A couple of years ago, Anu Harchu had to make a tough decision: keep her job at Bloomberg TV Mongolia (which she held for over seven years), or keep publishing videos on her own YouTube channel.

She chose herself, Anu told a room full of journalists in Perugia, Italy. For the last few years, she’s dedicated herself to building her own channel, focused on personal finance, technology, travel and skin care. As of the publishing of this newsletter, Anu has 97k subscribers on YouTube and 55k on Instagram.

Anu’s promise to her audience is that she’ll publish a video every Monday at 7am, and she’s been consistent with this promise since 2018. Her experience in broadcast journalism helped her maintain the discipline needed to keep her own channel going.

“Journalism did make me who I am,” she said.

Watch Anu at the Splice panel at the International Journalism Festival:

It’s not always been an easy ride, though. Sometimes, it can be hard to keep posting without much feedback from the audience. Until one day, when she missed her Monday morning deadline. It only happened once, she said, but she’s glad it happened because it taught her more about her audience.

“People started swarming my Instagram DMs [asking] ‘are you ok?!’” she said. “When you’re churning out videos constantly and just pushing it [out], people were not responding. I didn’t know people were there waiting for [my videos]… Missing that [deadline] made me understand that there are people who are invested.”

In another instance, she remembers someone saying that the way she speaks in her videos sounds “official,” which has negative connotations in Mongolia, Anu said. It made her feel that she wasn’t resonating with her audience and she wondered why she kept doing what she did. So she turned on her camera as she walked home from work and explained her process for making videos to her audience. In the course of the video, she asked her audience: “if you find any value in the content that I’m creating, please let me know in the comments.”

What followed was an outpouring of comments from Anu’s audience telling her they valued her work.

“That gave me that push, that gave me purpose to continue working,” said Anu, encouraging others on the creator journey to simply ask their audience for feedback when they’re feeling discouraged by negative comments.

Though Anu has an audience that really cares about her work and videos, when it comes to monetising, the audience can’t participate.

“The creator economy in every country is quite different,” she said. “It’s so hard to get money into Mongolia, that user-funded content is not possible in Mongolia.”

Instead, Anu relies on sponsorships on YouTube and Instagram to make her living. But she still takes her responsibility to her audience very seriously, she said. She’ll always be truthful about how she feels about a product, and she’ll always be transparent when she’s been sponsored to create a video. For Anu, the audience’s trust is crucial to her ability to survive as a creator.

We caught Anu right outside her panel at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia, Italy. Here’s the chat we had with her about how tech can help journalists become more independent:

In Old News: How has tech helped you or other creators do content more efficiently?

Anu: The good thing is, I mean, mobile phones in our pockets are so much more capable than those that people had in like 1980s. Everything included is in just in the palm of your hands. And then just add some microphone to it… Then it just becomes a tool that you can broadcast yourself... Gone are the days that you need to have a videographer with you or a camera person and then also lights and such. So it does enable you immensely to tell your own story in that sense. So technology advancements does add a lot. But on the other hand, it does make one single person be responsible for everything.

So it does need to follow up with some capacity building or skill development there. But overall, it's brilliant. It's amazing that we would be able to do so. Nowadays I only vlog on my phone using this microphone... Sit-down videos I do tend to bring out the cameras and such, but as as little friction as possible is always great.

So the phone is the least frictionless device that you can use to create content.

In Old News: How did using tech help you work beyond the daily news coverage? How did it help you cover the stories that you really wanted to?

Anu: So personally, I haven't really needed to use mobile journalism in my work per se, but having been on the tech beat [for] my employer, which was a broadcast news channel, we were able to... I was in the studio, but I was able to train the reporters that are going out with a phone and actually reporting from all the voting booths, just using a [phone] camera that's immensely, immensely resourceful to do so.

So even the traditional newsrooms can still utilise such technology in their daily reporting, whereas its capacity building, it’s resource — what's the opposite word for intense? Whatever the word that is the opposite of intense, resource-not-intense to do so. So mobile journalism does not only help for freelancers, also helps with even legacy media such as like television.

In Old News: Your newsroom wasn’t very happy with you working on videos on your own personal channel, and many newsrooms have similar rules. What is your advice for people working on their own brand outside of their newsroom?

Anu: I think that recently more newsrooms have started seeing the value in their journalists having an audience or their platform. So increasingly they're utilising it more. But there are newsrooms that do frown upon that such things. So what I would say for those journalists who are working in such newsrooms would be: don't use any of the resources that the newsrooms are providing so that nobody else would have ownership over what you are creating on the side.

But if it comes to the ultimatum, choose yourself. [If] that would be the case, choose yourself. And some other editor would see the value in you creating your own stories. And also being more creative there. So let the past stay in the past and let them go obsolete.

In Old News: Any more advice for journalists looking to up-skill?

Anu: The great thing is that, I mean, it used to be like news are written on laptops or computers, right? But nowadays phones are very, very capable, even editing videos. So just learn your phone. And then probably phone is the primary computer now that everybody's using. So use it to the fullest and you don't need like the latest pro model at all. Just get the base model. It's fine. It's going to be fine. The cameras are great. So you don't need to invest a lot into your gear per se to to make it out there, as long as you invest in the content... yeah, [if you invest] in the content itself, people will follow.

This interview is a part of our dispatches from the International Journalism Festival 2022. You can listen to our series by clicking on this link or watch our interviews on YouTube.

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