Today, Microsoft, USAID and Internews are announcing a new public-private partnership to develop a Media Viability Accelerator to help independent media outlets around the world become more financially sustainable through access to market insights and business solutions. The new web-based platform will pool data from media organizations globally to enable independent newsrooms to discover what works for others and apply those learnings to their own business. Microsoft believes that protecting journalism is a critical component of any democratic process and is working to preserve access to trusted journalism through the Microsoft Democracy Forward initiative.
Local independent journalists inform and educate citizens, expose injustice and wrongdoing and encourage civic engagement, all of which are essential to democracy. However, in recent years, local newspapers and newsrooms have been closing at a staggering rate. Since 2005, the U.S. has lost more than a quarter of its newspapers and is on track to lose a third by 2025. Today, over 65 million Americans live in counties with only one local newspaper – or none at all. Globally, business models for media have changed profoundly in recent decades, leaving many independent media organizations out of business, leading to a lack of independent news sources around the world. This loss of professional expertise and independence in coverage of local government has negative consequences for democracy as citizens become less informed about local policies and elections.
In December 2021, President Biden announced support for the creation of a Media Viability Accelerator at the first Summit for Democracy to help address this very issue. The Media Viability Accelerator will consist of two components: MVA Insights and MVA Solutions. MVA Insights is a data-based platform that will collect and provide market intelligence to help newsrooms with their business models. Participating media outlets will, free of charge, learn from a community of peers, access a multilingual tool that visualizes media performance data, and receive actionable daily alerts based on thousands of market and media sources. This may include lessons learned about how to stay viable in rural communities or examples of what worked managing through local changing economic conditions. Microsoft will contribute expertise in AI-powered data aggregation, data analysis, visualization dashboards and cloud services.
The second component is MVA Solutions, a diverse marketplace of government, non-profits, and businesses solutions and services that media can use to find investors, funders, advertisers, technology solutions and advisors. By simplifying these connections to potential partners, independent newsrooms and media orgs will be able to more easily implement new and innovative solutions. Participants in the Media Viability Accelerator, including Microsoft and Internews, will provide regular updates to the solutions marketplace to maintain its usefulness, make sure content is relevant and that connections can be made. In addition, independent media organizations can also use the platform to share solutions, which others in the media ecosystem can replicate.
Once launched, 500 independent news organizations globally will be able to use the Media Viability Accelerator to support their mission to provide the public with reliable, trustworthy information.
Protecting freedom of the press globally
Microsoft believes that technology can help to preserve and enhance the independence, development and sustainability of independent media, especially in resource-poor settings.
Through the Microsoft Democracy Forward initiative, we are working to improve the information ecosystem, expand news distribution and look for ways to provide journalists and newsrooms with tools, technology and capacity to expand the reach and efficiency of local news outlets. This includes efforts providing cyber-threat detection through AccountGuard for Journalists, helping newsrooms protect against legal threats through our ProJourn Program, and funding programs for journalists around the world in partnership with the Global Press Institute, Report for the World, the Thomson Reuters Foundation and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES).
To sign up for the Media Viability Accelerator and learn more, click here.
Editor’s Note: This blog was updated on March 29 to reflect the accurate number of independent news organizations able to use the Media Viability Accelerator.