DIGITAL ENTREPRENEURS PUSH THE LIMITS
From training citizen journalists, to helping universities share research beyond their ivory towers, digital media entrepreneurs are exploring new ways to engage audiences and create new revenue models.
Limited resources make innovation essential
Many of the innovative ideas that we discovered in this study were fueled by a combination of the need to solve problems creatively, a desire to develop new revenue streams, and the closeness of these journalists to the audiences they serve.
A few examples of innovative projects
(Colombia) La Silla Vacía created both a new type of sponsorship opportunity and a space for public debate when they launched a collection of online forums and invited 50 experts to post about popular topics, including leadership, education, innovation, and women’s rights.
Branded with a variation on their name, La Silla Llena features carefully moderated forums, each offering a unique sponsorship opportunity and a place for informed discussion and debate.
Building on their reputation for being intellectual leaders in their country, founder Juanita León and her team have also had success with a section of the site where they sell academic papers, sponsored research studies, books, and serialized publications. Branded as The IQ, this section is sponsored by universities and NGOs.
(Brazil) Volt Data Lab specializes in making government databases more accessible to general audiences in user-friendly formats that increase public awareness and community participation.
(Colombia) Revista Mprende is more than just a website, it has become a laboratory of entrepreneurship and innovation, and an important part of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Colombia.
(Colombia) Mprende has developed a collaborative model and created alliances with 50 universities to publicize courses and events. It also works closely with accelerators Wayra and INNpulsa and a variety of chambers of commerce in the country.
(Mexico) Así Como Suena produces audio documentaries on business and politics. They had just launched as we started this study at the end of 2016, but had already developed a syndication deal for one-time use of its podcasts with other media outlets around the country.
(Argentina) El Meme created an alliance with Chicas Poderosas Argentina and Ñoño Productions to create the first VR election coverage in 2015, including real time social media broadcasts with 360 video.
(Argentina) Cosecha Roja runs a journalism training program for citizens, funded by a grant from the Open Society Foundations.
They focus on underserved communities, producing stories about human rights, women, and LGBTQIA communities. Articles produced in their seminars are published on their own site, as well as in the publications of the participants.
Entrepreneur uses crowd-voicing to replace computer audio
Linguoo of Argentina is an audio news service that uses crowd-voicing to produce news and other information that is read by humans instead of robots.
Emanuel Vilte started the service when his mother lost her eyesight, and the online community now features more than 150,000 articles and blog posts read in Spanish and English by a global network of volunteers, many of whom read their own blogs.
The mobile application makes it easy to listen to audio files offline and it offers recommendations based on listening habits.
With more than 100,000 users, Linguoo’s business model includes subscriptions and advertising, as well as partnerships with telecom companies.
This innovative approach has helped Vilte receive numerous awards, including the LatAm Unesco and MIT Under 35 awards.
Stolen Memories: A cross-border collaboration to recover cultural treasures and thwart money-launderers
For centuries, cultural artifacts have been looted from Latin America and sold to museums and galleries, mostly in Europe and the U.S. In more recent years, buying and selling artifacts has become a popular way to launder money.
Reaching out to friends and colleagues at other digital media in the region, Ojo Público formed partnerships with reporters from Plaza Pública, a digital native in Guatemala, La Nación, a daily newspaper in Costa Rica, and two of the sites reviewed in this study: Chequeado of Argentina and Animal Político of Mexico.
“The project began with a series of public records requests and a focus on artifacts from Peru, but it soon became clear that tracking stolen artwork effectively would require an international team”, said Fabiola Torres, a co-founder and editor at Ojo Público.
To develop the massive database that forms the core of Ojo Publico’s Stolen Memories website, the team filed hundreds of public records requests and spent months combing through data, images, videos, and interviews.
The stories featured on the Stolen Memories site include the art trafficking activities of politicians from Buenos Aires, drug traffickers in Guatemala, and diplomats in Costa Rica and Peru. Working with partners across five countries helped these journalists piece these complicated stories together and reveal how the international art market facilitates the sale of stolen art from temples, museums, and private collections.
“Stolen Memories is the first international database of stolen cultural artifacts in the world that is updated and accessible to the public,” Torres said. Unlike the commercial database services used by private art dealers, the Stolen Memories project is free.
Users of the site can search information from a variety of sources, including Interpol’s files on 39,000 stolen works of art from more than 132 countries, and reports from cultural ministries in Peru, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Mexico, and Argentina.
The Stolen Memories project by Ojo Público was made possible, in part, by the financial support of the International Women’s Media Fund and the Fund for Investigative Journalism.
“Ojo Público is an innovation lab, but that doesn’t mean we’ve abandoned the best practices of traditional journalism,” Torres said. “Using technology raises the bar and helps us set even more rigorous standards for our work. Our team includes experienced investigative reporters, as well as programmers. The young journalists who are starting their careers with us are finding it natural to combine technology and reporting. Our goal is to develop a 21st-century model, one that transcends traditional print reporting to provide a more interactive and responsive way of providing news for our audience.”