanding when the founders of the media are journalists who fled the war in their home country, Syria.

>> Check out Bayana’s website here

A timely mission

The beginnings are tough for everyone, and if, on top of that, you add the additional difficulties of mastering the language of your new country, understanding the media landscape, and establishing a journalism network in less than a year, you may find it hard to leave square one.

Baynana’s founders—Moussa Al-Jamat, Ayham Al-Sati, Okba Mohamed, and Muhammad Subat—had a clear vision for the media they wanted to create: a place where information about migration, refugees and Arab culture was told by the people who endured the situation firsthand: the migrants and refugees themselves. This was the other side of the coin that had not been given a voice in Western media until then. It was 2020, the year of COVID-19 and the murder of George Floyd, when Baynana was born.

In its three-year history, Baynana had established itself in the journalism arena in Spain. They are often called to give interviews on Middle Eastern affairs or to collaborate with other Spanish media outlets in overseas reportages. The problem that Baynana faced when applying for the IPI’s New Media Incubator was a hurdle faced by everyone in the media industry: revenue and financial sustainability.

Adding new key team members

To begin with, it was necessary to build a strong newsroom. In the previous years, Baynana had been operating with volunteers, and this meant fluctuations in the amount of content published.

Thanks to the funding from the IPI’s New Media Incubator Programme, the team increased by three new persons: Ángela Rodríguez, who led the incubator project and became the media business strategist for 2024, and two more newcomers who were essential for the growth and success that Baynana achieved in these past four months: Paula Herrera and Edu Oyana.

Paula and Edu both have an immigration background; they come from Ecuador and live in Spain. Paula has worked as a reporter, producing content on gender, European and Spanish policies regarding migration, migrants and refugee features alongside social media and newsletter content. Edu has taken on the role of Social Media Manager.

‘Nothing can be presumed’

Closely monitoring the outcome of each of the stories produced by Paula, the team has learned when the most suitable times are to post on social media to reach and engage with most people. The lessons learned from this are that nothing can be presumed. Baynana thought that the content produced for Instagram Reels would be equally suitable for TikTok, and this has been proved absolutely wrong.

The stories created for Reels worked perfectly well there, but on TikTok, the reach and engagement were very little in comparison with Instagram Reels. The stories have to be told in TikTok’s ‘language’ to succeed on the platform, and due to limitations in resources, the team decided just to focus on Instagram Reels and leave TikTok for the future.

One outcome that Baynana did not expect at all was the success of their stories on X. In the light of the most recent changes in the platform’s management and algorithm, nothing was expected from it, but X has given Baynana an incredible outcome: an average of 70-120 clicks on the links shared. This metric showed the team that their followers on X (mainly NGOs, journalism nonprofits, Spanish journalists, and independent media outlets) were keen on reading their content.

Another finding during this six-month New Media Incubator is that Baynana’s Facebook page serves the Arab audience. Therefore, the strategy has changed for Facebook. Baynana only uses it for publishing stories that are of interest to the Arab audience: features of refugees and migrants who live in Spain and EU and Spanish migration policies.

The New Media Incubator made the team realize the great importance of their audience, as they are the supporters of every media outlet. Based on a survey and 1:1 conversation with the audience, the team found out that they prefer to consume news on social media and to read newsletters.

The main focus during this program was to provide a space on Instagram where they can read and be informed on all the matters they want to consume: Middle Eastern Affairs, EU and Spanish migration policies, features of refugees and migrants in Spain, and cultural events. Baynana delivered what has been asked successfully, as data proves. They carefully curated the monthly newsletter and modified the storytelling, the format, and the visuals to make the newsletter more user-friendly to read, leading to a 10 percent increase in subscribers in three months.

Impact on the bottom line

An unexpected happy finding during this time was to discover that Baynana’s content was read on the website. The team thought that nowadays information is consumed on Instagram Reels, TikTok, podcasts, and newsletters, so barely anybody would come to visit Baynana’s website to fully read the stories. Fortunately, the team’s assumption was proven wrong, and website visits have increased 15% from November to February.

What Baynana needed to be as successful as it has been for the past four months was financial stability for a certain time to hire two colleagues who could produce journalistic content every week to keep Baynana running. We have learned that a strong team, even small, can do wonders in very little time. We have proved this and will continue to do it.

Baynana was one of the participants in IPI’s New Media Incubator, part of the Media Innovation Europe (MIE) project, co-funded by the European Commission. The programme is led by the International Press Institute, implemented in collaboration with Thomson Media, the Media Development Foundation and BIRN.