The Co-founder and CEO of The News Minute, Vignesh Vellore, suggested fostering independent journalism among young minds to navigate the challenges of mainstream media. Vellore was one of the speakers at the SMX India Communication Summit 2021, in the ‘Journalism Next’ session on 4th March. He also offered insights on online journalism with a sustainable revenue model.
SMX India Communication Summit 2021 aimed to examine and explore the trends, patterns and practices emerging in Media, Communication and Entertainment industries. The summit was organised by InnoServ Group, ORAI, ASMA and ASENTREK Globals. Adamas University, Kolkata was the knowledge partner. It was a series of webinars spanned over 2 days, from 4th to 5th March 2021. Each day of the summit focuses on analysing the mounting trends and practices, in the specialised fields of media.
The News Minute is a Karnataka based independent digital news platform that focuses and delivers stories from South India and operates through all 5 states. Vignesh Vellore established the platform in 2014 alongside Chitra Subramaniam and Dhanya Rajendran.
Revenue for the Independent Digital Platforms
“When we first started out 7 years ago the revenue possibilities of digital media platforms were very traditional”, said Vellore. He referred to the times when the digital media platforms were largely depended on advertisements from Google. Numerous advertisements on the web pages were the only way to monetize the content and sustain the platforms. He shared his experience in trying different revenue models as a trial-and-error method.
Vellore talked about how working directly with the clients and reaching out to the brands for advertisement, can help sustain an independent digital media platform. He said, “The revenue in this model is much higher but it also depends on the number of views the website manages to reach every month.”
“The independent digital media platforms can also generate revenue from the Government ads but they had to follow a strict norm and a cut-off system to ensure a minimum of 5 million unique visitors every month, then, only the rates are lower”, said Vellore. He also suggested that working with professional organisations and addressing specific projects, influencer programmes can also help generate revenue for the platforms. Vellore talked about creating branded content and working alongside government and business entities. He focused on handling branded content and mentioned how they should not influence the editorial sections.
Digital Media in 2020
Vellore recalled the difficult times when the pandemic crushed the economy
in 2020. The Media industries incurred huge losses. He shared his experience in managing the organisation when the advertisement revenues decreased by a large percentage. Vellore said, “We lost around 50-60% of our ad-revenue in just a month”.
He shared his experience in balancing the loss in revenue from the ad sales and introduced a ‘hybrid model’. He talked about a membership programme where the audiences will subscribe to the platform for a fee and receive content, services and access to the editorial team and the reporters through a forum, where the audiences and members can also interact. The membership program also includes events and webinars to keep them informed and updated. He also focused on the ‘lean model’ and optimal use of resources for the independent and small media industries for smooth operations.
On the other hand, a section of people moved from Television and Print media to Digital media in 2020. The audience accessed and consumed news and other content from digital media publications. The small independent digital media saw a growth in traffic in 2020.
Trends in 2021
Vellore shared his apprehensions on how the smaller and independent digital media platforms are expected to face restrictions and competition from the Government authorities and larger media organisations in 2021.
He pointed out the importance of staying independent, self-regulating and delivering quality journalism. He also aims to focus on educating the audience to support independent journalism in 2021. As a concluding note, Vellore said, “The independent sites are the way forward and will continue to operate and deliver the right content in these challenging times. There is light at the end of the tunnel.”
The author, Shrijeeta Ghosh, is associated with Adamas University Media School.