How are Ukrainian media holding up and what are their survival strategies amidst the war? Is it possible to monetize media content during the sharp economic downturn in Eastern Europe? Is there anything independent media from Belarus and Russia can do for their communities while being in exile? How to encourage young people to consume quality journalism and how to combat the unprecedented propaganda influences?
These were the burning questions on everyone’s minds at Fojo’s Fourth Annual Experience Exchange Conference in Chisinau, Moldova. The topic for 2022 was “Practitioners to Practitioners: Content, Audience, and Monetization in the Times of Crisis”.
To try and find answers to all those questions, Fojo brought together participants from seven ECER countries, each with unique and special experiences. One speaker was a Ukrainian publisher who had to relocate and start his business all over not once, but twice – both times due to the Russian occupation. Another speaker represented an independent media outlet from Belarus – or rather a team forced to exile, since the office was seized by the authorities while the outlets leadership and journalist were imprisoned. Independent Russian media faced a similar fate: most of them were forced to move operation to other countries after harsh censorship was imposed by the Russian regime. In short, many media outlets all over the region continue working despite oftentimes being short both on money and staff.
With all the pressures, threats and risks that media face in Eastern Europe these days, there is still a strong will to serve their communities and stay independent. One Moldovan media presented their case of the membership business model – a perspective idea on how to secure income without relying on donors. In another case from Ukraine, a regional media shared their tips on how to keep in touch with the advertisers during the economic downturn. This strategy allowed the outlet to recover their sales a few months into the full-scale war. Speakers from Poland and Armenia presented cases of income diversification through related businesses, while Fojo’s Georgian partner GRMA talked about joint sales for regional media.
Obviously, it is not only the business “side” of media that is shaken by the dire security situation in the region, but the actual content production too. For example, Armenian media spoke of their work amid the long-lasting conflict, where all kinds of sensitivities, loyalties and legal restrictions make keeping to journalistic standards challenging. Another recurring topic was massive propaganda and “casual” fake news are a daily reality in the region. This threat forces media to look for more effective ways to deliver quality journalism to as large audience as possible, and many useful “lifehacks” were shared during the conference.
Fojo’s conference in Chisinau is a part of the ECER Programme (Free, independent, and professional journalism in Eastern and Central Europe). Read more about useful learning and experience from the region here, here and here.