UNDP kicks off a new mission to support innovative media start-ups

The news and media ecosystems in Cambodia are still in their nascent stage. Several fundamental issues – financial, legal, and professional – need to be addressed in order to nurture the ecosystem.

To the casual observer, Cambodia’s strong capitalist fervor gives the impression of the robust country’s economic progress. Indeed, in some ways, this is true. The city sprawls with various skyscraper developments and bustling streets.

With the injection of foreign direct investment and the rise of technology, the startup ecosystem in Cambodia is poised for growth. For the media sector, the two big questions remain: Can current business models adapt to market requirements? And can media companies tag along with vibrant startups in Southeast Asia?

The first Cambodia Media Lab shed lights on media entrepreneurship

In the past, horns were often hung up on utility poles in villages. The community would listen to information being broadcast from the horn. For many Cambodian journalists born before the 1990s, news media is the metaphorical horn for society.

A few decades later, technology has brought rapid changes. The news media has become daily printing, radio and television broadcasting, and now it’s transforming to digital communications.

On August 7, the UNDP organized its first Cambodia Media Lab aimed at gathering media professionals from various backgrounds to discuss opportunities and challenges related to media resilience and innovation. During the event, Singaporean-based Splice Media shared findings and recommendations from their independent media market audit they conducted in Cambodia (access the full report here.

“Perhaps the biggest challenge – and opportunity – has come in the new ways in which audiences discover, create, and consume media,” the report explains.

The August event was part of the broader “Media Alternatives” project’ implemented by UNDP. The initiative aims to help media startups in Cambodia develop comprehensive business plans, nurture product-design thinking and create financially sustainable models. The ultimate objective is to strengthen media resilience and promote freedom of expression.

The shift of information ecosystem – Where should journalists go?

Soklim Ky is a senior Cambodian journalist who graduated with a degree in French and was able to hone his professional journalism skills at a young age by working for Radio France Internationale (RFI).

“In Cambodia, people always think independent and trusted media organizations are owned by foreigners,” said Soklim, co-founder of Thmey Thmey.

Taking what he learned at RFI, in 2010, he decided to break this perception by co-founding one of the most popular local news websites in Cambodia – Thmey Thmey – with the hope to share locally produced, reliable media content in Khmer. The English edition was just launched a few months ago.

Recently, there have been a few questions circling in Soklim’s mind: How to develop new products on Facebook? How to generate diverse revenues?  Where to find new journalists? How to constructively talk about important social issues?

Soklim wondered aloud during the Media Lab about the changes his newsroom needs to make in midst of this digital revolution – something he hasn’t thought about since the establishment of Thmey Thmey 2010.

UNDP’s Media Alternatives Project is set to empower local media professionals, like Soklim, to rethink the way they run their businesses.

With Cambodia’s existing digital infrastructure and demographics, emerging media platforms have already begun to expand – putting power into the hands of consumers, but displacing traditional media organizations and journalists from the exclusive role of editorial mediation.

“As media professionals, the challenge for us is to embrace a wider definition [of media] – something that allows us to better understand the threats that these trends represent, but also the opportunity that they create. Media must be reconceived as both products and services,” the Splice Media report states.

What will be added in the next chapter of Cambodia’s media industry?

UNDP is hosting a series of workshops in the coming months. It will address questions like:

-        Why and how media can be more resilient?

-        How to develop your media product that solves a structural problem in media?

-        How to generate diverse revenue if content is king?

But the ultimate answer roots back to journalists and other media professionals and how they will develop innovative experiments to inspire the future of the sector.


Sheila YUAN Jiahuan

Project Manager

Mr Fabio Oliva, Peace and Development Advisor, UN Cambodia


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