The Media Viability Accelerator is a web-based platform that will help news media become more financially sustainable by accessing solutions and market insights to inform effective business strategies. Participating media outlets will, free of charge, learn from a community of peers, access a tool that visualizes media performance data, and receive actionable daily alerts based on thousands of market and media sources. The MVA was initially announced at the Summit for Democracy in 2021.

The MVA has two primary components: MVA Insights (a context-driven platform to track, benchmark and optimize media outlets’ business performance) and MVA Solutions (a diverse marketplace of solutions and services aimed at media viability, connecting to MVA Insights).

The viability of bringing news, investigations, and information to people, that acts in the public interest and holds power to account at both national and local level, independent of any vested interests, is failing. As a natural but painful evolution, a sector that became widespread in the 19th century and matured into the 20th century, faces decline and reinvention — or collapse — in the early 21st.

“Independent media is both a public good and a private enterprise, but it has faced significant financial headwinds of late,” said USAID Administrator Samantha Power. “The U.S. government will use every tool at our disposal to support independent media, including by drawing on the expertise of our partners in the private sector. The Media Viability Accelerator is a model public-private partnership that will help keep independent media outlets around the world financially sustainable so they can continue their vital work.”

The MVA is far more than an analytical platform. It provides benchmarks and allows users to compare their performance with achievements of their peers. It connects users with organizations whose purpose is to help media outlets, and it allows experts who have media-focused solutions to offer them up to people who need them.

There are currently three types of organizations bringing the MVA to life.

Funders: USAID created the MVA concept and is currently the initiative’s primary funder.

Technology Partners: As requirements for the MVA became clearer in 2022, USAID and Internews approached Microsoft as an experienced and relevant technology partner, leading to an announcement of collaboration at the 2023 Summit for Democracy.

Microsoft’s Democracy Forward Initiative had already recognized the problem of shrinking independent media and the need to strengthen these entities to build strong democracies. Sitting within the Technology and Corporate Responsibility team, the Democracy Forward Initiative works to safeguard open and secure democratic processes, promote a healthy information ecosystem, and advance corporate civic responsibility. As part of protecting a healthy information ecosystem, Democracy Forward’s Journalism Initiative provides journalists and newsrooms with tools, technology, and capacity to expand their reach and efficiency. With its Azure cloud infrastructure, Power BI analytics and data visualizations, and Chat GPT technology, it brings the technological capabilities the MVA needs to become a successful solution that achieves widespread use and its own sustainable operation in the future.

Implementers: Following initial discussions with a media development “Consultation Group” in March 2022, a smaller group of “MVA Partners” have and continue with Internews to conduct research, test, and develop the platform. MVA Partners include  and Free Press Unlimited, Global Forum for Media Development, IREX, SembraMedia, Free Press for Eastern Europe, and Thomson Reuters Foundation. The Consultation Group additionally included Center for International Media Assistance, Deutsche Welle Academy, Fojo Institute, International Media Support, Media Development Investment Fund, Media Foundation for West Africa, News Consulting Group, and Splice Media.

Any trusted organization involved in supporting independent media in becoming more financially viable will be able to use the MVA and work with their partners through it.

With a phased release, initial access will be managed through MVA Partners. Interested organizations are invited to sign up for the MVA newsletter to receive information on timing for broader platform access.

The geographic scope of the MVA is global. The MVA Partners are actively working to ensure broad geographical coverage. We are particularly focused on identifying media outlets and solution providers operating at the local level so that more localized approaches and technical expertise are available within the MVA over time.

Ensuring the MVA is available in multiple languages is a high priority. In the development stage, while we work on functionality and layouts, we will work mostly in English with some materials available in Spanish. By full public launch, we are aiming for full system support in at least three languages, with parts of the system translated automatically into many more languages. We are working with MVA Partners to determine the rollout sequence of languages.

Based on the availability of funds and strategic priorities of the MVA, our aim is to offer subgrants to implementers working with media outlets using the MVA. Moreover, media outlets themselves that need support to integrate the MVA into their operations may receive targeted funding. Grants may also be made available to non-media organizations for the creation and implementation of additional MVA functionality.

