HIRED: Knowledge Bridge and the Media Development Loan Fund

After two years of very successful and satisfying professional independence working alongside Suw, I’ve decided to accept an exciting new, full-time position with Media Development Loan Fund.

Who will I be working for?

Who dat, you ask?

The Media Development Loan Fund is a mission-driven investment fund for independent news outlets in countries with a history of media oppression.

Last summer, I was invited to an MDLF board meeting to talk about media developments in the Middle East, based on the work that I had been doing with Al Jazeera. The board was also keen to discuss developments in digital media. When I attended the meeting, MDLF’s CEO Harlan Mandel described the fund as a unique organisation. Yes, the fund focuses on funding news outlets in countries with a history of media oppression, but the goal is to grow the news organisations into self-sustaining, sustainable businesses.

That impressed me. In 2012, I don’t see a crisis in journalism in the developed world as much as a crisis with the business model of journalism. In 2012, we need not just collaboration between hacks and hackers, coders and content creators, I also want to see collaboration between editors, ad departments and business and product development folks. I think you can maintain editorial independence while thinking of the key question of how we create economically sustainable news organisations.

Most of my work has focused on the US and the UK, developed media markets with news businesses under intense pressure. MDLF has been working with clients often facing not just the challenge of creating sustainable businesses but often facing the political pressure of operating in emerging democracies. Despite these challenges, MDLF has had some amazing results:

  • After one year of working with MDLF, client reach grew by an average of 33%, and after 5 years by 71%.
  • From 2009 to 2010, individual client sales grew by an average of 11%. After 5 years of working with MDLF, client sales increased by an average of 213%, and after 7 years by 345%.

Again, this impressed me. Independent media not only doing good but doing well. We need a lot more of this.

What will I be doing?

MDLF wants to help the news organisations it works with make the digital transition. To achieve this, MDLF will be launching the Knowledge Bridge project. (No link because it’s not launched yet. Another digital initiative they have already launched is their Digital News Ventures fund. If you’re a digital news entrepreneur, you’ll want to check it out.) The Knowledge Bridge is both a platform (a blog, a digital resource centre and newsletter) to capture the best in digital business and editorial strategy and a capacity building concept, which will provide digital editorial and business skills training and consulting for clients. MDLF has worked in 27 countries, from Guatemala to Indonesia, and the Knowledge Bridge will be focusing on the digital media business needs in those countries, although we will definitely highlight the best digital thinking in the US, Europe and elsewhere. I’ll be the editor for the Knowledge Bridge and also helping to manage the training and consulting for clients. It took a challenge this big and an organisation this interesting to lure back to full-time work.

I’ll keep it relatively brief because we’ll be talking a lot more about it when it launches next month. Watch this space! (And your inbox. I’ve got a lot of emails to a lot of you about exciting opportunities to collaborate on the Knowledge Bridge project.)

UPDATE: MDLF has officially announced my new role.

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