Media Innovators meeting with Jacqui Park

Meeting of media innovators in Bangalore (From left: Vasanthi Hariprakash, Meera K, Laxmi Murthy, Pinky Chandran, Jacqui park, Shobha S V, Reshma Krishnamurthy, Geetika Mantri and Beula Anthony) with journalist and former Knight Fellow Jacqui Park

We were very happy to host Jacqueline Park, a senior fellow at Centre for Media Transition at the University of Technology to meet media innovators to learn more about their ventures, their challenges and struggles. In the face of rapidly changing space of digital journalism, she plans to collate stories sourced from media innovators worldwide and wants to develop a community of people that could learn from each other and also depend on it for support. She has started a fortnightly newsletter called The Story on news media startups and innovation in Asia Pacific, which you may subscribe here. We met up with the following media innovators in Bangalore, who shared with us their stories of successes and challenges that they face running their media initiatives.

Reshma Krishnamurthy, founder of spoke about the challenges of running an exclusive online portal for mothers.  The journey of the portal started off from Facebook where she started soliciting stories from mothers in her circle. When she started getting more stories, she graduated from Facebook to a website. While there was a steady stream of stories pouring in, the question began to loom large about how long she plans to sustain this initiative without earning much. She initially started with workshops on parenting but was suggested by some mothers that she organise workshops for children instead, because that’s where they need help. And that’s how she began with storytelling workshops for kids. She then started approaching brands to associate themselves with her events. Reshma has been running the portal singlehandedly for four years now. One of the main sources of her income is by organising events. She has now graduated to organising book launches and also reviews books, especially books for children. Raising money has been one of the major challenges for her but she feels the impact her work creates is huge.

Geetika Mantri, a journalist represented The News Minute.  Given that the ‘national’ media is very Delhi-centric, she added that the USP of this news website is that it is the only English news websites that covers all South Indian states. When they started, they were three people. They are now 40. Even four years ago, TNM had 1 million page views. They now have 12 million as on 2019. She added that they have managed to do all this by sticking to the rules of journalism and not succumbing to the clickbait-nature of the medium. One of the sources of revenue for TNM involves developing ‘partner content’ in association with for-profits, non-profit organisations. Raghav Bahl, the former founder-owner of Network 18 group has invested closed to $15 million in the media venture. One of the major future plans of TNM includes starting TNM in local South Indian languages.

Pinky Chandran, founder of Radio Active community radio station spoke about the journey of starting a community radio station in the city. Housed inside the Jain University, Pinky shared her experience of how they went about applying for a license in 2005. One of the biggest challenges, she says, was to define what community meant which she says is defined by interest and not geography. Community radio stations in India do have geographical limitations of being able to function only at a 15-20 kilometre radius. In order to compensate for their geographical limitations, they have an app, where they share most of their content. They also use Whatsapp to circulate audio programmes among people. Each community that hosts a show on the radio channel, have their own `Whatsapp groups, where programmes are shared with everyone on a regular basis. One of the challenges in front of Radio Active is to have their own website, where they could archive their own content, for which they need funding.

Vasanthi Hariprakash, a journalist and the founder of Pickle Jar collective spoke about her journey of starting the collective, which started off by organising a film festival but then later also shifted her energies in using her rich experience to covering elections in India for new digital news platforms. She spoke about her challenges in raising funds for journalistic projects viz. the election coverage.