State media in Belarus are funded from the state budget, while independent media are supported from abroad. It appears that Belarusan society basically doesn’t pay for the domestic journalism.
“Who is going to pay for high-quality journalism?” was the topic of the open lecture by Andrei Aliaksandrau, Belarusan journalist, a researcher in "CECH" Art-space. The lecture took place in Minsk on December 17.
Today in the times of new media and Internet reign, traditional business-model of news media is being ruined, and the question appears: who and how will pay for some quality and independent journalism? New business-models are being tried out; however, no one has yet found a solution for rescuing journalism.
Peculiarities of media market in Belarus make this problem even more acute. State media are funded from the state budget and administrative resources, while non-state media often use foreign aid.
As a result, a unique situation appears: Belarusan society basically doesn’t pay for the Belarusan journalism.
What does “high quality journalism” mean? Is it possible to use western models of news media monetization in Belarus? Are Belarusan journalists creating content that is worth paying for? Are Belarusan journalists responsible before the society, whom they expect to pay for their work? Andrei Aliaksandrau looked for the answers to these questions.
- Digital technologies deprived mass media of the possibility to make use of the limited technologies, and this is how media lost their profit.
Now we still have readers for printed media; however, the advertisement is gone, i.e. printed media lost their ability to earn money through sales. Printed media are going through a financial catastrophe, with TV maintaining its share in the world advertisement budget and Internet getting increasingly and more advertisement money.
A lot of companies that are discovering new ways to earn money in new situation have appeared in the world. The new most famous models are subscription to newspapers, payments for the access to all articles of a newspaper or magazine (with Times as the most famous example), or subscription to several newspapers at once (a model was invented by a Slovakian company and is called Piano).
There is also a crowdfunding model, when journalists raise money for some project.
To fund journalism from means of common Internet users is quite feasible.
All the new business models have certain philosophy. Let me be honest – no one has yet invented one single vector business model that would guarantee journalists their payment for high quality work in Internet.
Successful media now create information platforms that mass media are using, and now these platforms are using niche editions as they work with certain audience.
What is happening in our media space? The latest research shows that in Belarus Internet, where more and more sources of information are being created, also provides newspaper circulation.
Half of the population is surfing the Internet, but unfortunately, few use media websites and read news or analytics. Russian media dominate in Belarus.
People don’t go to news websites on purpose; news media don’t cover more than 5-6% of the population.
Due to a number of political reasons we have one more interesting peculiarity: Belarusan society is not paying for Belarusan journalism. State media in Belarus are funded from the state budget, while independent media are supported from abroad. There are few non-governmental companies in Belarus that are functioning as full-scale media.
We can talk about high mission of Belarusan journalism that brings truth about the situation in the country to people, while in reality this journalism doesn’t have any mechanism of accountability before the society.