MDIF team members Harlan Mandel, Mohamed Nanabhay and Bilal Randeree have been featured guests on four recent podcasts, talking about different aspects of our work, media investing and media operations.
Harlan Mandel, CEO: Impact investing in media
Our CEO Harlan Mandel was invited onto the Investing in Impact podcast of Causeartist. Harlan recalled MDIF’s origin story and discussed how MDIF embarked on its mission to invest in independent media in countries where access to free and independent media is under threat. He described MDIF’s work on the frontline of impact investing, starting with our first loan to a print media company a quarter of a century ago, to our current activities, including equity investing, supporting media companies build diverse business models and helping them tackle daunting challenges from media capture to the rise of the social media giants.
“Part of what made [MDIF] such a visionary idea was that there was no such thing as impact investing back then. The word didn’t even exist. Mission investing didn’t exist. Venture philanthropy didn’t exist,” said Harlan.
Fast forward 25 years to 2021. “Companies we invest in now are certainly general-interest news organisations, but we also work with companies that are based on community-developed news or social networks.”
Mohamed Nanabhay, Deputy CEO: Introducing MDIF Ventures
Mohamed had a conversation with Alan Soon of Splice Media about investing in media startups and our recently launched MDIF Ventures, which will invest $1 million in equity this year in approximately 12 young media with positive social impact. He shared lessons from our long experience of early-stage investments, starting with the Digital News Ventures fund in 2012, and proving patient capital to leading independent media companies worldwide. Mohamed discussed MDIF’s investment process and the catalytic effect of our funding to leverage other investors.
“We’ve always done equity investments in media. We go back to Malaysiakini, where in early 2000s we did an early investment into the company. It’s been part of our DNA for a long time,” said Mohamed on weekly Splice Pink podcast.
“We are patient capital and we are impact capital. We first and foremost do what we do because we believe that media companies and journalism have an important role to play in the world.”
Mohamed Nanabhay, Deputy CEO: Investing in sustainable media businesses
Mohamed also talked to Media Voices, a weekly podcast featuring leading figures from media and publishing businesses. In addition to speaking about our recently launched MDIF Ventures, he discussed MDIF investment process and what we bring to the table, not only in terms of financing but also expertise and assistance to help supported media realise their goals and aims. These days, it is difficult to avoid the topic of Covid-19, so Mohamed also talked about why the pandemic has provided an opportunity for media to thrive.
“It might sound slightly callous, but if we’re looking for an upside in the pandemic, and it’s really hard to grasp one, given what’s been wreaked on the world, but many media companies have finally had to deal with having unsustainable cost bases,” said Mohamed.
“They had to do the restructuring that maybe they were thinking about doing for a long time, but just couldn’t do or couldn’t get buy-in to do. And I think some of them will come out stronger. They’ll come out as leaner companies.”
Listen to Mohamed here.
Bilal Randeree, Program Director for Africa & MENA: How do paywalls work?
Bilal featured on The Clement Manyathela Show, a wide ranging discussion program with the popular South African newsman, to talk about paywalls and membership subscriptions. Using examples of outlets supported by our South Africa Media Innovation Program (SAMIP), such as the Daily Maverick and the Mail & Guardian, he described different ways membership and subscription programmes work and what they mean for the audience, emphasising the importance of supporting quality, independent, public interest journalism, especially during the Covid-19 crisis.
“On the one hand, we [people] are paying because we want to support the work. We know investigative journalism is a lengthy process, it’s expensive. But it’s a two-way channel. We want to engage with the newsrooms and give them feedback, and in many cases, that’s what they are looking for as well,” said Bilal.
“Like any business, these independent media businesses need to innovate and need to figure out how to become sustainable. Launching membership programmes, introducing paywalls, any sort of innovation around this – and there’s a lot happening – are the steps to come up with a more sustainable model.”