This blog post was first published in 15th April 2004. Originally, the post was entitled "The economics and politics of the online press" which I changed to its present title before publication with more on the economics and less on the politics. We think it is appropriate at this point to re-issue it in light of the acrimonious atmosphere in the fight to end dictatorship in The Gambia.
The online Gambian media appear to run on two types of business models. One, maybe two, appear to be operating a free market-based model or 'for profit' and the others operate 'not-for-profit' or 'nonprofit' models or what, in America, is referred to as 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4)
Whereas not-for-profit and nonprofit models are used interchangeably by ordinary folks like you and me, to the IRS the two models are not synonymous, and therefore are treated differently for tax purposes. We will not deal with this aspect because it is very complicated even for the tax lawyer.
What we should be concerning ourselves with, and the question we should be asking is whether "The Struggle" is better served by the "for profit" model or the "not-for-profit" model, given the fact that the former must generate revenue to meet payroll and remain viable, whereas the latter tries to break even or even run as a loss - a loss usually defrayed by voluntary contributions. "For profits" cater to everyone who can afford the goods or services produced, and "nonprofits" serve a limited number of groups targeted for free or subsidized rates. Take your pick.
As long as online media have staff in their payroll on full time basis (or 'run as a business'), they must operate profitably, and to operate profitably, they must generate traffic and to generate traffic, they must attract listeners. How do they generate traffic to attract listeners? Different media have different ways of generating traffic.
There's nothing inherently wrong with any of the above models, and in America, everyone is free to pursue the "American Dream", and the market-based model is the quickest way of attaining the Dream. What I find objectionable, however, is to pretend to be operating a 501(c)(3) when in actual fact something totally different may be happening.
All Gambian online media must level with their readers and listeners, of which I am one. Let me repeat, all models are legitimate and everyone is free to price their advertisements, construct other forms of revenue streams, including appearance fees, with the proviso that everything must be above board. "Lu nekka nyu tekko chi yon." roughly translated "Let it be transparent and legal". After all, we demand that of the dictator in Banjul at every opportune moment. Opponents of Yaya Jammeh, including my very self, must demand the same or higher standards than those demanded of Yaya Jammeh.