We’ve learnt a lot writing about news media startups in the Asia-Pacific in a pivot year, not least that digital news media is now more diverse, making journalism across the board simply better, write Jacqui Park and Laxmi Murthy

The 21st century news media in the Asia-Pacific doesn’t look much like last century. We’re moving on. That’s exciting! Photo by Leon Contreras on Unsplash

Discovering news media start-ups, interviewing founders and builders, writing up the cases, we’ve found a hidden secret: there’s some great things going on around here. So, to wrap up this pivot year, we’d like to share with you the ten big things we’ve learnt about our media industry and our journalism craft.

  1. What’s new? What’s News!

Digital news media start-ups are…

Asia’s feminist media understand diversity is the key to relevance and engagement. In this second part, Jacqui Park and Laxmi Murthy go under the hood to look at the motor that drives that understanding.

The Magdalene team in Jakarta

What women want to talk about

The emerging feminist start-ups focus on journalism that is relevant and engaging from a key starting point: women aren’t just women.

SheThePeople.TV founded by award winning journalist Shaili Chopra is one such platform building content and a community for women to live life on their own terms. Its ideas editor Yamini Pustake Bhalerao says being a woman-centred platform shapes both…

Across the Asia-Pacific, new media like Magdalene in Indonesia, SheThePeople.TV in India and Villainesse in New Zealand are speaking the language of popular feminism to shape conversations around gender, putting women out front as a constituency that matters. In this first of two parts on Asia’s feminist news media, Laxmi Murthy and Jacqui Park talk to some founders to see what drives them.

SheThePeople.TV founder Shaili Chopra with Karnika Kohli, speaking about the role of women in publishing at the Women’s Writers Fest

There’s a gap between traditional “lifestyle” takes in traditional media on one side and often dense academic feminism on the other. …

A news wave is breaking over rural India, as the all-women Khabar Lahariya fights disadvantage by leaning into hyper-local journalism writes Jacqui Park.

Khabar Lahariya’s smartphone pivot: Reporter Meera Devi at work courtesy KL

In a network of villages across the sparse Central Indian hinterland, Khabar Lahariya (News Waves) is using the power of hyper-local journalism to fight discrimination, promote literacy — especially among women — provide practical income support and keep communities informed about the practical issues that affect them on the ground.

Beginning as a weekly printed paper in 2002, the network embraced the opportunity of smartphones in 2015 to pivot and within two years, they abandoned print as…

As events move online, they’re becoming more about the journalism and less about the event itself. And that’s good writes Jacqui Park

The rethinking is opening up new ways of telling stories and new ways of engaging our audiences with new channels for distribution.

When Covid-19 forced media organisations to close IRL (in real life) events, we saw a rush of postponements, then cancellations and then, events repurposed online. At first, content-wise, these were the old in-person events shrunk down to the small screen. The production values encapsulated that early-pandemic Zoom meeting hostage video vibe.

In other words: the industry’s…

Sometimes the media entrepreneurial path is clear. Other times, knowing the path you don’t want to take is a better guide to building a news media business. By Jacqui Park and Christopher Warren

The Katadata team celebrates their 6th anniversary in Jakarta in 2018.

Sometimes start-ups know exactly what they want to do. And sometimes, knowing what you don’t want is better, providing guardrails that protect you along a path of trial and error to a model that works. That’s the story of Jakarta-based news media start-up Katadata.

The three founders knew one big thing: that they didn’t want to be a content factory, churning stories into click-bait in the chase…

The NewsMinute centres its southern Indian audience, minute by minute, in a news landscape dominated by the capital in Delhi, as Laxmi Murthy and Jacqui Park report.

“If a mango falls from the Delhi tree it’s important, but if two mangoes fall from a Bangalore tree, it doesn’t matter,” quips Dhanya Rajendran, co-founder and editor-in-chief of digital news portal The NewsMinute (TNM) headquartered in Bangalore.

Rajendran wanted to fill the gap — not with mangoes, but with journalism focussed on the four (now five) southern states in India because, she says, regional media matters.

“ I strongly believe that Kerala…

The Story #12 is now out… with a few questions (and tentative answers) about revenue and sustainability plus a look at news deserts and market gaps.

Courtesy Suno India

Here’s The Story: Back in the BC (Before-Covid) time, on-line news media had evolved — or were evolving — towards revenue derived from a mix of subscriptions, advertising and some diversified third source (usually events), During the shock, of course, subscriptions have boomed (gr8!), advertising has slumped (boo!) and events (IRL at least, where the money is) have vanished. How’s that working out?

Subscriptions: Has the boom brought forward growth we would have experienced sooner or later (the working theory of Netflix’s Reed Hasting)? Or has the deepened interest in news taken subscriptions to a new level (the hope of…

Asia’s original new media “start-up” Malaysiakini has turned 20. How’d they do it? The Story’s Jacqui Park spoke with Steven Gan, Co-founder and Editor-in-Chief about Malaysiakini then — and now.

Steven Gan in the Malaysiakini office in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Jacqui Park: If we go back to when it all started in 1999, what was the challenge that you were responding to in first launching Malaysiakini?

Steven Gan: The media landscape is such that a lot of the newspapers and TV stations are closely linked to the government — either directly or indirectly owned by political parties that are part of the ruling coalition. …

Five years in, The Wire is a key digital voice for journalism that holds power to account in South Asia, and their hard-headed hopefulness about Indian journalism has proven a new model.

Mural in Delhi office of The Wire shows slain journalists Shujaat Bukhari and Gauri Lankesh, centre.

The defining characteristic of India’s news site The Wire is that it’s not-for-profit. That strategic decision made by its three founders five years ago ensure the portal’s continued independence amid the turmoil of the country’s politics, culture and society.

This month, The Wire turned five, fresh from proving that deeply reported accountability journalism that’s trusted by its audience can be translated into sustainable revenues.

In their anniversary editorial…

Jacqui Park

Find The Story newsletter on media innovation Asia: http://bit.ly/TheStory-AsiaPacific I’m a fellow at @cmt_uts/ JSK Fellow at Stanford

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