Knight International Journalism Fellowships

Malaysia: Design a Business Model for Robust Citizen Journalism

Knight International Fellow Ross Settles discusses his ICFJ fellowship in Malaysia.

In a country where the government restricts traditional media, Ross Settles helped Malaysiakini, the leading independent news site, to expand its offerings and improve profitability. He developed more than 30 hyper-local sites that for the first time cover communities outside Kuala Lumpur.

Now, 144 citizen journalists provide a regular stream of news reports to the Komunitikini website. To boost traffic, Settles helped to develop a system of tagging Komunitikini stories by location, category and theme. As a result, average daily visitors almost doubled in one month from 1,310 visits in February 2011 to 2,505 in March 2011.

Settles worked with Malaysiakini’s business team on a strategy to attract local advertising for community news reports, providing a new source of revenue in a country where there is scant coverage of local events. Settles also advised other Asian news organizations on how to use this model. He helped nearly 200 member stations of KBR68H, the largest radio network in Indonesia, add local news content to their websites and take advantage of the country’s booming online ad market. Settles also developed a platform to help the stations share news content and advertising. Settles’ fellowship is the first collaboration between Knight International and the Media Development Loan Fund (MDLF).


In the News


  • ICFJ Partners in Malaysia discuss the work of Knight International Journalism Fellow Ross Settles, who has been working with Malaysiakini for almost a year.