This paper considers the importance of information and the constraints to its availability and appropriateness in a development context. It applies a standard framework for development effectiveness to assess the efficacy of different approaches to information-focused intervention, looking specifically at the case of media as the information channel which has received the greatest attention of donors. The predominant forms of development engagement in media has either been through ‘development communications’ arising from programmes operating in other sectors or by paying for certain functions of the media system such as technology. The empirically grounded argument is made both of these approaches fail to deliver sustainable impact. This paper makes the argument that a systemic approach to intervention, however, can deliver effective, sustainable change for large numbers of poor people beyond such conventional forms of development intervention.