Credit: Markus Spiske on Unsplash

The media landscape may have been characterised by job cuts in recent times, but digital native media is blossoming in Europe, according to Project Oasis, the new research project of Sembra Media.

The year-long project looks at trends surrounding the sustainability, innovation, and impact of independent digital native media in more than 40 European countries. The new European digital media directory and a report are now available. It finds that ambitious digital media are filling news deserts, attracting disillusioned audiences and pioneering new ways of sharing vital information.

To carry out the project, 34 researchers mapped and studied media from more than 40 countries and produced a directory featuring 540 media profiles of all sizes.

Despite the political, economic and linguistic differences that characterise all the European countries, digital native media organisations featured in the Project Oasis directory face many common challenges and opportunities:

  • Digital native media organisations use social media to target younger audiences, send news updates via Telegram to evade censorship, and train citizen journalists to reach underserved communities. 

  • More than 85 per cent said society and human rights issues are key areas of their coverage, including topics related to migration, refugees, gender and feminism. 

  • More than half dedicate resources to investigative journalism, and many form alliances to cover stories across borders.

  • Women account for nearly 60 per cent of media founders. They are highly collaborative, and most organisations have two or more co-founders.

  • Media founded by teams that include both men and women reported the highest revenues, with an average of €509,740 per year.

  • Those that invest in business development build more sustainable organisations. Media outlets with at least one employee dedicated to revenue generation reported average annual revenue six times higher than those without people in these roles: €598,539 compared to €95,629. 

  • More than half the media in this study are non-profit organisations, and many of the for-profit ventures invest more in journalism than building profits.

  • Among non-profit media, the primary revenue sources are grants, individual donations and membership (in that order). Among for-profits, the top sources are advertising, website subscriptions and grants. 

  • Revenue diversity is key, but more sources do not correlate to greater success. Developing two to six sources of revenue appears to be optimal for sustainability and independence.

  • Digital native media outlets range from small startups run by volunteers dedicated to their communities to highly profitable multi-platform operations that attract millions of page views every month and earn millions of euros a year.

  • More than half of media organisations in the study started operations within the last decade, with 2016 being the year when most organisations started up.

"We have been inspired by the innovation, determination, and award-winning news coverage that is being done by digital native media throughout Europe,” says Janine Warner, co-founder and executive director of SembraMedia, in the press release.

"As we’ve learned from similar research projects in other parts of the world, shining a light on the kinds of media featured in our new Project Oasis directory can help their leaders learn from each other, and gain greater visibility and recognition from organizations that can provide the vital support they need and deserve."

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