Nathaniel Bane, head of digital at the Herald Sun, admits to getting a little “drunk” on the culture of Silicon Valley during INMA’s five-day INMA Silicon Valley Study Tour. 

The ability to invest and innovate without immediate revenue expecations is fascinating. And understandable, Bane says: “If you get it right, you could be the next Facebook.”

Profit is secondary for a while, which is quite different from the news media model. 

Still, there are many lessons to be learned from the Silicon Valley culture. Two key takeaways, according to Bane:

“Innovation is important and it’s born by giving your staff permission to fail and come up with ideas. And if they don’t work, that’s fine. You kill it and move on.

“The other key one is you’ve got to have the right staff. A lot of start-ups [are] getting these people who come in the door with a lot of passion. They know more about the business and the start-up that they’re involved in than often the person who set it up does. And that’s what drives them and that’s what drives success.”

One fast-moving challenge facing the news media industry is that the advertising model is changing rapidly — and will continue doing so. 

“We were once a newspaper business. We used to just sell space in a newspaper and that was pretty clean. You could understand how that worked. Now, it’s just so complex. Having said that, the one thing that’s central to all of us ... is content is still very important. The big players want to play with our content. There are now advertising models set up around our content and our audiences. 

“So we’re still relevant. What we just need to do is work out a way to make that part of it commercial. So the advertising stuff, even though it is very complex, at least there are a lot of people who are thinking about it. There are businesses set up to make it work for publishers. We just need to work out the best way for that to work for us.”

INMA’s second Silicon Valley Study Tour leaves next week!