Web brings new audience for issue groups

A fascinating piece from Nieman Journalism Labs on the new role of NGOs and online media. It focuses on Avaaz, a group I am now working with.

“The Internet opens up new means of communications for major NGOs. But does it also make their position vulnerable to a new breed of web-native upstarts, who understand the power of technology more fully? Denise Searle, who has worked with some of the world’s best known NGOs, explores…

Audience and influence are traditionally the ways that both media and NGOs measure their effectiveness. The internet has transformed the way that both can tackle the basics: getting their message across. For non-profit organisations, it has lowered the barriers to reaching people, raising money and transforming ideas into action.

“The problem is that today’s fast-moving internet isn’t an easy fit for all NGOs… Organizations that are known and respected in the real world often face competition for attention from a range of other sources and perspectives in the virtual world….”

“All this indicates that if humanitarian and development NGOs want to attract and retain visitors in the increasingly crowded and competitive online world, and turn them into supporters, they need to provide timely, easy-to-find information, genuinely involve their audiences, and keep up with the latest trends. This is a tall order, particularly when many of the web destinations competing for their audiences’ attention have commercial muscle behind them…”

“How long will it be before international development and humanitarian NGOs see their supporter base eroded by digital native organizations such as Kiva and Avaaz…? Will these digital-savvy communities start mobilizing online to ask hard questions about why, despite years of effort, international development and humanitarian NGOs have not made poverty history or achieved social justice? And how will they be answered?”

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