Finding new media business models in a crisis

The COVID-19 crisis has disrupted the media industry but also presented a window of innovative opportunity in the digital space.

“The one thing that is absolutely certain from this crisis is that the future is digital. There are guaranteed distribution channels that are very cheap, the production cost of content can be significantly cheaper than they have been in the past and this is a great opportunity for people to be trying new things,” said Lisa MacLeod Taljard, vice president of WAN-IFRA.

MacLeod Taljard was speaking at a fraycollege webinar with Fatemah Farag the founder and CEO of Welad ElBalad Media and Bilal Randeree, the director for Africa and MENA at the Media Development Investment Fund (MDIF), to discuss how the media can develop new business models in the COVID-19 storm.

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Lisa MacLeod Taljard, Fatemah Farag, Bilal Randeree and Paula Fray in discussion

“I think that the whole picture is going to look very different in the next five to ten years in terms of an emergence of a different kind of publisher that is making money in a different way and that will be facilitated by digital distribution,” Macleod Taljard said.

Randeree said people tend to “bounce around” the word innovation to see what the next best thing could be for their organisation.

“Nine out of ten times, it is not some AR [...] or whatever acronym is is popular at the moment but rather for your organisation it is a different kind of thinking or approach,” he said.

Randeree added that media houses need to find a creative and strategic approach to innovation that best suits them.

An MDIF article published a day before South Africa’s lockdown said the coronavirus poses an existential threat to media businesses globally with a huge knock of slipping advertising.

MacLeod Taljard said companies that are extremely print-focused have seen a massive decline in numbers and in advertising.

“The advertising spend has just gone away,” said MacLeod Taljard.

Farag said the pandemic has created opportunities for smaller players such as local media to resonate more with their audiences, especially at a time where people are seeking credible information.

“We have seen phenomenal heights in relevance to the communities that we serve,” she said, adding that Welad ElBalad Media had tripled its audience engagement in recent months.

Farag added that small to medium-sized media have the upper hand to be “nimble” and adapt to the pandemic in contrast to large organisations that often have to go through red tape to make decisions.

“It’s an opportunity for the smaller players who are faster on their feet to gain space in the media ecosystem,” Farag said.

The next media management fraycollege webinar will be “Press Freedom & Freedom Of Expression” on June 4. Book your free virtual seat here.

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