Culture In Depth Society, 27/06/2017

Nakipelo: At Boiling Point to Change Kharkiv Media Landscape

The vibrant Kharkiv media startup Nakipelo is not only the civic independent on-line news agency which performs live broadcasts and promptly responds to current events. It also has gained wide popularity as becoming a free platform for articulating different opinions on the hottest current issues at press conferences, discussions and meeting.

As Roman Danilenkov and Natalia Kurdiukova, the media co-founders, note: “Every idea can be expressed and highlighted here except for illegal issues that violate the Constitution of Ukraine or hate speech which incites violence or prejudicial actions.”

Kharkiv Observer met the Nakipelo co-founders in their office in the center of Kharkiv to ask about the incredible things they are pioneering in the information field. Interestingly the name of the media has idiomatic meaning as “been fed up” with a particular situation or literary “got at the boiling point” with something.

Creating convergent medium

R.D.: “We are not inventing something brand new. We are learning from the other countries’ media experience in the field. Although in Ukraine such a platform with press conferences and the live stream is innovative, Romanian experts showed us a studio for professional live stream made up of just several iPods and special lighting. Of course, we got some solutions of our own. Let’s say we made short subtitled social videos. The ones which can be watched on your mobile phone without sound, convenient for example while commuting in metro”.

They call themselves a “convergent medium” implying that the same people produce multi-content. Every team member has a key specialty and is a universal multiple performer at the same time. One can replace another in performing a particular working task, being able to shoot films, take pictures or provide live broadcasts.

Journalists vs Volunteers

R.D.: “It all started from the idea not as just a job. We started as media activists and transferred from civic journalists into professionals. And we observe the balance of opinions and standards of journalism. Though it is not always easy to define where the border lies between an activist and a journalist”.

At the beginning of 2014 (their youtube channel was launched on March 11, 2014) there were only two of them: Roman Danilenkov and Natalia Kurdiukova who made videos and uploaded them on their youtube channel and FB group.

Nakipelo team also worked as civil volunteers in 2014, they carried humanitarian aid to liberated Sloviansk, went to help Ukrainian Army to ATO zone, organized five concerts on Donbas and some charity auctions with “souvenirs” from war.

N.K.: “It was all like a film of horror, we were in a car, and there was shelling everywhere, and some military people were demining fields by the road. Several times our car came under fire, and we did not even have bullet proof jackets. We learned some rules of survival and vigilance on how to avoid mines or where to hide. And we reported the events from the front for free, although people helped us to collect money for petrol or humanitarian aid and holding our first large-scale press conferences for internally displaced people”.

Later Olena Leptuga joined the team as a content writer. In summer-autumn 2014 there were several media assets edited by the team simultaneously like Kharkiv Civic Forum website and a newspaper. In December 2014 the Nakipelo received its first grant, they started involving professionals for their projects and grew to 14 people with the staff of technicians who are also capable of creating content.

Also, Nakipelo began to provide room for various press conferences, and soon became a unique popular platform which appeared to be in high demand in Kharkiv.

N.K.: “It was hard to rent the office first. As soon as the owners heard that we are a media project they refused to rent their office out to us. Everyone was afraid of terrorist attacks or threats from subversives”.

We consider our task to “stir the media mire”

N.K.: “The media situation in Kharkiv is sad. In 2011-2012 the local information field was cleaned up systematically, the opposing and the independent media were suppressed and got away, and the new outlets did not come out. And till now only a few have appeared like Nakipelo and Hromadske.

Why do journalists not follow our model to create new resources? There are many educational institutions graduating journalists, but there are no new media. I think the problem is caused by the inertia and laziness of the journalists. People just do not want to take responsibility or to work systematically; they go to PR or other fields. And we now realize that this would be our task to “stir this mire”, to organize some hackathons or forums like the civic journalism forum we carried out in autumn 2016”.

Since 2015 the team spent a lot of efforts on media literacy. Roman Danilenkov, Victor Pichuhin, and Olena Leptuga are certified coaches of Deutsche Welle Akademie, they carry out training and hopefully observe as some media activists are growing professionally.

N.K.: “The civic journalism movement is growing, but it is still uncoordinated and disconnected. So we see our mission in educating and coordinating active civic journalists, uniting them.

Currently, there are over 100 acting projects all over Ukraine, and about half of them are really active and interesting.”

Our readers’ feedback matters

Currently, they work 7/24, and among the secrets of their fast response to events, they list mobility (the Nakipelo members have three cars), personal activity or motivation and close relations with Kharkiv civic activists, who often become their insiders. Also, they are joking about having a kind of a “scent” or “gut feeling” helping them “separate the wheat from the chaff”, to report significant events.

R.D.: “Our main advantage is that we are not afraid of few views. There are very important issues which do not interest a lot of people, and we publish many articles and videos that only a few individuals have reached – but it was crucial to make them published. Our metrics vary from 300 to millions of views, but nobody would criticize us for low performance. It is only feedback from our readership which we take into account”.

Nakipelo is supported by grants, and they are considering going commercial in future. They assure that there are several options, common for Ukrainian media, that they would never use to make money, like allowing a political propaganda in the media.

R.D.: “First we developed chaotically, and now we are building a strategy. We are looking for civilized business models to become independent from grants. There are different options ranging from crowdfunding to native advertisement. Unfortunately, our market is still not ready for the stylish designer native ads which would correspond with our high standards. Therefore it is important to educate our audience, and to develop professionally.”

N.K.: “Mass media need competition to grow, to follow the market laws. Unfortunately there is still no free media market in Ukraine and the laws do not work. The journalists mostly live on political ads or deputies promotion, or charging for press releases. And therefore I guess we’ll have to create the media market too (laughing)”.

Interview, text and photo: Olena Sokolynska