Ross Settles

Malaysia: Designing Citizen Journalism Business Models

ICFJ Knight Fellow 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.

As a result, 144 citizen journalists started providing 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. This more than doubled average daily visitors 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).