The governance structure of the MVA will be led by a Steering Committee, consisting of the Funders (USAID, Microsoft), which provide strategic input, and the Lead Implementer (Internews) which manages MVA operations. This Committee is responsible for achieving the objectives of the MVA and makes day-to-day decisions about the MVA’s operations.

The MVA will also establish an informal Advisory Board for broader input from representatives of media outlets, media support groups, and academia. The Advisory Board will meet will provide feedback and advice to ensure the MVA is iterated and run with integrity, openness, and transparency; that it meets the principles of DEIA; that its work is innovative and useful in equitable measure to MVA stakeholders. Other governance structures are still being defined and organized, but the MVA will adhere to principles of broad engagement, consultation and transparency.

The MVA will be well-documented. Guidance will be provided as to how to effectively put it to use. This will include documentation describing how MVA Insights works and how to integrate with MVA Solutions. Options for reaching human support will also be available.

The MVA is a global initiative. Its implementation is led by non-profit Internews, with headquarters in California, USA.

As the lead implementing organization of the MVA, Internews is responsible for ensuring the MVA’s compliance with relevant data protection principles and practices.

Internews and the MVA Partners are working towards a governance structure that ensures no organization will have preferred access to or insights from the sector’s use of the MVA when it goes live — including Internews. Until launch, anyone registering their interest in the MVA will become known to all MVA Partners, so we can avoid duplicating outreach efforts and so we can learn as much as possible about users’ needs as we progress with building the MVA.

Data will be stored in Microsoft Azure. The Azure customer data protection page states that “Microsoft does not inspect, approve, or monitor applications that customers deploy to Azure. Moreover, Microsoft does not know what kind of data customers choose to store in Azure. Microsoft does not claim data ownership over the customer information that’s entered into Azure.” This is an industry standard practice. 

User data is managed in accordance with all data protection regulations and data residency requirements applicable in each of the countries where the MVA operates, such as GDPR for MVA users in the European Union.

MVA users will choose who can access their data. These choices can range from allowing access by all logged-in users (e.g., an organization wanting to be found in the MVA Solutions marketplace), to only sharing data with specific people or organizations (e.g., sharing financial and capacity updates with media development organizations). Some data will be used for anonymized benchmarking (e.g., the average number of pageviews per visit on an investigative journalism website) but never in a way that reveals any individual media outlet’s identity or location. MVA users will always be in control of how their data is shared, or not.

Security of data within the MVA is a very high priority. The MVA is being built by organizations that are highly experienced in creating secure digital platforms; it will rely on Microsoft’s proven technologies; its implementers have experience across all sectors of media, in most markets and environments, and understand the security needs of media organizations — including those operating amid extreme interference.

Personally Identifiable Information (“PII”) in the MVA will be encrypted. Great care is being taken to enable the protection of PII related to media outlets and users operating in hostile environments. One of the primary aims of the MVA is to help independent media survive where they are under greatest threat.

The MVA will not benchmark media outlets on a per-country basis. Instead, it will offer benchmarking according to characteristics of media outlets (e.g., hard news) and markets (e.g., low press freedom).

You will still be able to see your data in full, of course; and if you want to, you’ll be able to share any of it with partners you trust. But nobody will be able to trace your data back to you or your target country — unless you decide otherwise.

We know that some MVA uses will have intermittent and unstable access to the Internet, and that in general we want pages of the MVA to load quickly and efficiently. We are therefore designing the MVA with this in mind. We are also designing the MVA to deliver alerts containing useful information and insights without users needing to log in. In addition to this, the MVA will comply with two US-based frameworks that help ensure wide accessibility: the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 508 Guidelines.

In line with the USAID Policy Framework (2019), the MVA will strive to Do No Harm (DNH). In practice, this means minimizing risk to users and integrating a proactive conflict sensitive approach in the design and implementation of this activity.

The MVA will promote a non-discriminatory, inclusive, and integrated development approach that ensures that all people, including those who face discrimination and thus may have limited access to a country’s benefits, legal protections, or social participation are fully included and can actively participate in and benefit from development processes and activities.

The MVA will be designed to support media by and for women and other communities who are subject to disproportionate levels of risk and underrepresentation.