Since SembraMedia started researching independent digital native media in 2015, it has created a directory of more than 1,000 outlets from Latin America, the U.S. and Spain.
The growth in the number and size of the news organizations in its Media Directory has demonstrated the prevalence of entrepreneurial journalism in these regions.
Yet, knowing how to start a digital native media outlet can be daunting. That’s why the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas teamed up with SembraMedia and Ajor to offer a new free online course in Spanish and Portuguese: “Entrepreneurial Journalism: Sustainability Strategies for Independent Digital Media.”
The massive open online course (MOOC) is being launched at Festival 3i, a virtual journalism conference based in Brazil, during a panel on independent journalism.
This MOOC, which runs from April 11 to May 13, 2022, is offered for free thanks to generous support from Climate and Land Use Alliance (CLUA) and Google News Initiative (GNI). Certificates of completion will also be free.
The goal is to help journalists, journalism educators and students from Latin America who are interested in the global phenomenon of the proliferation of news startups and their challenges becoming sustainable.
“The challenges of launching a digital native outlet, more than anything, have to do with the fact that the founders have to do so many things at the same time at the start of any venture,” said Janine Warner, co-founder and executive director of SembraMedia. “And media are especially complex, from content to audience, from business models and accounting, to thinking about how to make a pitch and explain your idea to the world.”
“In this MOOC, you will receive a broad overview of a range of topics that are aimed at helping you in the areas where we have most found that media leaders have challenges,” Warner said. “Our goal is to help journalists build better and stronger media organizations that can produce independent journalism for years to come.”
The main instructors are Janine Warner and Mijal Iastrebner, co-founders and executive directors of SembraMedia, an organization that helps independent digital media develop sustainable business models. For the course in Portuguese, they will be assisted by Marcelo Fontoura, a professor of digital and data journalism who has done extensive research on digital media organizations.
They will also be joined by SembraMedia instructors Abraham Torres, James Breiner, Sebastián Auyanet, Miguel Loor, Naimid Cirelli and Natalie Van Hoozer.
“[The instructors] not only have experience teaching entrepreneurial journalism to students and teachers, but they also have first-hand experience of talking continually with media entrepreneurs,” Iastrebner said.
“It is important to note that the founders of SembraMedia met during a similar MOOC on Entrepreneurial Journalism offered by the Knight Center in 2015. Janine Warner was an instructor and Mijal Iastrebner, who was already teaching and dealing with news startups in Argentina, took the course. Six years later, here they are, teaching together and showing the great impact that SembraMedia has had on the digital native media environment in Latin America,” said professor Rosental Alves, Knight Center’s founding director. “We could not be prouder of Janine and Mij!”
The course takes place over five weeks, with each week focusing on a particular module and topic:
- Module 1 covers trends in entrepreneurial journalism. It will also review themes to consider when planning a journalistic project, taking into account findings from SembraMedia’s research.
- Module 2 focuses on how to create or improve a sustainable business model using the Business Model Canvas tool.
- Module 3 teaches how to better understand the audience visiting your site and social networks. It will review how to define KPIs and metrics on different social platforms, as well as show how to use the audience Explorer.
- Module 4 covers the development and diversification of revenue streams. You’ll learn about consulting services, content agencies, events and donations. It will also review case studies of successful media outlets.
- Module 5 teaches how to create a solid basis for the future of your project. You’ll review the importance of an “About Us” page and how to communicate your story and mission to your audience, funders and other media.
“This MOOC draws on SembraMedia’s historical knowledge and is designed to reach different audiences: students, entrepreneurs, and teachers,” Iastrebner said. “They can benefit from this MOOC because we include materials, like case studies, materials and guides, that we have been developing at SembraMedia since we founded our organization six years ago.”
The instructors will teach the course with video lessons, presentations, readings, discussion forums and quizzes. Additionally, there will be two live events, one in Spanish and one in Portuguese, that feature journalism entrepreneurs who will share their experience managing media in Latin America. There will also be bonus instructional materials that are optional in some of the modules.
“The MOOC is a great opportunity for journalists,” said Marcelo Fontoura, assistant instructor for the Portuguese course. “On the one hand, it makes it easy for news people to learn about new trends in the digital ecosystem. On the other hand, it gives very applied advice for those who want to launch their news venture.”
“We have learned a lot from recent research on what works and what doesn’t for new journalism startups, but sometimes this knowledge is spread across various resources. This course is an opportunity for students to get everything in one place,” he continued.
The course will be asynchronous, meaning students can complete the activities and assignments on the days and during the times that best suit their schedules. There are, however, suggested deadlines so students don’t fall behind.
Those who successfully complete course requirements will receive a certificate of completion. The certificate is not associated with any academic credit, but is awarded by the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas to attest to participation in the online course.
“We will offer free certificates for all students who complete the minimum requirements of this course. We are grateful to the generous support from CLUA and GNI that made this project possible,” Alves said. The Knight Center normally charges US$30 to issue certificates of participation for a MOOC.