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Media viability in Ethiopia – A digital transformation

In response to the challenges faced by Ethiopian media outlets, Fojo, with support from SIDA and Danida, has spearheaded a transformative initiative to enhance media viability. The intervention involves hands-on digital media capacity-building training, multimedia storytelling experiments and the integration of innovative strategies. As a result, The Reporter, a prominent media outlet, has gained substantial online traction and monetised its digital platforms.

The landscape of media in Ethiopia has undergone a seismic shift with the advent of the internet and digital media. This transformation has brought to light significant challenges in media viability within the country. Media outlets in Ethiopia grapple with a myriad of issues, including a lack of journalism and media management skills, inadequate equipment and taxation hurdles. Coupled with restricted media environments and the digital emergence, these challenges hinder the viability of independent media.

While some newspapers have recognised the potential of the internet, few have successfully monetised their online presence to reach a broader readership. The Reporter, for instance, faced a 13-year struggle with an unstructured digital presence on various platforms, including its own website.

In response to these challenges, Fojo, with support from SIDA and Danida, provided hands-on digital media capacity-building training and technical multimedia storytelling experiments to The Reporter. Fojo’s approach involves leveraging regional experts and sharing experiences to integrate lessons and contextualise them from various perspectives.

“The support from Fojo enabled us to hire nine new journalists which has fortified our newly established digital team,” says Amare Aregawi, Managing Editor at The Reporter.

Addressing seemingly ‘small things’ like the use of images, headlines and language, Carole Kimutai, consultant from Kenya and a key figure in the transformation process, emphasised their significance in capturing the audience’s attention and engagement.

“It’s essential that the newspaper industry continues to innovate and find ways to connect with new technology and employ sustainable business models that will not only help save costs but also to increase revenue for the media,” she says.

“The support we have received has facilitated the integration of a cohesive digital editorial team into our company’s structure which has accelerated our overall digitalisation process,” said Beakal Teshome, Head of The Reporter’s Information Technology Department, highlighting the rigorous training and hands-on guidance provided by Fojo. Efforts have also been made to shift mindsets within the management, editors and reporters, fostering an embrace of the transformative process.

The results are positive – the new digital team has formulated long-term strategies and working guidelines. The Reporter witnessed a surge in its online presence, gaining 20 thousand new YouTube subscribers in just two months and successfully monetising the platform. Facebook and Twitter followers grew by approximately 45%, with an additional 80 thousand TikTok followers. The English website recorded an impressive 1.2 million new visitors in just four months.

This success story underscores the pivotal role that targeted digital media training and strategic transformation play in overcoming challenges and ensuring the viability of independent media in the digital age.

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