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Project Oasis: A new directory and report about independent digital native media in Europe

On April 18th, SembraMedia in partnership with Global Forum for Media Development (GFMD), European Journalism Centre (EJC), Google News Initiative (GNI), International Media Support (IMS), Media and Journalism Research Center (MJRC) announces the launch of Project Oasis, a research project on the sustainability, innovation, and impact of independent digital native media in more than 40 countries in Europe.

Author: Anne Riziki | 18. April 2023

Poster for the Launch of Project Oasis As part of the launch, SembraMedia and partners will hold a virtual event to showcase the research findings and unveil the European digital media directory and report. The event will take place at 3:00 PM CET. Interested individuals can register online here.

In light of the challenges facing the media industry, including the pandemic, economic instability, disinformation and war, there has been a surge in the number of independent news media that have emerged. These digital native media outlets have filled news deserts, attracted disillusioned audiences, and pioneered new ways of sharing vital information. As part of Project Oasis, 34 researchers mapped and studied media from more than 40 European countries, producing a directory featuring 540 digital native media organisations.

The new European digital media directory and report compiling the findings of this year-long research are now available. The report provides a comprehensive analysis of the current state of independent digital native media in Europe, highlighting the trends, challenges, and opportunities facing this growing sector. Project Oasis aims to help these independent digital native media outlets develop and thrive by providing them with the necessary resources and support.

Key findings:

  • Digital native media outlets use social media to target younger audiences, send news updates via Telegram to evade censorship and train citizen journalists to reach underserved communities
  • More than 85% said society and human rights issues are key areas of their coverage, including topics related to migration, refugees, gender and feminism.
  • More than 50% dedicate resources to investigative journalism, and many form alliances to cover stories across borders.
  • More than 58% of the media founders featured in this report are women. They are highly collaborative, and most have two or more co-founders.
  • Media founded by teams that include both men and women reported the highest revenues, with an average of €509,740 per year.
  • Those that invest in business development build more sustainable organisations. Media outlets that have at least one employee dedicated to revenue generation reported average annual revenue six times higher than those without people in these roles: €598,539 compared to €95,629.
  • More than half the media in this study are non-profit organisations, and many of the for-profit ventures invest more in journalism than building profits.
  • Among non-profit media, the primary revenue sources are grants, individual donations and membership (in that order). Among for-profits, the top sources are advertising, website subscriptions and grants.
  • Revenue diversity is key, but too many sources do not correlate to greater success. Developing two to six revenue sources appears optimal for sustainability and independence.
  • Digital native media outlets range from small start-ups run by volunteers dedicated to their communities to highly profitable multi-platform operations that attract millions of page views every month and earn millions of euros a year.
  • Although a few of the media in this study are more than 20 years old, more than half started publishing in the last decade. The largest number was founded in 2016.

Media leaders are proving that it is possible to find the support they need to serve their communities despite the challenges of sustainability. Deník Referendum, a Czech digital native outlet established in 2009, follows the approach “No oligarchs, no paywall. Just your donations and our work”. According to Editor-in-chief Jakub Patočka, the outlet generates a modest income by charging readers who wish to debate under their articles a fee, which also helps cultivate discussion.

To create a directory of sustainable media ventures, SembraMedia mapped out media outlets started by journalists, often with limited resources and business experience. Despite these challenges, many of the media outlets expect to grow in the coming years.

If you are interested in supporting independent digital native media outlets in Europe, you can access the Project Oasis directory and report to learn more about their challenges and opportunities.

By way of exchanging knowledge, collaborating, and providing the necessary support, these media outlets can continue their work in filling news deserts, providing vital information, and reaching underserved communities.

To know more about how to support journalism and media, sign up for a newsletter from GFMD IMPACT – the Global Forum for Media Development’s International Media Policy and Advisory Centre.  Join our growing community!


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