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Tips and tactics for the growth of digital native media

May 9, 2023 | By Rande Price, Research VP – DCN

Digital media continues to transform the way people consume news and information. Native digital news organizations have become a vital source of information for many people around the world. With fierce competition and the role of social platforms as intermediaries, how can digital native media businesses grow, develop, and publish information with greater independence and sustainability? New research, Project Oasis, from Sembra Media, examines the trends, impact, and sustainability of independent digitally-native news organizations.

To help support the growth and sustainability of independent digital native news organizations, the report includes a searchable media directory. This database includes 530 digital native news organizations in more than 40 countries across Europe. It contains information on the types of stories each organization covers, their funding sources, and their audience reach ‒ showcasing the need for diverse voices and perspectives.

The directory is a valuable resource for journalists, editors, and publishers looking to connect with other independent digital native news organizations. It provides a way to easily find and share important stories and sources that offer diverse perspectives, which are essential to accurately informing audiences.


Project Oasis highlights some of the many challenges facing native digital news organizations. One of the biggest is the struggle to achieve financial sustainability. Many of these organizations rely heavily on one or two funding sources, such as donations, subscriptions, and advertising. However, the report found that these sources of funding can be unpredictable and unstable, which can makes it difficult for organizations to plan their future. The research identifies the need for two to six revenue sources as optimal for native digital news organizations to be sustainable and remain independent.

Another challenge facing independent digital native news organizations is the need to build trust with their audience. Many people are skeptical of the news they see on social media and other online platforms. As a result, there is a greater need for independent digital native news organizations to establish their credibility and build trust with their audience.


Despite these and other challenges, the report finds reasons to be optimistic about the future of independent digital native news organizations in Europe. These include several key trends that are shaping the future of the industry, including the growing importance of mobile and social media, the rise of video journalism, and the increasing use of data and analytics to inform reporting.

The research also focuses on identifying profitable business models for independent digital native news organizations. These models include advertising, subscriptions, memberships, events, grants, and partnerships.

  • An advertising-based model is the most traditional revenue source for digital news organizations. Competition from big tech platforms like Google and Facebook presents a difficult ad sales marketplace for smaller players. However, advertising is still a viable revenue source for digital news organizations. Digital news organizations should differentiate themselves by focusing on building high-quality content, engaging audiences, and offering first-party targeted advertising solutions to advertisers.
  • Subscription models require high-quality content that engages the reader and convinces them to pay for the content. There are also membership models, which offer a more community-focused approach to revenue generation. Memberships typically offer readers access to exclusive content, events, and other perks, in exchange for a regular fee. The report notes that membership models can be particularly effective for organizations with a strong and loyal following.
  • Events-based revenue models involve hosting conferences and workshops to generate revenue. The report notes that events can be an effective way to build relationships with readers and generate revenue. However, they require significant resources to organize and execute successfully.
  • Grants and philanthropy in funding independent digital news organizations are also available. The report notes that grants and philanthropic funding can be an effective way to support journalism that is not commercially viable. Organizations must carefully maintain their editorial independence and avoid conflicts of interest. The report also notes that there may be viable partnerships and collaborations between digital news organizations and other media outlets, as well as non-media organizations. Partnerships can offer benefits such as shared resources and expertise, as well as access to new audiences and revenue streams.

Future focus

As the digital marketplace continues to evolve, independent digital native news organizations will play an important role in shaping the future of journalism, filling news gaps, covering underserved communities, and combating mistrust and disengagement.

The Project Oasis report and its searchable media directory offer important resources to support the future of independent digital native news organizations. The research provides a comprehensive look at the challenges and identifies opportunities for sustainable growth. The directory also provides a valuable resource to help protect democracy by sharing resources, collaborating on projects, and amplifying each other’s voices.

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