Africa’s newsrooms experiment with charging for data

par Margaret Looney
30 oct 2018 dans Specialized Topics

With traditional advertising no longer a sustainable business model, news outlets worldwide are experimenting with alternatives, from holding events to putting up paywalls. Now, a new model is on the rise: data as revenue.

In the U.S., ProPublica recently opened a data store, charging a one-time fee for cleaned-up data sets. In Kenya, The Star is experimenting with charging premium text messaging rates for SMS-based health apps, essentially using value-added data as a revenue source.

News outlets in South Africa, Nigeria and Uganda are testing out the concept as well, says ICFJ Knight International Journalism Fellow Justin Arenstein.

“It is something that is catching on and it seems to be shaping commercial thinking around media models in Africa,” Arenstein told IJNet.

Arenstein advises Code4Kenya, a branch of Code for Africa, which supported the Star with its project. Arenstein recently talked with IJNet about the concept of selling data to raise revenue, experiments taking shape across Africa and why mobile users in Africa may be more open to the model than people in some other regions.

The Star's health app enables citizens to check if doctors near them are certified, whether they're covered by insurance plans and if there are specialists nearby. In the video below, Arenstein explains why mobile users in Africa may be willing to pay for this type of data.

The Star isn't the only newsroom to do this. In the video below, Arenstein talks about how the trend is catching on in other African countries and how the new model fits into the media ecosystem there.

IJNet Editorial Assistant Margaret Looney writes about the latest media trends, reporting tools and journalism resources.

Image CC-licensed on Flickr via quinn.anya.