Impact: The Basics

What do we mean by impact?

Not long ago, funders, outlets and makers thought about media impact primarily in terms of print or broadcast audience metrics: how many people watched, listened to or other otherwise experienced a story or production. In some cases, perhaps evaluators used survey or interview data to track whether there was a subsequent attitude or behavior shift among audience members.

In today’s complex digital media world, however, funders and makers have realized that there is much more to impact than these traditional metrics—depending on the project, impact assessment may involve tracking community engagement activities, media coverage, political or legal outcomes, increases in diversity and representation, attention from influentials, internal capacity building and much more. Specific impact metrics will differ depending on each project’s goals, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Today, there are many frameworks, models, and tools to help funders and makers plan and tell their impact stories.

What is Media Impact Funders doing to help funders understand and track impact?

We run the AIM initiative, which includes a repository of impact-related content, original analysis pieces on impact trends, and a monthly impact newsletter. We also convene funders to discuss impact, and conduct research on how funders are thinking about and assessing impact in the field.

Where can I learn more?

Start by exploring the resources below, or visit our AIM collection, which includes the latest impact articles, research reports and tools, as well as original analyses from MIF staff and leaders in the field.


New to the media impact game? Here’s a list of key resources to get you started:

Key Impact Resources from Media Impact Funders:

Key Partner Resources:

  • BRITDOC Impact Field Guide & Toolkit — BRITDOC has developed set of tools, guides, and case studies designed to help the documentary film production and funding worlds better understand impact.
  • Designing for Impact: Social Justice Documentary  — Published in 2011, early impact report includes case studies of foundation-funded documentaries that successfully integrated strategic design and evaluation.
  • Fledgling Fund Case Studies and Resources — Fledgling publishes white papers, case studies and impact stories in order to share lessons learned with the documentary funding field.
  • Media Impact Project  — The Media Impact Project at the Norman Lear Center at the University of Southern California works with funders and makers to conduct research on social impact productions, and publishes research reports and guides with a particular focus on media impact as it pertains to film, TV and journalism.
  • MediaShift’s Metric Shift — MetricShift examines media metrics in the digital age, particularly for journalism and public interest media projects. It includes information on metrics, analytics and measuring impact through original reporting, aggregation, and audience engagement and community.

Explore more resources in our ever-evolving AIM repository!