How two Mexican media startups have survived the COVID-19 crisis
by Sebastián Auyanet, International Journalists’ Network
Digital media startups over the past year have dealt with major economic and societal challenges due to COVID-19. Two independent news sites in Mexico, Verificado.com.mx and La Verdad de Ciudad Juárez, have not only weathered the global health crisis — they’ve managed to grow their newsrooms thanks to well-defined, flexible business models.
Both news organizations were members of the first cohort of SembraMex, a program designed to help independent media organizations along the U.S.-Mexico border become more sustainable. Organized by SembraMedia, the program is run in partnership with the International Center for Journalists and the Border Center for Journalists and Bloggers.
During the 2019 iteration of the program, Verificado.com.mx and La Verdad experimented with different strategies to diversify their revenue sources and improve sustainability, something web traffic and digital advertising alone can’t accomplish.
Here are some key lessons learned from the two news sites’ efforts over the past year to not only stay afloat, but grow their operations.
Develop diverse, adaptable business models
Based in Monterrey, Mexico, Verificado.com.mx specializes in fact-checking with a focus on gender and human rights. For the newsroom’s fact-checking experts, creating a well-defined, adaptable business model not exclusively tied to web traffic was key.
Team members drew on their expertise to cultivate potential clients for whom they could offer consulting and fact-checking courses. “In that regard, 2020 was a very good year for us, given we now have seven new clients,” said founder Daniela Mendoza.
Their clients include civil society organizations located across the country, for instance in Nuevo León and Jalisco. Verificado.com.mx reporters offered fact-checking courses, as well as classes on reporting with a gender perspective and combating hate speech. They also worked with national and international clients, such as the U.S.-based It Gets Better, on LGBTQ-related issues.
Launch strategic partnerships
Verificado.com.mx initiated partnerships with other media organizations, which provided the newsroom with more resources and allowed them to increase their content output. “Joining fact-checking coalitions such as #LatamChequea or the Coronavirus Fact Checking Alliance gave us more grant funding, while also allowing us to share our professional fact-checking expertise internationally,” said Mendoza.