Is sustainability an option?

As digital media is on the rise, Day 1 of the Digital Media Conclave 2021 explored the scope of sustainable newsrooms.


By Arjun Iyer (BA '22) and Preetika Parashuraman (BA '22)

The pandemic has challenged many newsrooms to evolve and become dynamic. The way we consume news has changed over the past few years. Emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence are influencing the dissemination of news. The Digital Media Conclave 2021, organised by the Digital Journalists' Association of India aims to stir conversations about the latest trends in technology, the rise of digital media platforms, and the challenges of revenue generation.

Screen grab from the webinar

Digital, the way forward?
Media has been evolving at a fast pace, especially in the last 50 years. In these fast-changing times, the ethical and moral responsibilities of news organizations have also changed, from just reporting facts to ensuring the credibility of news.

Digital media has been struggling to receive acknowledgment since it has been dominated by conventional media until recently. Vinoth Poovalingam, the founder of Hocalwire, moderated a panel discussion on how to build sustainable newsrooms in the digital space. The panelists included Anuradha Kedia, founder of The Better India, and Shradha Sharma who is the Founder and Chief Editor of YourStory.

Building sustainable newsrooms?
According to Anuradha, the media was not viewed as an investable business. Initially, digital news platforms were merely viewed as blogs and lacked funds from investors. However, digital media is changing the perspective as the movement to technology is bringing scalability. To build sustainable newsrooms, it is important to ensure that you create a platform that earns more money than it spends. The panelists advise digital platforms to avoid drowning in huge expense sheets and focus on growth by creating impact.

Sustainability does not only come from revenue but content too. "I met a lot of people who had amazing stories to tell and nobody was ready to listen," said Shardha Sharma. It is a journalist's responsibility to combine storytelling and journalism to give a platform to stories that are ignored by the mainstream media. She did not want to sensationalise stories and wanted to present them in an unbiased manner. She talked about how YourStory focused on identifying stories from the grassroots of India and how people started relying on the platform to feel validated. To cultivate an audience and sustain it, it is essential to gain the trust of your audience. Kedia stressed the challenges of selling positive and solution-driven stories when the media industry and news consumption is heavily biased towards negative news.

Is it a far-fetched dream?
Investment in technology is crucial to ensure sustainability. This is what differentiates digital media from traditional media. While any enterprise or newsroom aims to survive the competition, they also struggle to become self-sufficient. Shradha says that an enterprise can become self-sufficient especially when it has a "no fallback option". She emphasised that "sustainability should not come at the cost of the brand". She also goes on to point out how certain mistakes in the past impacted the newsroom's functionality, but also how all those mistakes taught us to take a stand.

On the other hand, Anuradha Kedia believes that the self-sufficiency of a business has got nothing to do with money, but with a money-making mindset. In simple terms, "One can be sustainable but never be self-sustainable, especially in a digital media world. You may reach a stage where your revenues are high but once you take your eyes off, you're doomed," she added.

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