The goal of every media outlet is to grow and to be sustainable. Recognizing the need for ensuring revenue growth over time and providing the resources for the media outlet to operate successfully is not an issue. Implementing this is practice – is. There is no recipe for success. In fact, every media outlet that succeeds tends to do it by finding its own path based on its vision, external circumstances, and internal capabilities.
The rewards and challenges of diversified revenue streams
The media industry is digital, highly competitive and fragmented. Independent media are often faced with insufficient resources for growth due to limited monetization opportunities, focused largely on advertising. On the other hand, there is also "a big fish in a small pool" sindrome, which happens when media outlets reach their growth limits as a result of the geographical area they cover, target groups characteristics, or their internal capabilities.
These new activities may or may not be related to the existing, core, ones, and it is expected that they will bring new challenges in terms of required operational changes, management of change, and overall resources and skills.
As best practice shows, it is not recommended to enter into new business ventures until the existing operations and revenue streams are well established. Another mistake that many young companies make is jumping into the next business opportunity right after the initial success with the previous one, which often results in all ventures failing. That is why it is important to have an appropriate organisational maturity, experience, resources, quality information support and clearly defined goals before taking on new endeavours.
However, if executed successfully, such diversification strategies lead to an increase of sources of income and income itself, thus enabling the sustainability media outlets ought to achieve.
A great example, one might even call it a “by the book” example, of how to strategically approach business development as a media outlet is the example of OhridNews. Their long-term media experience, local expertise, existing resources, strategic approach, and connections with other companies, combined with important situational factors led to OhridNews achieving great success. Their story can serve as a guide for other media that want to achieve sustainability through business diversification.
OhridNews is a creative media outlet based in Ohrid, North Macedonia. The media outlet operates via an online portal www.ohridnews.com in the southwest region of North Macedonia, and creates high-quality content on diverse topics to inform and entertain their audience.
Founder and CEO of OhridNews is Goran Momiroski, journalist and editor with 26 years of experience working with domestic and international media.
OhridNews generates approximately 95% of revenues from marketing services, more precisely from the sale of advertising space on the portal, PR services, and photography and video production for companies based in Ohrid and beyond.
OhridNews is the only regional online media that has won the Charter "St. Kliment Ohridski - Patron of Ohrid", the award given by the city for exceptional contribution to the promotion of Ohrid and its values in 2008.
OhridNews has a high-quality, educated and dedicated staff. It currently employs 3 full-time employees and 2 external associates, with plans to have 5 full-time employees and 5 external associates by the end of 2021. Since 2015, OhridNews has been organising the largest cultural and entertainment event in Ohrid, "Winter Fairy Tale".
To understand how OhridNews achieved its great success, we need to understand the market in which they operate first.
The Ohrid region (Ohrid, Struga and Debrca municipalities) is one of the 38 UNESCO sites in the world and 8 in Europe, in the mixed category of world natural and cultural heritage sites. UNESCO placed Ohrid Lake and mountain Galicica under protection in order to preserve their endemic species, making it, at the same time, a magnet for tourists. In fact, this region is visited by over 300.000 tourists on a yearly basis.
Ohrid was mainly a holiday destination for domestic tourists in the past but today, according to the Bureau of Statistics, the structure of tourists has changed completely, as can be seen in the following table.
Increased interest in tourism is reflected in the growth of accommodation capacity. Tourists use the services of 43 hotel facilities, 2.900 rental properties and over 400 catering, craft and tourist services, close to 100 carriers (buses, taxis, boats), over 50 tourist guides and local agencies, as well as public institutions, museums and other attractions, dental clinics and health facilities. In the last 5 years, 15 hotels in Ohrid have modernised their facilities at the request of foreign partners and tour operators, and private accommodation capacities are growing each year (from 2.330 in 2015 to 2.900 properties in 2020). The International Council of Airports (ACI) ranked Ohrid Airport as one of the top three airports in Europe according to the passenger growth rate (63,9%) in the first quarter of 2019.
When it comes to trends in the field of tourism, it’s important to note that the new generation of travelers no longer relies solely on local travel agencies to help them make travel decisions. Tech-savvy Millennials and Generation Z collect travel information and make booking through a variety of channels, including social media, booking platforms and websites. Moreover, the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic and the “new normal” has had serious consequences for the tourism sector. Despite obvious downsides, the crisis has created room for new opportunities such as digitalisation and focus on online operations in tourism.
Now, why is this important?
According to research conducted by OhridNews, the promotional activities of the Tourist Association in Ohrid and other local travel service providers are not in line with the expectations of businesses operating in the local tourism sector nor the changes in the travel market. Their research revealed that there is a strong interest on behalf of local tourism companies to work with OhridNews to improve the promotion and sales of their services.
Combining these insights with the needs of modern travelers, OhridNews wants to provide access to all information and attractions offered in the Ohrid region in one place. It aims to create a a destination portal for Ohrid - a platform (including social media and mobile app) with a high-quality offer and professional services that will enable people to experience the unique cultural and natural heritage of the Ohrid region. The name of the platform will be E-Ohrid (Experience Ohrid).
The common need of all tourism entities and travelers is information, and this is the main strength of OhridNews. The media outlet has existing communication channels and well-established relationships with the tourism sector. The contacts with the business community are at an exceptionally high level, as well as the reputation and trust they enjoy as a professional media outlet. The goal of this new portal will be to transfer the accumulated knowledge and experience to the digital sphere, which will lead to the growth and expansion of the local travel market.
The goal of the media outlet is to build a world-quality destination portal similar to those built for Garda Lake in Italy or Bled Lake in Slovenia.
Foreign and domestic visitors will be able to find relevant information about the tourist offer in Ohrid including accommodation, events, cultural trips, transportation, shopping, etc. They will be able to book and buy travel products, services, excursions, tickets for events and visits to museums and sights, discount vouchers, souvenirs and other goods. Travel companies and other entities from the industry will be able to offer and sell their products and services on the portal. The combination of information and destination portal can be offered as a package deal to companies in the tourism sector.
The platform will be focused on content marketing and will publish high-quality videos, photos, reports, podcasts and other forms of creative promotion and information.
A new venture E-Ohrid will be an added value and long-term additional source of income for OhridNews,but also an additional challenge that requires investments in the form of capital, time, energy and knowledge. Diversification of activities and risks will provide growth and sustainability of the platform but only if driven by clear strategy and business intelligence.