Journalism is a way of presenting news and accurate information to the public. With the change in technology, there has been a drastic shift in the way news works. From print to digital media, journalism has expanded its reach. While journalism touches newer heights, many news agencies struggle to survive under financial threat. One of the pioneers of new-age journalism, The Vice Media Group recently filed for bankruptcy, after being engulfed in financial instability. BuzzFeed News was another popular media house to experience the same fate.

The independence of digital media is under threat

Artem Legere

While independent journalism plays a crucial role in promoting accountability, transparency, and a diverse range of perspectives, it also faces several challenges and problems. The biggest being the financial health of the company. 

To think of it, news agencies, especially those rendering their services through digital means such as websites and social media, find it difficult to stay afloat on their own as the news is offered to the readers for free. 

The Vice

Vice Media was founded in 1994 as a print magazine, but it has since expanded its presence to various digital platforms and television channels. It gained prominence for its edgy and alternative approach to journalism, covering a diverse range of topics and subcultures that were often overlooked by mainstream media.

Only a few days back the Vice Media Company that runs the websites Vice and Motherboard filed for Bankruptcy in the US. The company will now be taken over by its lenders and has been devalued from $5.7 billion in 2017 to approximately  $225 million now. 

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A few weeks back, Buzzfeed News, the highly loved section of Buzzfeed was closed down and the company laid off close to 15% of their workforce. BuzzFeed News, the digital media company was best known for its viral content, quizzes, and entertainment articles. 

BuzzFeed closure indicates a threat to Digital Media

Ben Mall

The reason behind the sad wind-up of Buzzfeed News has been the same, as that of many others. The company was unable to make profits and opened itself to advertisements. However, due to ideological clashes with advertising companies, there has been a reduction in advertisements which worsened their condition and pushed them deeper into the marsh. 

These two case studies raise an important question. Can independent journalism not survive? How does one ensure financial support without losing the core ideology of the company? Social Nation had the privilege to get into an enriching discussion with Vinay Khamkar, Consultant: Business Strategy, Consumer & Market Insights, over this independent journalism, its ways and its problems.

SN– What is the future of independent journalism?

Mr Vinay Khamkar– “Independent & unbiased journalism is critical for the survival of democracy not just in India but across the globe. The reality is that it is very difficult for a news outlet to be journalistically independent & at the same time also survive money-wise as a stand-alone business organization. Since running an original news outlet (not news aggregation) is an expensive affair with serious difficulties in making money for that news. For an independent news outlet to keep paying the bills, it needs a parent company or backing from an organisation that is financially stable basis some other money-making business. The best example of this is The Washington Post which was bought over by Jess Bezos’ Nash Holdings in 2013.”

The Washington Post avoid threat through independence of digital media


“For news outlets to survive as neutral voices, financial backing is necessary, at the same time, it is important that the parent does not interfere in the editorial matters. This can be difficult but not impossible. The Washington Post does unbiased journalism, including that about Amazon itself, indicating the editorial freedom it enjoys from Jeff Bezos.”

It is true that News organisations especially those on digital platforms can only survive with the support of stable financial backing from another organisation. However, aligning ideologies and non-interference in matters is a prerequisite here. 

For the news outlets to survive the tide, Mr Khamkar has listed a few ways in which the company can monetise their work. 

SN– How to make money in journalism without losing one’s essence?

Mr Vinay Khamkar– For a news outlet to continue to work in a financially stable condition, it is necessary for it to monetise its work. Some of the ways to do this without actually losing its essence could be:

1. Plain Vanilla Advertising: Authorising space to brands and earning an income out of it can be one of the simplest ways to monetise. 

2. Data monetisation: The ability of the media houses to convert the data gathered including that from social media interactions of the audience, into targeted advertisements. However, respecting and upholding the privacy of the customer is an absolute must here.  

3. Subscription: Building a paywall to access the content offered, can be a stable source of income for the media organisation. 

Subscription is a way to avoid the threat to digital media houses

Printing Products

4. Events: Organising offline and online events that include sponsorship and/or event fees can be another way of earning money without having to let go of one’s core beliefs. 

5. Charging for inputs to News Aggregators: There are still discussions happening in the West that suggest news aggregators will have to pay the source for using their content. In India, this might take long but will, however, become the norm in the future. 

While these few ways can serve as a ray of hope for independent journalism to continue to do what it does without losing its fundamentals. However, a moral duty also lies on behalf of the reader to consume authentic content and promote the same for the media organisations to be able to do, what they do.