Data-Driven Digital Platform to Help Independent News Media Become Financially Self-Sufficient
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Internews, and Microsoft announced a new public-private partnership to develop a Media Viability Accelerator to help independent news outlets become more financially sustainable. The announcement, made in advance of the 2023 Summit for Democracy, illustrates a shared commitment among government, business, and civil society to shore up democracy’s fourth estate.
“Independent media is both a public good and a private enterprise, but it has faced significant financial headwinds of late,” said USAID Administrator Samantha Power. “The U.S. government will use every tool at our disposal to support independent media, including by drawing on the expertise of our partners in the private sector. The Media Viability Accelerator is a model public-private partnership that will help keep independent media outlets around the world financially sustainable so they can continue their vital work.”
“Media around the globe face a dual threat: repression and bankruptcy,” said Jeanne Bourgault, President and CEO of Internews, a nonprofit that supports independent media in 100 countries. “Thousands of media outlets have closed around the world in the past decade due to disruption of traditional media business models. In service of democracy, the Media Viability Accelerator will help reverse that trend by assisting media to survive and become more competitive.”
The Media Viability Accelerator is a web-based platform that will help news media become more financially sustainable by accessing solutions and market insights to inform effective business strategies. Participating media outlets will, free of charge, learn from a community of peers, access a multi-lingual tool that visualizes media performance data, and receive actionable daily alerts based on thousands of market and media sources.
"Independent journalism is essential to a healthy and vibrant democracy, but technology has unfortunately eroded traditional ad-based business models," said Brad Smith, Microsoft's vice chair and president. "Our hope is that this AI-powered data aggregation and visualization tool will offer media outlets the kind of market intelligence they need to be financially successful."
In a three-way memorandum of understanding that underlies the partnership:
- USAID agreed to support the development and growth of the Media Viability Accelerator platform, and set and monitor high-level objectives for the project;
- Microsoft will contribute expertise in data analysis, visualization dashboards, cloud services, and AI and agreed to provide in-kind technical support to develop and sustain the MVA platform; and
- Internews, in concert with other media development organizations, agreed to register up to 500 media outlet users within 6 months, with a focus on media from low-resource countries and emerging democracies.
Other organizations supporting the effort include Free Press Unlimited, Global Forum for Media Development, IREX, SembraMedia, and the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Media outlets, businesses, governments and nonprofits interested in participating can sign up.