Liga.net, a leading Ukrainian digital news portal known for its high journalistic standards, received strategic support from MDIF and Media Advisory Services (MAS), our management capacity-building unit. This partnership began with an initial loan from MDIF in 2017, enabling Liga to acquire IT equipment and upgrade its web portal. Over time, MDIF continued to provide financing, advice and assistance, supporting Liga’s digital transition and operational improvements.
Prior to Russia’s invasion, the focus was on enhancing the user-centric approach in the newsroom, strengthening team unity and improving planning functions. A key goal for Liga.net was the roll-out of a new website design, aimed at enriching user experience and laying the groundwork for a voluntary donation membership program. This initiative emerged during the Covid-19 pandemic when readers spontaneously started supporting Liga with small financial contributions to sustain its reporting. MAS played a supportive role by facilitating regular coaching sessions for the newly hired Editor-in-Chief.
In late February 2022, Liga lost most of its income as contracts with commercial partners were frozen immediately upon the invasion. MAS helped Liga to create a long-term strategy and engaged an expert strategic consultant who guided senior management through the development of appropriate business models. As the months passed, MAS encouraged the company to adopt a forward-looking, long-term perspective, emphasizing the need to consider scenarios beyond the invasion, providing guidance in formulating a strategy for the eventual implementation of a paywall. To validate the strategy’s goals, MAS offered Liga free membership of INMA, the International News Media Association, providing access to the Subscription Benchmarking Service, which further shaped their execution strategy.
In addition to strategic guidance, the company also received assistance under our Ukraine emergency support for current and former MDIF clients, created in partnership with individual donors and democracy-supporting organizations, including King Baudouin Foundation, Mediahuis, Erste Foundation, Tinius Trust and Wyncote Foundation.
We have been cooperating with MDIF for several years. It is obvious to us that without the support, help, consultations, and training of MDIF, we would not have achieved the results that we have now. The company has gone through a difficult path of transformation in all areas and all this time we have relied on our partners. Thanks to MDIF, we have developed the first strategy, we have created a new direction “Native Advertising Studio”, updated the servers, implemented CRM and are preparing to launch Pay Wall. In the most difficult and terrible time for us, during the war, MDIF did not leave us for a minute and supports us every day, helping us to develop.Nataliya Koteneva, Liga.net CEO
- In response to challenging circumstances, Liga proactively focused on optimizing resource utilization by implementing cost-cutting measures. To achieve this, MAS provided assistance in streamlining monthly recurring costs for website hosting and maintenance.
- Through long-term mentorship from an expert consultant hired by MAS, Liga developed a strategy to diversify its revenue streams, boosting reader and grant revenue to alleviate the loss of ad income. It launched a successful crowdfunding campaign, similar to one previously launched with the help of MAS during the pandemic, securing almost $40k from a pool of 4,000 contributors. Liga also developed an action plan to launch a paywall in the future and is now at the technical implementation stage.
- The revenue composition has undergone significant shifts over the past five years, partly influenced by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. In 2019, advertising revenues accounted for 83% of the total. However, by 2022, they comprised less than half, with readers’ contributions and donations now playing a substantial role in the revenue stream. Overall, between 2022 and 2017 when the partnership started, Liga’s revenues increased by over 200%.
- Despite all the difficulties in its operations and serious financial losses in the face of the invasion, Liga has managed to launch a new design, work on which started before the war. The new design enhanced user experience and increased engagement, thereby attracting and retaining more visitors. Between 2021 and 2022 Liga’s average monthly website users grew by 30%, while average session duration increased by 26%.
- Upon the invasion, the company received aid through our Ukraine emergency support program, which included grants to cover digital security, personnel costs, operating expenses and the provision of protective vests and helmets (PPE). MDIF also provided a grant covering the development and maintenance costs necessary for the relaunch of an English-language version of Liga.net that was introduced to inform the international community at the beginning of the invasion but was paused due to cost-cutting.
It was thanks to the speed of assistance provided by MDIF “Ukraine emergency support program” that Liga.net was able to continue its operations through the first months of the invasion – before we could generate funds from alternative sources. The latter included an emergency crowdfunding campaign similar to one previously launched with the help of MAS. This helped secure the work of our newsroom and journalists, providing staff with timely pay, as well as with needed PPE and a chance to evacuate their families … MDIF made [an English language version of the website] possible. This provided Liga.net with the chance to be read and heard by audiences outside our regular reach, continue our development, and build up potential for new sources of income, yet to be explored.Nataliya Koteneva, Liga.net CEO