By Lwazi Maseko: “Get out of the media business. Journalism isn’t about more content, it’s about helping people make better decisions. Stop being the content business and start being the problem solving business,” said Rishad Patel, co-founder of Splice Media, who spoke at the Sustainable Journalism in Practice conference held in Nairobi from 23 to 25 March.

Patel said to make digital journalism viable, it is important to have a business strategy that includes a product that people need and a product that people will find useful.

“It is important to test the product with the users and act on the feedback,” said Patel. He cautioned that media organisations should not create products without knowing whether it is useful for users. “Don’t build products worth $20-million, but rather build one prototype and take it to your audience and ask them if it’s something they need.”

The journalism industry needs to ask, listen, act and repeat over and over again, said Patel, adding that people are telling you what they want. Journalism is a service industry and media organisations need to shift their focus to the user – it’s all about what users need and what they are interested in. “The future of media is user-centred, demand-driven and internet-based. Move from mass to niche. The biggest mistake that media companies make is to assume that the internet audience is a mass one,” said Patel.

“Don’t just build a community, serve one.” Patel encourages media organisations to reach out to their audiences or users to better understand their needs. He said that community starts with the first names of at least 10 people who write to you, who, if you make one mistake on a story, will let you know. 

“This is your community. It is not about how you publish your content, it is about how you talk to your customers. Customers and users are not popular terms for journalists but these are terms journalists need to start thinking about and prioritising,” said Patel.

Meet the users where they are and give the people what they want.