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Welcome to The Outlook, IPI’s media innovation newsletter which dissects the challenges facing news media, and sets out lessons we can learn from each other to overcome them.

For news publishers, reaching people and gaining their trust is only half of the puzzle, so this week we are looking at the steps you can take to ensure you retain your hard-earned audience.

Is retention something your media outlet is thinking about? Or perhaps there’s another pressing challenge you need help to address? IPI’s Local News Accelerator is accepting applications from new and established local media who want structure and support to get a new idea off the ground.

The challenge: Retaining your community

Keeping audiences interested in an attention-scarce information environment means investing time and effort in these relationships over the long term.

Independent media across the globe have built their own communities in response to financial pressures, tech platform dominance, government repression and other issues. Turning directly to readers has been a lifeline for many media, not only helping them define their purpose but sometimes providing a revenue stream that could be less fickle than donors or advertisers.

Take The Caravan in India; the long-form narrative magazine ran on heavy losses until the launch of a paywall, but now the challenge is to keep those readers interested and engaged so they can stay sustainable and grow.

At IPI’s Media Innovation Festival, editor Ananth Nath pointed out that for smaller media, less content means fewer touchpoints with readers, so it can be harder to nurture the relationship.

Click here to hear Nath speaking at IPI’s Media Innovation Festival alongside media innovators from Myanmar, Nigeria and Georgia.

The solution: Build it into your workflow

The Caravan has begun responding to the challenge, including by using newsletters and making more out of their archival content, all in a bid to build habit and increase those touchpoints, but it’s a work in progress.

They’re not alone: Spanish fact-checking outlet Maldita are pioneers of community engagement, but they wanted to increase member commitment, and participated in IPI’s Transition Accelerator to take a strategic approach to the issue.

First, the team spoke directly to community members to find out how they currently interacted with Maldita. This showed them that their current onboarding process wasn’t as effective as it could be. Many members were keen to get involved but weren’t aware of the ways this was possible. Today, Maldita is working on a total overhaul of their community strategy, which you can read about here.

💡 The Takeaway:Make it intuitive for people to be involved – don’t assume that they already know how, or aren’t interested.

Here’s a quote from Maldita’s Transition Accelerator experience: “We realized that most of the content community members said they wanted, had already been developed through previous projects. Rather than creating something new, we only had to adapt the formats and create an easily navigable and interactive repository where community members could find them.”

More on this topic: Norway’s Aftenposten has made a success of reader subscriptions. IPI visited the newsroom in 2021, and this presentation (slide 28 onwards in particular) shares a candid breakdown of their growth strategy, including how they optimize for retention among different segments of their audience.

News from IPI’s Media Sustainability Team

Maldita was one of 15 newsrooms to participate in IPI’s Transition Accelerator. The six-month journey has now concluded and although we know the participants will continue to build on the progress and connections made, they have already overcome challenges and developed innovative products that could give you some inspiration. Click here to read more of their stories.

If you’re feeling inspired, here’s another reminder about IPI’s Local News Accelerator, which will support digital innovation in local, regional and niche media. We are holding an online info session tomorrow on August 2 (sign up here) in case you have questions.

Funding opportunities for media

  • Do you have an idea for a story about Central and Eastern Europe with a solutions focus? Transitions is offering microgrants and mentoring to help you develop the story.
  • The IWMF Emergency Fund is open for applications from women journalists who need assistance such as legal aid, relocation assistance, or small grants for psychological and medical care linked to their work in journalism.
  • A limited number of scholarships are available to attend the Reinventing Media Business Forum​. The event is October 3-4 in Riga, and the deadline for scholarship applications (covering conference ticket and meals only) is August 31.

One final housekeeping note: Due to summer holidays, the next issue of The Outlook will be landing in your inboxes on August 22, so in three weeks’ time instead of two.

IPI’s media innovation and sustainability work is made possible with support from the European Union, Friedrich Naumann Foundation and ERSTE Foundation