SOFIA - Great journalism and the creation of great content should remain central to any successful media business.
This was among the key thoughts which emerged during a session on the opening day of the sixth News Agencies World Congress (NAWC) which got underway in Sofia, Bulgaria, on Thursday.
The 2019 congress is themed: "The Future of News" and during a session entitled "Ownership Models of News Agencies", moderator Bruce Davidson, CEO of the Australian Associated Press (AAP), said that financially healthy news agencies are crucial, particularly in challenging economic times.
"Journalism should never change, we must create great journalism and great content."
Panellists included African News Agency (ANA) CEO Grant Fredericks and saw a number of news agency ownership models presented, including privately-owned, industry-owned and government-owned.
Davidson questioned how different ownership models impacted the "shape and change the way we work".
He said all ownership models held benefits, challenges as well as opportunities.
Fredericks said that ANA had evolved from a traditional syndication platform of the now defunct South African Press Association (Sapa) into an all-African, African-focused content syndication platform, and added that constant innovation was key to sustainability and success.
"There are great opportunities offered by technology which forces you to innovate and step out of your comfort zone and explore the unknown," he said.
"One must sharpen skills."
Fredericks added that while everyone in the media industry was looking for the "silver bullet", ANA's focus was on valuing clients more and looking at efficiencies around editorial and business models.
"The industry evolves all the time and one has to position one's business," he said, adding that key was creating core content pillars which spoke to audience needs.
"Sometimes lots of content is produced but is not needed and does not provide value for the business," he said. "ANA creates content which global readers find useful in terms of investment purposes."
He cited global interest in Africa in terms of investment opportunities, the Africa Rising narrative, as well the world's youngest population which was tech-savvy and poised to take advantage of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Jonas Erikkson, CEO of almost century-old Swedish News Agency TT, said their ownership model revolved around industry ownership which held benefits but could be "a bit awkward when owners are also clients".
Erikkson said, however, that in exploring new avenues of revenue, one had to be careful from straying too far away from the core business of news journalism.
"Products too far away from a news wire, then you are no longer in the news agency business," he said.
Davidson agreed that diversification was critical to the continued survival of news agencies which all faced pressure, saying that one had to be profitable, but he too warned against moving too far away from "what we are as news agencies".African News Agency