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GK: How diversified revenue strategies support quality journalism

GFMD member GK shared their diversification strategy as part of our series of articles on how our members overcome the challenge of limited donor funding in the sector.

Author: Marie Andrea Pefianco | 30. May 2023

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Edited on June 1 to reflect that GK has not at any point been heavily reliant on donor funding

By exploring new avenues and adapting to fast-changing media, media organisations are forging innovative paths to financial sustainability. Here’s what we learned from our conversation with GK co-founder Isabela Ponce, regarding the diversification strategy that sustains their digital outlet’s journalism:

“Quality journalism is expensive, it takes a lot of time and money. And that’s something that many funders do not understand fully,” said Ponce, emphasizing that achieving economic sustainability enables media organizations to pursue the high-quality journalism they strive for.

GK began diversifying its revenue streams in 2015 after relying only on donor funding and unsuccessful attempts to generate income through traditional advertising.

“We decided to diversify because it’s impossible and not sustainable to rely on only one source, especially if it’s based on individual donations,” she said

With few grant opportunities available for Ecuadorian media, and after unsuccessful attempts to generate income through traditional advertising, GK began diversifying its revenue streams in 2015. They have since successfully implemented strategies to diversify their revenue sources. As a result, grants now contribute only 12 to 20 percent of their overall revenue.

Apart from donor funding, here are revenue-generating activities that helped GK become more financially sustainable:

GK Studio

The content agency GK Studio has become a significant source of income, comprising approximately 50% of GK’s revenue, said Ponce.

In 2015, GK’s founder met with a group of business owners to discuss GK’s successful storytelling approach. Impressed by GK’s expertise, one of the business owners asked how they could incorporate that same storytelling prowess into their own brand.

“One of them asked “how can I have that in my brand?”. And that’s how GK Studio —our content agency— was born, by taking GK’s know-how to other organizations,” Ponce reveals.

They collaborate with UN agencies in Ecuador, Panama, and Mexico, NGOs, and the private sector in developing campaigns and communication products. One of these efforts is the Impulsamos Desarrollo (We promote development), a campaign of the Chamber of Industries and Production which exhibits the social, environmental, and innovation practices of companies in Ecuador.

“Everything that we have learned and built in GK as a media, we take it to GK Studio,” said Ponce.

GK’s popularity stems from their commitment to human rights-based journalism which is a highly sought-after approach for NGOs seeking communications teams, she added. By harnessing their accumulated knowledge and experience in human rights and gender-focused storytelling, GK has been able to achieve remarkable success through GK Studio.

GK School (GK Escuela)

GK extends its services through GK School, a training branch that provides workshops for individuals, companies, and NGOs. They also collaborate with organizations that fund training programs for journalists, forging partnerships to support professional development in the field.

“This is the most successful strategy because we don’t only give the workshops but we offer small grants to journalists and editorial guides for a story that is published in GK,” said Ponce.

To shed light on the often-overlooked realities in the Amazon, GK School, and international cooperation organisation Hivos partnered to launch an In-Depth Journalism virtual course and scholarship program that granted up to $1,500 to communicators in Brazil, Peru, and Ecuador.

The Gender and Journalism Program was also one of GK School’s more significant projects last year. They were tasked to develop a comprehensive journalistic training program to cover violence against women in Honduras. The model had 17 videos and Ponce gave workshops in different cities in Honduras. The initiative was a collaboration between Spotlight Initiative in Honduras, GK School, and Contracorriente, an independent media outlet in Honduras.

Additionally, GK School mainly offers live online workshops on storytelling, editing, writing an op-ed, and media training. The workshop dates are announced through their newsletter and social media platforms.

Other revenue strategies

Apart from GK Studio and GK School, the digital media outlet also offers memberships to their readers which represents 2% of their revenue.

They collaborate with various international media organisations and are commissioned to produce specific stories, for Mongabay Latam, Chequeado, CLIP, Mutante, El Espectador, Convoca, and many others. GK creates specialized content on topics that align with their interests including violence against women.

Last year, GK also sponsored content producing and publishing a 12-episode video program on their website, sponsored by Renaissance Executive Forums.

During the interview, Ponce emphasized the need to avoid relying solely on grants and urged other media organisations to diversify their business models. GK’s experience underscores the importance of exploring fresh opportunities and embracing innovative approaches to generate revenue, all while upholding the core values and vision that their journalism represents.

Next month, we’ll be featuring how GFMD member Transitions addresses the limited funding within the media sector. Don’t forget to subscribe to Bottom Line for monthly MediaDev and journalism tips straight to your inbox!

Tell us what you think of the funding process! What are your challenges and recommendations for best practices? Shoot us a line on the GFMD members’ list or write to our Director of Membership Services Anne Marie Hammer to share your thoughts.


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