Study on digital journalism initiatives in Brazil shows little planning and revenue linked to advertising and content

By Giovana Sanchez

A new research released on May 24 provides an overview of digital media outlets in Brazil, and shows that, among other features, these initiatives share an absence of previous major planning and a revenue still closely linked to advertising and content sales.

According to journalist and consultant in digital media, Sergio Lüdtke, author of the study, it is difficult to draw a "common thread" between the initiatives, but there are points of congruence.

"What draws attention is that we are not talking about something new. We may have a higher incidence of new initiatives recently, but it is far from being new," said Lüdtke, in an interview with the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas. There are four initiatives that have been around for ten years or more, for example.

According to Lüdtke, from the 200 projects identified in Brazil, only 64 responded to the interview request - and this, therefore, is the spectrum covered by the survey. The study "Digital ventures in Brazilian Journalism" was supported by the International Institute of Social Sciences (IICS) and will be available in weekly posts in the website created for the study.

Lüdtke said that the idea of ​​mapping digital journalism initiatives in Brazil occurred to him when he was coordinating the master's degree in digital journalism in IICS. "We opened two [masters] grants and offered the course to anyone who had a media digital outlet or was thinking about launching one. In five days we had almost 100 candidates. So I had this in mind, I wanted to do more things for this audience and decided to do the research."

A point in common between the analyzed business is a lack of previous planning in most enterprises. According to the study, 67% of respondents did not have a business plan before implementing the idea and 68% did not have support of any expert.

About funding, 42% of respondents wanted to depend on advertising resources, while 26% actually have this source as a current resource. The same applies to content sale and subscriptions: 35% of entrepreneurs intend to finance themselves with subscriptions and selling news, while only 16% of them currently use this source.

Only eight did crowdfunding campaigns and 13% have no source of funding. The results coincide with a survey made this year by the non-profit Mexican Factual. Their study, "First Study of Digital Media and Journalism in Latin America," ​​showed that financial sustainability is still a challenge.

When inquiring the difficulties the news outlets have, Lüdtke could map the main problems faced by these entrepreneurs in the country. "It appears they have difficulty in finding people to help selling advertising, for example," said the journalist. Another gap is the "high incidence of initiatives that have problems with social networks and a lack of concern with audience measurement," he said.

After the release of each point of the research, Lüdtke will offer, in the same website, free mentoring hours with experts to help entrepreneurs in online journalism. He also intends to expand the search. "I think there are elements to expand and make a more comprehensive search. That could be done annually to monitor initiatives that open and that close. That is something out of our radar, for example."

Agencia Publica also follows the Brazilian independent production on journalistic content.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.