Completely digital independent media outlets have become increasingly relevant in Montenegro. Several such media outlets have been launched in the last two years, mostly with the support of grants from international organisations. In contrast to traditional news platforms, newly established media outlets have more of a research-oriented, analytical nature, with a special focus on human rights, research on crime and corruption, and environmental protection. Until recently, the media community had not fully embraced the potential of new media technologies, including the use of video and audio formats such as podcasts. New platforms are now emerging which aim to cater to specific audiences, including previously underrepresented communities.
in the Directory
Press freedom in Montenegro has been threatened by increasingly frequent threats to the safety of journalists and other media workers, especially over the last three years. Among other things, growing political instability in the country following the 2020 elections – which saw a change in the ruling party after three decades in power – has also affected journalists, who are often the targets of pressure, threats, attacks or even extortion.
Some of the most prominent investigative journalists in Montenegro over the last five years have been victims of attacks and attempted murders. The killing of Duško Jovanović, who was editor-in-chief of the newspaper Dan, has still not been solved 18 years after he was shot dead outside the news outlet’s offices. The biggest problem is still the fact that the nature of journalistic work is not fully understood, resulting in situations like that of investigative journalist Jovo Martinović.
Market structure and dominance
The Montenegrin media market is expanding year on year, but polarisation is also increasing, as noted by Reporters Without Borders in its Press Freedom Index. Most people’s main sources of information are still traditional media, especially newspapers and television, although younger people are increasingly turning towards social networks. Most media outlets in the country operate as websites, and many of these outlets have only one journalist employed. The newest of these, which are digital natives, try to offer informative news coverage while also giving new momentum to creative, educational and solutions-based journalism.
How media is funded
Traditional media organisations still rely on advertising and sales as their dominant sources of revenue. Larger newsrooms are increasingly financed by grants, while the public service is mostly financed from the state budget. However, a large number of media outlets that participated in research point out that revenue from marketing has decreased drastically in the last three years, especially since the pandemic, and some media outlets have closed their newsrooms. Both during and after the 2020 elections the number of media outlets increased, especially online media outlets, and one television station (owned and financed by a media company from neighbouring Serbia) was also founded. The consolidation of media ownership is also noticeable. Thanks to changes in Monetengro’s Law on Media, adopted in 2020, registered digital media outlets have the right to receive help from the state for their media projects through a fund for promoting media pluralism and diversity. However, due to the increasing number of such websites, it is not possible to ensure the sustainability of all of them.
Nine profiles of digital native media organisations from Montenegro are included in the directory. This includes eight profiles based on interviews and one profile based on desk research. Although some of these outlets have been around for more than two decades, the rise of independent digital native media organisations has been especially noticeable in the last few years. “We started the portal 22 years ago and we were rightly called the first electronic newspaper in the country,” says Duško Vuković, one of the founders of PCNEN, an online media outlet focused on daily news and analysis.
Unlike websites backed by larger media companies (or part of larger corporations), some of these independent digital media outlets were started by journalists who were not satisfied with the existing media landscape and who wanted to offer their readers something new. That is why, for example, a group of freelance journalists in Podgorica founded Zumiraj, which serves as a platform for stories about environmental protection, crime and corruption research, as well as human rights.
The same impetus is behind the new analytical online media outlet Normalizuj.me, which was launched in 2021 by a group of intellectuals and journalists hoping to inspire citizens to “fight” for a better society. They use forums and podcasts to reach out to audiences, which is still unusual for Montenegro. Recently, media outlets which follow and respond to the information needs of specific communities such as freelancers or the Roma community, as well as media organisations that cater to young people or specific cities, have also appeared.
The establishment of independent media outlets that are completely digital has been especially frequent in recent years in Montenegro. And while there is no shortage of start-up ideas, founding capital mostly comes from individual donations from owners and founders, or from foreign grants; the two most common forms of digital native media financing in Montenegro.
The common challenge facing digital media outlets in Montenegro is sustainability. Most of these organisations rely on grants, and therefore their survival is limited and it is not possible to predict how long they will be able to pay their journalists. This is why these outlets tend to have a small number of people in their editorial offices and usually a larger team of part-time collaborators. The endangered safety of journalists who work for these media outlets is another challenge, especially concerning those who report on issues of crime and corruption.
Montenegro’s community of digital native outlets is still developing, but before establishing more such media organisations it is necessary to work on sustainability, both in terms of finances and personnel. Nevertheless, the contribution that these media outlets make is significant, especially regarding the topics they cover, the specialisation of individual organisations and their innovation with new models and techniques of content creation.
Last updated: December 2022