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How Outriders created an ‘ethical content studio’ to generate revenue…

How Outriders created an ‘ethical content studio’ to generate revenue and further its mission

The Polish online magazine's content studio contributed 45% of the organisaton's overall budget in its first year

background

This case study was first published in Engagement Explained, a fortnightly newsletter that brings you in-depth and replicable engaged journalism case studies from news organisations across Europe. Sign up here to receive the next edition in your inbox.

In a nutshell

This Polish news organisation monetises its ability to tell stories and communicate key messages by working on custom projects with corporates and non-profits and using the revenue to fund their community-led journalism.

Background

Outriders CEO Jakub Górnicki with the team after last year's Outriders Summit
Outriders CEO Jakub Górnicki with the team after last year's Outriders Summit

How did they do it?

Launching the studio

  • In January 2018, soon after it published its first stories, Outriders was approached by a number of companies and non-profits asking for help to create media projects.
  • For example, they were asked by a mineral water company to run a grants project for environmental journalism and by a community of non-profits to build a new platform for activists. They took on other smaller projects on a case-by-case basis, most of which were squeezed in around other stories.
  • Outriders co-founder Jakub Gornicki developed the Outriders Studio (subsequently re-branded Outriders Mixer) and brought the team together to create rules and principles that all projects and clients must align with.
  • The launched the Studio in December 2018 with the goal of building custom projects with commercial partners. All of the profit generated by the Studio is used to support journalism produced by the Outriders team.

Running the Studio

  • Most projects delivered by the Studio comprise "ready products" for partnerships with bigger media players. For example, Outriders built a new site for Compassfest, a travel event in conjunction with the Lviv Media Forum.
  • The team actively seeks media partnerships as part of the organisation's revenue-and membership-growth strategy.
  • Many businesses have corporate social responsibility budgets (CSR) which they often want to use to explain their work and positive impact to the public. This presents a business opportunity for the Studio.
  • The team looks at their resources-to-monthly-income ratios before taking on a project. For example, if an event production project takes two days of work, but brings in 30% of the monthly budget, it is worthwhile to deliver.
  • The team has a rule that Studio projects should not take more than 25% of their resources at any time. This means they can continue producing their own stories and ensure Outriders remains a non-profit organisation.
  • Unlike other commercial content studios, Outriders does not distribute the content it works on (other agencies do so via paid social media posts). This is made clear to clients before a project starts.

What did they learn?

  • As the work of the Studio is highly innovative, this sometimes creates barriers to increasing reach of prospective media partners.
  • In its first year, the Studio generated around 45% of Outriders’ overall budget, a result which they found surprising and promising. (NB: Outriders is at an early stage, so revenue streams can fluctuate a lot, according to Jakub).
  • A number of prospective clients have backed out of commissioning Outriders due to not being fully on board with the Studio's rules and principles. The team recommends ensuring each client is fully on board before committing much time or resources to discussions.
  • Outriders had a lot of requests for help with producing podcasts. A number of NGOs in Poland have won grants to start one, but need assistance to get it up and running. They’re looking to develop these skills.

In their own words

Jakub Górnicki, CEO and co-founder, Outriders

“We focus on helping clients with stories, formats and content since that is what we do on daily basis. But we are not a 360 agency - we just monetise our skills in a different way."

How would you improve it?

"I would like [the % of revenue from the content studio] to go down. This year it will decrease to around 25% - but we are a young organisation so that percentage fluctuates rather fast. With every contributor, we are closer to our end goal of being a community-financed platform.”

Now try it for yourself

This case study was updated in May 2021 with recent information about Outriders Studio.

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