By Ekpali Saint

In Nigeria, about 23 media organisations announced at the end of May 2020 that their staff would face layoffs, significant pay cuts, or both, according to a published report titled Surviving the Pandemic: The Struggle for Media Sustainability in Africa.

This is largely because the financial means to experiment with new products and business models is lacking. And as independent media organisations in the country struggle with unsustainable business models, the public’s chance of accessing quality news stories is limited.

But the Nigeria Media Innovation Programme (NAMIP) is changing the narrative. Launched in February 2022, NAMIP is a three-year initiative working to support the editorial independence of media organisations in Nigeria by strengthening their financial sustainability.

NAMIP is funded by MacArthur Foundation and implemented by the Media Development Investment Fund (MDIF), a not-for-profit investment fund for independent media. NAMIP works to foster new business models for independent media in Nigeria and it does this through grant funding, training, mentorship, strategic capacity-building interventions, and community-building activities.

Currently, NAMIP is supporting 24 independent media organisations to generate sustainable and diverse revenue streams, and also build their audiences.

“We are doing this by supporting their product development, digital development, audience development, revenue development and organisational management,” Deji Adekunle, NAMIP’s programme director, told Jamlab.

Adekunle said a major win is that participating media organisations are already growing their revenue and diversifying revenue sources. However, “we are studying the organisations closely to document and share learnings around their transformation so the ecosystem as a whole would benefit from NAMIP,” he said.

Results trickling in

One of NAMIP’s success stories is Prime Progress, a social impact and accountability journalism platform in Nigeria. Prime Progress was among the first 11 media organisations selected last year to participate in the media innovation programme in Nigeria.

Before now, Innocent Eteng, Prime Progress’ founder and managing editor, said the platform published once a week because of limited material and human resources. Besides, Eteng said when Prime Progress launched in March 2021; it could not retain full-time staff but worked mostly with freelance and volunteer writers, which affected its level of consistency.

But with NAMIP, says Eteng, “we have since transitioned into a vibrant daily doing niche reporting around repressive cultures, stereotypes, climate, social impact [solutions journalism], and acts of kindness.” He adds that Prime Progress now has six staff members including business development and audience engagement fellows.

This level of success within a short time of participating in the NAMIP programme encourages Eteng. “We feel the future of Prime Progress looks great because we are taking full advantage of the [NAMIP] programme and are determined to build on every layer of success recorded while learning from challenges,” he says.

However, Eteng said he started Prime Progress without doing much calculation on the business aspect which will sustain the platform. As a freelance journalist, Eteng said he started Prime Progress mainly because of the burning desire “to balance the negative Nigerian and African narratives and contribute to their reconstruction by publishing more responses to social problems and training younger journalists to do the same.”

However, this desire is not enough to sustain the platform without a strong business development and marketing strategy. This is the gap NAMIP is filling and it came at a time when the platform’s “sustainability was uncertain,” says Eteng.

He admits that NAMIP has changed the operation of the platform.

“The beauty of NAMIP is not just the financial support,” Eteng said. “Most important for us is that they assigned a coach to us who provides technical and business development support and helps us think through our distribution process. This has helped us record a 70% jump in our user base since late 2022.”

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Besides the support it gives, NAMIP also supports participating media organisations to attend local and international workshops and conferences to gain new knowledge and tools that will strengthen their editorial, marketing, and business development processes.

This is having an impact already. For example, Eteng said, “Attending newsletter workshops and monthly community calls has helped us launch our newsletter, a product we are working to develop and monetise as part of our revenue funnels.”

However, Adekunle said a major challenge the team at NAMIP anticipated was changing the “paradigm” of many newsroom leaders to not only think of the social outcomes of journalism but to also think of their craft as a viable product.

To address this, Adekunle said consistent training sessions and community call discussions “have helped a great deal in understanding and sharing these ideas as well as discussing the realities of implementation for our media entrepreneurs.”

“We also make sure that the ideas we support create sustainability beyond our engagement; however, we also hope to continue to support the group after 2024.”

Meanwhile, Eteng has continued to implement the business strategies he received from the various training sessions. With results trickling in, he is confident of a stronger business model for Prime Progress.

“We are building a better structure, which makes the future clearer for us,” he said.

Reporting supported by a micro-grant from Jamlab


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