Rethinking Media Houses Revenue Streams in The Digital Era.
This article reflects the Swichi Project implemented by Sahara Ventures in partnership with DW Akademie and Tanzania Media Foundation (TMF).
In the past few years, digital transformation has disrupted all most every sector media sector included. It is almost a year now since I wrote the article, “News is No Longer News, Technology Disrupting Traditional Journalism.” showing how technology is disrupting the media sector and threatening the existence of traditional media. To help Small and Medium Media Houses (SMMH) rethink their business models and create alternative sources of revenue. DW Akademie supported Sahara Ventures to build the capacity of local media houses to rethink their business model and develop strategies to stay relevant in the current market.
Swichi Project is a project which aims at capacity building of media houses to rethink their business models. The project support media houses to develop a strategy for rethinking revenue streams and digital transformation by developing a co-creating a Do-It-Yourself Toolkit for SMMH struggling to cope with the changes.
Since the project has started, we have engaged with eight Media Houses and five Press Clubs in Mwanza, Mbeya, Shinyanga, Musoma, Dodoma, Katavi, Morogoro and Kagera. We have engaged with TVs, Radios, and blogs. Eleven media houses were identified to be the primary beneficiaries of the project. The engagement with the grassroots media houses aimed at introducing the project and co-creating with the media houses and press clubs on rethinking business models and revenue streams capitalizing on digital transformation. During the interventions, three tools are explored with line management and teams of the media houses;
The Challenge Definition Canvas
The challenge definition canvas is adopted to help media houses to understand obstacles and challenges they face towards rethinking and exploring alternative sources of revenue and on developing the digital strategy. The tool looks into; Stakeholders, Process, Infrastructure, Culture, Strategy and Data challenges media houses faces that limits them from exploring new business models.
Revenue Streams and Digital Transformation Canvas
The revenue streams and digital transformation canvas is a tool inspired by Prof. Marc Peter’s Digital Transformation Canvas to help organizations rethink and strategize for digital transformation. The RSDT Canvas is adopted to help media houses rethink specific components of their business models to help them rethink their revenue streams while at the same time reflecting on digital strategy. The tool is still a work in progress. Part of the exercise is to reflect with the media houses on improving the tool to meet their needs by adopting a user-centred approach. The tool has evolved from the first media house to the eighth.
The Use Case Canvas
To document practical cases of media houses exploring new alternative revenue stream sources, we adopted a Use Case canvas to capture a specific scenario of media houses adopting new business models or incorporating digital transformation in their strategy. The goal is to gather as many cases and stories as possible to be incorporated in the final DIY Toolkit document and Digital Platform, which is the main output of the Swichi Project.
What Have We Learned?
Engaging with grassroots media houses has helped validate our hypothesis that media houses are struggling to rethink their strategy and develop innovative and sustainable sources of revenue streams. SMMH also agreed on the challenge facing their businesses in competing with new forms of media, especially digital media platforms and the rising wave of digital journalists and influencers. Specific reasons learned;
- Legacy Sources of Revenues; most media houses still rely on revenue sources, including selling ads and airtime. Few media houses owned by non-profits rely massively on donor and community financing. Some have been admitted without donor and community financing; they will close shop.
- Running away from the core business due to a lack of sustainable sources of revenue streams, some media houses have been forced to completely rethink their business models and explore new sources of income outside the media sector. For example, some media houses are getting into agriculture and printing services to cope with operations costs.
- Regulatory challenges; while some media houses have started to explore alternative revenue streams and design strategies for digital engagement, the challenge has always been how to comply with the Tanzania Communication Regulatory Authority (TCRA) regulatory procedures. Some media houses are hesitant to go digital, not knowing the consequences.
- Human Resource and Infrastructural Challenges; in almost all the media houses we have visited, lack of infrastructure hinders them from exploring alternative revenue sources requiring massive investment. Also, some SMMH lacks the talents with the right skills to help them transform, while some faces change management issues.
The project is ongoing; these are some of the lessons we have learned so far from the interventions with the media houses.
The project's next phase is to help the media houses work on their Revenue Streams and Digital Transformation strategies. The selected media houses are currently working on their drafts based on co-created meetings we hosted with them. In March, there will be a Bootcamp hosted in Dar es Salaam to help the media houses further shape their strategy through the support of technical experts.
The tools used, lessons learned and adopting practical cases to design and create the final DIY Toolkit available online for download for the rest of the media houses to use. We will create a digital platform for users to adopt the tools.
We appreciate all the support we have received from the media houses and press clubs so far. We are looking forward to creating the DIY Toolkit for Rethink Revenue Streams and Digital Transformation.
For more details about the Swichi Project, go to this link.