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Fall 2018 Newsletter

October 16, 2018



A welcome shift towards business accountability among media development partners


An encouraging trend is that professionals working on the business side of media development are reporting a recent upturn in the number of organizations focusing on the need to enhance business skills among partner news organizations. A tough reality facing many media houses is that donor and philanthropic funding typically ends.  In the absence of strong management skills and a clear business model, that can result in independent voices being silenced and the space for credible local reporting closing.

To help prevent that, our recent work has focused in a few key areas, including:

  • An increased commitment among partners to the improved use of audience analytics

  • Strengthened focus on business development initiatives

  • Skill development in the areas of long-term planning, financial management and innovation

  • Helping passionate journalists, often with an activist orientation, become effective managers

An area where the media development field could produce stronger results is by ensuring that partners' data remain confidential.   Often, we are dealing with a business's most competitive and sensitive data.  The indiscreet sharing of a company's business plans, sales practices, or audience data could be ruinous if shared imprudently.  By guaranteeing that partners' financial and audience date remain confidential, it creates an enabling environment for full confidential disclosures where media development professionals can fully engage in their partners’ growth.   That includes stopping the unauthorized leakage of competitive data during coordination meetings and in widely distributed reports.

That said, there is value in having audience data anonymized and aggregated so that media development practitioners can understand important trends; those assessments can then support specific tactics around audience growth and engagement. 

IMDA partners have been actively working on these and many other issues. Partners have also been speaking at media events hosted by journalists’ associations and media development implementers in freedom-restricted countries. The following highlights some of the activities IMDA partners have been working on over the summer:



  • Focused on ways to bring gender diversity into both news audiences and newsrooms.

  • Involved in the assessment of an overseas media project.

  • Worked as part of a team to evaluate an international journalism Fellowship program and the impact that the Fellows' have on newsroom innovation and digital transformation.



  • Formulated multi-year media support program in Sierra Leone for UN agency.

  • Drafted the terms of reference and negotiated with the African Union a secondment for an expert to work at the AU on safety of journalists in Africa and freedom of expression issues in general.



  • Mentored international development graduate students at Monash University.

  • Assessed the business environment for news media in Myanmar as the country has gone through yet another period of rapid change, during which there were significant moves against press freedoms.

  • Conducted research on Myanmar's local media sector for the Media Development Investment Fund and contributed to an MDIF report on running local media businesses in Myanmar's ethnic states and regions. 

  • Worked on free and creative expression projects with PEN America and PEN Myanmar.



  • Increased the use of audience data and analytics among journalists in former Soviet-bloc countries to help them refine content strategies and expand audience scope and engagement.

  • Co-wrote a project proposal for major media project in Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova to be funded by the UK.

  • Moderated panel of experts on the needs of independent media in Moldova at a side event to an OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) meeting in Warsaw in September.

  • Joined a panel of experts to address a donors' conference for media projects in Eastern Partnership countries organized by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London in September.

  • Wrote a "Practical Guide" for European Union delegations in developing countries on EU aid mechanisms and policies to support implementation of local access-to-information laws.

  • Led a good governance project in the Balkans with executives and communication staff.

  • Served as the Team Leader for a recent OTI/USAID evaluation of the Macedonia Support Initiative program. Evaluated efforts to support good governance, civil society, and media in Macedonia, and considered issues of Macedonia's transition in a post-Colorful Revolution context, new approaches to media development, and how to address issues of citizen engagement and apathy in light of the country's efforts to join the EU and NATO.


Latin America

  • Mentored early career journalists for an NPR-sponsored project.

  • Spoke at UNESCO


North America

  • Mentored early career journalists for an NPR-sponsored project.


Middle East

  • Served as Team Leader on an audience research and media professionals study of journalism and media in Syria to inform media development strategies and approaches in Syria.

  • Carried out independent evaluation of a CVE/ PVE program in Jordan and considered how donor and implementer efforts to engage with youth and media have impacted efforts to prevent violent extremism.


Some recent publications by IMDA partners:



IMDA partners offer their services to public and private donors, media development implementers, and democracy and governance organizations. We work as individual consultants, but we can also develop teams to work jointly on training programs, assessment reports, and other media development consulting projects.  IMDA partners have collaborated with the leading bilateral OECD donor agencies, major private philanthropic foundations, and multilateral organizations in providing both advisory and managerial support for media development projects in all regions of the world.


IMDA Partners:

Susan Abbott, Michelle Betz, Michelle Foster, Ellen Hume, Jane McElhone, Bill Orme, Mogens Schmidt, Marguerite Sullivan, Magda Walter, Mark Whitehouse.

If you would like to learn more about International Media Development Advisers, contact us at

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