International fund launches open call to fund independent Latin American media in audience strategies

One of the biggest current challenges for Latin American independent media is sustainability. The International Fund for Public Interest Media (IFPIM) seeks to help in this with its new open call focused on audience strategy support.

Until July 1, independent media from Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Paraguay can participate in the IFPIM call and obtain financing for a period of 24 months. Other countries in Africa, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Asia and the Pacific can also participate. IFPIM, a global and multilateral fund to support public interest media, will be giving at least $5 million in grants globally.

According to IFPIM, public interest media inform the public and help ensure that power is held accountable. These media also provide reliable fact-based information; are committed to the demonstrable pursuit of truth; and are editorially independent and transparent about their processes, finances and internal policies.

This is the second time that IFPIM has opened a call like this. On the first occasion, 11 media organizations were the first beneficiaries of the fund.

“The International Fund launched a 'pilot' open call in 2022 and it was designed to begin deploying much-needed financial resources, building the fund's grantmaking infrastructure, and gathering initial learnings on potential models to foster healthier, more inclusive, and more resilient media environments,” Tommaso Di Robilant, strategic coordinator of the IFPIM call, told LatAm Journalism Review (LJR).

That year two Latin American media organizations received funding: Mutante and Vorágine, both from Colombia.

With the money obtained, Mutante, a platform that champions participatory journalism, launched a new content production unit called Estudio Mutante that covers topics of public interest such as climate change, gender, sexual and reproductive rights, among others.  

“In 2023, its first year of operation,  Estudio Mutante managed to be self-sustaining and open difficult conversations, but very relevant to our context. The Studio raised $43,000 USD, which allowed it to cover its costs and generate a 10% surplus,” Juan Camilo Maldonado, director of Mutante, told LJR.

an award ceremony

Mutante (Colombia) team receiving the King of Spain award for the best media outlet in Ibero-America 2024. (Photo: Royal Spanish House)

“During the period of time that we have had the support of IFPIM, we were awarded the King of Spain award for the best media outlet in Ibero-America. The support of the fund, not only to the studio but also to Mutante's other lines of work, made our team achieve enough consistency to generate the work that over the last year and a half ended up leading us to the King of Spain awards," Maldonado added.

On the other hand, Vorágine, which specializes in investigations into human rights violations and corruption, was able to experiment, thanks to the fund, with new video-based social media formats. According to Di Robilant, Vorágine's reach has increased significantly among younger audiences.

“Since that first open call, we have greatly accelerated our grant-making activities, through direct funding. Our portfolio now includes more than 40 organizations and independent media around the world doing vital work to inform the public in the countries where they operate and it is growing rapidly,” Di Robilant said. “In 2023, other media from the region were incorporated into our portfolio, these are La Voz de Guanacaste (Costa Rica), La Gaceta de Tucumán (Argentina), Cuestión Pública (Colombia), Confidencial (Nicaragua) and El Surti (Paraguay) ”.


Audience strategy


To be part of this call, the media outlet that applies must meet certain requirements. First of all, it must be a legally established organization. Second, it must be a public interest media outlet and have total annual costs of at least $300,000 in the last fiscal year. It must also have existed and published continuously for more than three years and have not distributed dividends to shareholders in the last three years. Additionally, it must have a net income less than 5% of total income (averaged over 3 years) and a cash reserve of less than 12 months.

This year, media must use the funding granted in order to establish concrete and achievable strategies around their audiences. For IFPIM, carrying out strategic actions is fundamental for the growth and sustainability of media.

a woman talking to an audience

"Knowledge of the audience is a valuable asset and media know it", Vanina Berghella, IFPIM’s regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean, told LJR. (Photo: Patricia Lim/ Centro Knight).

Some of these strategies may involve activities related to understanding audiences, segment identification, expansion or deepening of the conversation between the audience and journalists.

“Today more than ever, audiences are diverse, active, participatory and have multiple interests, which is why it is necessary to deepen our knowledge of their behavior in order to serve them in the most complete and efficient way possible,” Vanina Berghella, IFPIM’s regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean, told LJR.

Berghella also clarified that although the focus of this call is on choosing proposals that contain a valuable audience strategy for media and their audiences, the financing will also cover other structural needs of the selected media. The fund will pay greater attention to news organizations that prioritize their audiences and seek to create two-way conversations, listening and responding to the needs and concerns of the communities they serve.

“Knowledge of the audience is a valuable asset and media know it. Based on this understanding, they can not only create content of interest, but also provide service, develop new products and ultimately build loyalty with their audience,” Berghella added.