The new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is impacting the world in unimaginable ways. Stock market prices are falling, businesses have halted operations and budgets are being cut in what experts reckon could be another financial recession.
COVID-19's destabilization of economies means many businesses may suspend or cut down on advertisements, funding support from donors for specific activities may also dwindle and this has the potential to impact negatively on the sustainability of media organisations.
Media sustainability has always been a challenge globally. A good number of media houses have laid off some employees , while others continue to grapple with raising enough revenue to cover operational cost and taxes even before the coronavirus crisis. The coronavirus pandemic's impact on an already struggling media industry has led to some media houses pleading for relief.
With the media's crucial role of education and information dissemination particularly during the COVID-19 crisis, what can media businesses do to keep afloat until normal times return? The Media Foundation for West Africa has these recommendations for media houses in Africa.
Be Judicious with Money
Be prepared for a dislocation in your financial projections. This is the best time to spend wisely and save money to steer through the crisis.
Touch base with your advertisers, or donors now. If possible, request for an opportunity to talk about reassessing projects and how you can keep the business relationship going amidst the crisis.
Keep revenues coming in from existing clients with incentives, packages and discounts where possible.
Collect as much as possible outstanding payments from clients through strict collection policies or discounts.
Reduce operational costs by letting some of the staff work remotely.
Times are hard for everybody, consider salary cuts instead of outright layoffs.
Do all these without sacrificing the quality of content for your audiences.
Up Your Content Game
With so many people trapped at home, the consumption of digital news has shot up. Media houses that have operated traditionally must adapt to retain and grow their audiences.
Alliances are crucial! Know what your competitors are up to and partner with other local and national media houses to serve your audience better.
This is the time to look into and invest in online tools.
Stay on the beat with what your audience wants. Now people want reliable and accurate information about the pandemic and you must deliver that consistently.
Know that at some point your audience will get news-fatigued about the coronavirus outbreak so diversify your content by reporting on other topics that are not related to the outbreak, so they can have options.
Provide adequate protection for your team in the coverage of COVID-19
Know that your staff are not immune to the coronavirus. Insist on strict adherence to precautionary measures.
Train all staff to be able to assume essential roles so they can cover for others when the need arises.
Reporters who are in the at-risk category (employees above 50 years, compromised immune system and pre-existing conditions) should be allowed to work from home.
Make the necessary mitigation arrangements in case some of your staff must go into quarantine or even worse contract the virus.