There is a healthy dose of liberation for those that want to establish a career with independent media sources. Whether this takes the form with a website, a blog, a video channel, a podcast, a newspaper or another mode of reporting and commenting, digital technology is making this possible.
It is enticing to work in an environment that doesn’t have commercial strings attached, but it is also a space that carries plenty of challenges along the way. Finding that voice, building that audience and breaking news that matters becomes a struggle without the foundation that traditional media empires enjoy.
Ultimately independent media is swimming against the tide when it comes to the financial muscle on show with the regular heavyweights. Advertisers continue to flood the bank accounts of the big hitters in town, giving them the capital to invest in their programming and the exposure that those shows generate.
In this setting they have the ability to monetize their content, even when they don’t quite hit their viewer metrics for a broadcast window. That is the type of insurance that independent creators cannot match and struggle to make sustainable from one quarter to the next.
A lack of brand awareness plays a role with independent media entities that struggle to earn that essential consumer cut-through. CNN, NBC, MSNBC, Fox News, ABC and CBS have all established an audience over years and decades. Thanks to a multimedia empire that supports other programming outside of their news division, outlets that try and go it alone don’t have that recognition from the outside world.
Poor brand awareness will have a negative knock-on effect for the type of access that is granted to independent media sources. At the top-end of town, this will create barriers for presidential press briefings and red carpet events to confidential sources coming forward. Although some whistleblowers will actually see their independence as a benefit given the lack of a conflict of interest commercially, their low profile might keep doors closed that could otherwise be opened by notoriety.
Algorithms on social media and search engines don’t help the cause when it comes to independent media exposure. Everyone from the Young Turks on the left to Infowars on the right have struggled when it comes to the nature of personal feeds, placing NBC and Fox News content ahead of their space for users that have similar tastes and interests. Although they might deserve that extra exposure on merit, the lack of brand awareness or financial backing does act as a barrier when it comes to a preference for recommended content.
If these challenges were not enough to deal with, there have been examples where independent media outlets have been the subject of an aggressive buy-out from a larger entity. Fearful about the coverage that they receive and without that editorial control, the best way to leverage financial muscle is to purchase a newspaper, a hosting provider or something as small as a blog to close off that avenue entirely.
Fortunately there is light at the end of the tunnel with independent media outlets hoping to build a sustainable model moving forward. The expansion of digital technology and social media connections ensures that accounts can be affordably designed and broadcast without interference or interruption. Crowd funding initiatives are breaking down those conventional barriers, helping to monetize projects on a consistent basis.
So long as they do not breach the terms and conditions of website hosts and social profiles, they are free to innovate and explore in the media landscape. They are also free to express opinions and hold power to account without fear of favor, giving them the liberation to push boundaries and engage communities that have an appetite for their approach to news coverage.