Public interest journalism startups in Europe are struggling to achieve longer term viability, according to a new study.

A fresh wave of innovative media startups is emerging across Europe, most of which are small outlets operating under some form of non-profit format. They are experimenting with new journalism formats, revenue streams, and business models. However, according to a new study released today by the Media and Journalism Research Center and Maharat Foundation, these efforts are not always paying off. 

“Despite their efforts and the advantages offered by the new digital era, they struggle to reach longer term viability, that is, to fulfill their mission to serve public interest with their journalism and at the same time to sustain themselves financially,” wrote Attila Mong, the author of the study.

Labor-intensive public interest journalism faces numerous challenges in Europe’s rapidly changing market landscape. Over the past decade, public interest news media outlets have grappled with a spate of setbacks due to economic crises, which have been further worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic. Moreover, consumption habits have also continued to change. According to the report, audiences, especially younger demographics, show a preference for social media and other digital platforms over traditional news outlets. This has resulted in a hefty portion of digital advertising revenue being gobbled up by tech giants such as Facebook and Google, a trend that has further weakened the industry’s outlook, as Mong wrote. 

Public interest journalism startups attract sizable and dedicated audiences; however, they struggle to convert this loyal following into paying supporters. Most of them rely on philanthropic funding, which remains scarce and fragmented. 

The study is available here.

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