New report published by Reuters Institute says the global pandemic will have a "dramatic and unequal impact on independent news media, with few winners, and many losers."
Newspapers across the globe are facing a potential decline of $30 billion in expected revenues in 2020 due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis, according to a new survey.
The study carried by Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford, and members of the Independent News Emergency Relief Coordination (INERC) has revealed that commercial news media are among the hardest hit industries by the pandemic.
"Such a drop would have dramatic consequences for the number of journalists employed, especially at the local level and in poorer communities and countries," the report said.
Data were collected from 165 responses to an INERC survey distributed to independent news media across the globe, and interviews were conducted with seven organisations on how they are navigating the virus crisis.
The study titled "Few Winners, Many Losers: The COVID-19 Pandemic’s Dramatic and Unequal Impact on Independent News Media" was co-authored by Director of the Reuters Institute Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, Head of Leadership Development Federica Cherubini, and Reuters Fellow Simge Andi.
The bulk of the survey responses were collected from June to August 2020.
Journalists role highlighted in pandemic
The study said that a majority of responders, with the exception of some primarily print newspapers, saw an increase to their audience during the Covid-19 crisis.
The report highlighted the important role of journalists in "holding governments and others to account for how they handle the crisis and sometimes try to mislead the public about what they are and are not doing."
2. A clear majority of independent news media that responded to our survey say that their overall audience reach has increased during #COVID19, though almost 1/5 of respondents (primarily print newspapers) report that their overall audience reach has declined pic.twitter.com/7cEFC9BQfH— Reuters Institute (@risj_oxford) November 10, 2020
Who's the hardest hit?
The report found that commercial news media were the hardest hit, "especially those that are advertising-based, as well as newspapers and local media."
More than a third (or 36 percent) of the media organisations said they expect a severe revenue drop of 30 percent or more.
The report said the loss in revenue not only impacts the organisations but the communities they serve as well, especially those "in poor countries, at the local level, and in underprivileged communities" who rely on them for information.
Those news sources most impacted by the crisis also reported struggling under the pressure to move to digital-platforms and "intense competition for attention, advertising, and consumer spending."
When asked what kind of support would be beneficial to them, 84 percent of the responders named funding, 61 percent said product development and innovation support, and 39 percent said technical training in digital media skills.
Funding was also named the most important kind of support that was sought by 65 percent of respondents, the study showed.
"Our interviewees express a clear preference for long-term investment and cash grants over smaller short projects with restricted funding and often considerable reporting requirements," said the report.
5. What is the single most important kind of support sought by the news organisations in our sample?— Reuters Institute (@risj_oxford) November 10, 2020
Funding support is named most important by 65% of respondents pic.twitter.com/esXP3uAq2Z
Who are the winners?
Another key finding of the report was that a significant minority of independent news media, mainly smaller online newsrooms, reported seeing stable or growing revenues.
According to the report, some of these organisations were non-profits and most were smaller than "the traditional mainstays of the industry."
They made up 14 percent of the responders.
The seven cases profiled in the report were Mexico's Animal Político, South Africa's Daily Maverick, Lebanon's Daraj, Malaysia's Malaysiakini, Poland's Gazeta Wyborcza, as well as two non-profits, amaBhungane, and Chequeado.
Among many things, the report discussed different revenue streams, leadership and management training, and subscription programmes that these companies exemplify.
"Their work is not easy, their future not guaranteed, and their models will not always work for others or elsewhere. But it is important to recognise their success and learn from it, during the crisis, and in the post-pandemic future," said the report.
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