The nature of the journalism industry is changing and so does the way of doing things. Technological developments are often referred to as the cause of this change, as the relocation of news production to the digital sphere necessitated certain conventional business models to be adjusted if not completely overturned for newsrooms of different scales to survive. Free and faster access to information online resulted in a sharp decline for print media sales and advertising revenues, which for long had been the main source of income, yet now insufficient to keep the business running. A broader audience online did not necessarily mean more money coming in. Seeking a way out of this crisis and to maintain financial sustainability, outlets had no other choice but to diversify their revenue models.
In this research we aimed to analyze the main revenue models present in Turkey’s digital news platforms; advertising, subscription, crowdfunding and grant programs. We sought to gain in-depth knowledge on these processes that require serious technical and operational competencies and to understand the reasons why newsrooms prefer to incorporate certain revenue models while excluding others. To do so we conducted interviews with 5 media professionals from different outlets and 3 media specialists. Media organizations’ ownership structures, audience preferences and the existing media atmosphere in Turkey were some of the prominent factors mentioned as shall we discuss in this report.
We reached the following conclusions after a month of research:
- Revenue models such as sales and advertising for digital media are not sufficient on their own. In order to ensure independence, different income models are sought.
- It is worrying for media professionals and specialists that while digital news platforms are reaching a bigger audience, advertising revenues are not increasing on the same scale.
- Subscription and membership models that generate income from readers are becoming increasingly significant for the sustainability of digital journalism.
- Developing reader/audience-oriented income models is especially vital for independent publishers.
- Importance of audience analytics and demographics has become better understood in recent years.
- Advertising is still generally the main revenue stream for digital news platforms.
- The current advertising market is impacting the digital news industry both ethically and in terms of the content.
- The media professionals and experts say that income-based thinking and ethical principles should go hand-in-hand, with professional principles of journalism to be followed regardless.
- News sites that offer paid content to the reader are unable to compete with the success of other platforms that use the same subscription models.
- Data on subscription numbers show that Turkey’s media is still at the very beginning of using such models.
- The media atmosphere in Turkey and inadequacies in legal regulations make it difficult for platforms to switch to subscription models.
- The prevailing opinion is that news content behind a paywall should be original and different from what is offered to the reader for free.
- Diversifying income without relying on a single financing source is important to ensure editorial independence.
- While crowdfunding is seen as a serious revenue stream and indicator of corporate strength by some, others opine that such campaigns may damage the value of the news product.
- We cannot talk about a common perception regarding grant programs. While for some institutions they might reduce employee productivity, some view it as a financial savior.
- Although the media professionals generally believe that grants to media institutions are allocated fairly, some discern that the amounts granted are often dysfunctional for the outlet and that some are unable to profit from these programs due to certain reasons even if they deserve to.