The Independent Journalism Center (IJC) has summed up the totals of the project titled „Audience Understanding and Digital Support” implemented in 2018-2022, as a result of which several media outlets learned to extend their audience and increase their income. The summing-up activity took place online on Friday, October 21, 2022; the event was attended by the project’s media partners from 2022 (Agora and Ziua de azi), as well as some of the media partners from the previous years – Locals (2020), BAStv, and Vmeste (2021).
At the inauguration of the event, Mariana Tabuncic, IJC Program Manager, provided a retrospective of the activities implemented during the 5 years of the project, stating that, during that time span, 14 media institutions had been offered financial support, training sessions, and consulting in order to increase their audience and income.
“For 5 years, the project experts were offering solutions for our media partners to approach the audience from a different perspective, to improve their knowledge of planning and creating editorial content compliant with the target audience’s needs, to analyze the audience-related data, and to introduce innovative marketing and media content promotion opportunities. We are glad to mention that, at the end of the project, the knowledge gained reveals itself in increased audience data or in the new partnerships identified, which contributed to increasing the partner media institutions’ income. The project on expanding the audience launched by the IJC in 2018 with the support of Internews and financed by Sweden served as a starting point in media business for some media institutions, and for the others, it meant support for changing their approach to the way of interacting with the audience,” Mariana Tabuncic said.
Irina Ghelbur, Director of Interact Media which owns the Agora.md portal, an institution which had been the project’s media partner three times, mentioned that the support offered had resulted in increasing the audience every time. “In 2018, when we started working on this project, we were learning how to understand our audience and how to gain profit properly via Google AdSense. At the end of the year, we started gaining 100 Euros per month just via AdSense advertising. Another issue we took care of was our YouTube channel which we managed to make more attractive and better organized. As a result, we currently have 7 800 subscribers compared to 800 we had in 2018, which improves the way income can be gained due to the channel. Besides, in the context where the audience is interested in learning the news as quickly as possible, we have managed to create the Brief News module on the website,” Irina Ghelbur mentioned.
Vitalie Hotnogu, Editor-in-Chief of Ziua de azi, a portal from Cahul, which had received assistance within the project twice, mentioned that, in 2022, 13 cooking broadcasts titled “Poftim la masă!” were produced, gaining a total of over 83 000 views on Youtube, over 414 000 views on Facebook, and over 93 000 views on Instagram. “In the south of the country, there are localities with rich history and traditions, exceptional sightseeing, and delicious dishes. In this show, we decided to integrate the culinary aspects with the touristic and historical ones. At first, we found it rather difficult to identify the people we needed and explain to them what we wanted them to do, but in the end, we got a show which has its audience, and currently, we are invited to various localities to shoot new episodes. This project has allowed us to create high-quality content, which is quite difficult to achieve. Obviously, in the meantime, the audience data has also changed. Facebook followers, for instance, grew from 2 500 in 2019 to 32 500 nowadays. It shows that we have an audience which follows us and trusts the quality of the products we offer,” Vitalie Hotnogu specified.
Ludmila Topal, Editor-in-Chief of the BAStv.md portal from Basarabeasca, emphasized that, though the newsroom is small, it had managed to obtain notable results in terms of increasing the audience. “In 2021, we intended to develop the BAStv.md portal, after 20 years of focusing on TV. Our involvement in the project helped us double our audience in 2021 and keep it loyal to the present day. The IJC’s project for extending the audience was something new to us; it succeeded in convincing us of the power of the Internet – of the fact that we had to be operative, to produce information quickly and cheaply as compared to TV. That was when we fell in love with the web. At first, we were not used to working in the virtual environment, and needed new knowledge and approaches to attract the audience. In addition, during the project, we learned to gain profit from the content. We integrated Google AdSence advertising, placed the first banners on our website, and launched crowdfunding campaigns. Although our success is not relatively large, it is still a start, and a minor result is still a result,” Ludmila Topal affirms.
Ana Dubeli, Director of the Locals.md portal, mentioned that, within the project, the Moldova Multiverse platform was founded in 2020 to attract the audience of up to 23 years old to the website. “We selected an urgent topic for young people – whether they should leave or stay in Moldova after their studies. With the help of the experts, we considered how to approach this topic to get young people to consider this matter seriously. The project was aimed at showing the opportunities existing in Moldova from the perspective of those who had been abroad, gained some experience, and got back to the country to start their own businesses. Therefore, we wrote about the people who came back and became prosperous in Moldova, and their stories are impressive. As a result, we got a lot of positive comments which gave us wings. Moreover, this project reached a new wave of popularity on all our platforms,” Ana Dubeli said.
The Internews representative Maia Mikashavidze mentioned that the project allowed the IJC to work with reliable partners who understood how important it was to be aware of the audience. “All the partners had individual consultations focused on their needs. It allowed them to direct their efforts to make changes which finally yield their results. We are happy that, in spite of all the challenges this year brought, we have managed to complete the project perfectly,” Maia Mikashavidze said.
Corina Cepoi, Director of Internews in Moldova, emphasized the digital component of the audience project via which the partners enjoyed the IT support. “We are also glad that our partners’ success is discussed as success stories for media institutions in the other states. Although the project has reached its end, we believe that the results obtained will persist for a long while,” Corina Cepoi affirmed.
Oxana Paierele, Program Officer at the Swedish Embassy in Chisinau, specified at the end of the meeting that “these investments are investments in the future.” “The support granted during these years was intended for improving some internal processes at the newsrooms, which will definitely pay off in time and transform into new projects and initiatives for media institution development,” Oxana Paierele concluded.
In 2018-2022, within the project, 16 grants worth 5 000 Euros each and two grants worth 10 000 Euros each were offered for implementing the initiatives aimed at expanding the audience and increasing the income.
The project “Audience Understanding and Digital Support” is implemented by the IJC with the support of Internews and financed by Sweden. The project aims to contribute to improving the quality of media content and media institutions’ financial sustainability through a better understanding of the needs of the audience.