Ma'an Network is committed to establishing a 24-hour online news website in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya as a means of strengthening independent media. The online news websites will offer both local and global audiences quality media reports in both Arabic and English. The media outlets will be staffed by 40 staff members (in each country) committed to objective and professional journalism.
Critical to the success of the initiative will be the development of a successful business plan that prioritizes the development of a reliable revenue stream and cost optimization, enabling the news websites to become financially self-sustaining within a four year period. Ma'an Network aims to make large-scale impact - the organization aims to reach 60% of Internet users in each country within a four-year period. Importantly, the projects' potential for growth and impact across the Middle East is enormous - both within target countries in addition to the potential to replicate the project to other countries across the region.
Ma'an Network is uniquely qualified to implement this transformative project. The project aims to replicate the financially sustainable independent media model developed by Ma'an Network in the West Bank and Gaza (titled Ma'an News Agency). Ma'an News Agency, an award-winning 24-hour news website became 100% financially self-sufficient subsequent to an initial injection of donor funding.
Ma'an Network has the capacity to facilitate the smooth, efficient and immediate implementation of the project. The organization has an existing network of media professionals in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya ready to initiate the project. Moreover, the organization already possesses the specialist IT systems and equipment necessary for the immediate launch of the news websites. Further, an experienced team of media and management professionals who possess a deep understanding of the media landscape in the target countries are ready to be deployed.
Precise implementation dates will depend on when Ma'an Network secures funding, but the work streams involved include:
Working with an existing network of media professionals in each country, Ma'an network will select journalists for each of the online news agencies, with a focus on recent graduates. The goal is to identify passionate and skilled professional journalists committed to accurate reporting without influence from political, commercial or personal pressure/interests. Ma'an Network will offer on-going professional training to all journalists. Staff recruitment and training will occur during Q1 of the first year of project implementation.
BUSINESS STRATEGY DEVELOPMENT
A business plan for each country will be customized in order to maximize the revenue potential from advertising and other forms of commercial opportunities (for example: offering a paid breaking news service via SMS to readers). All business plans will assume an initial injection of donor funding with the news websites becoming financially self-sufficient after year three. The intent is to replicate the business model used by the Ma'an Network in the West Bank and Gaza, which has proven to be commercially successful despite a very challenging economic environment. The development of a business strategy will occur during Q1 of the first year of project implementation.
Business plans will be put in place that result in the below projected revenues and demand for the online news service:
Year 1: no income
Year 2: generate 30% income
Year 3: generate 60% income
Year 4: financially self-sustainable
Year 1: 10% of Internet users
Year 2: 30% of Internet users
Year 3: 50% of Internet users
Year 4: Minimum of 60% of Internet users
Keeping with market trends, Ma'an Network will continuously endeavor to explore new and innovative ways to reach its audience, using new forms of social media as they become available.
The dramatic events of the 'Arab Spring' have created possibilities for communities across the region to embark on a new and promising future. While the Arab Spring has raised many important political questions (such as those concerning governance and the formation of democratic institutions in countries previously governed by authoritarian regimes), it has also created the space to instigate momentous social change and stimulate civil society engagement. In the context of Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, the Arab Spring has created a powerful opportunity to establish independent media as a means of fostering free speech and creating a thriving and active civil society. Given the uncertainty of future political and social developments in these three countries, it is imperative to act immediately (while the space still exists) to build on the momentum created by the Arab Spring to support communities in their drive to develop free and democratic societies.
Ma'an Network is seeking further financial support from partners in order to replicate its successful model for independent, financially sustainable media across the Middle East, starting in Egypt. The cost effective development model will reach millions of Internet users, a number anticipated to grow on an annual basis. The proposed project has been designed to ensure that it reaches self-sustainability in four years, so that financial support will only be required only in the early years.