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Connecting the dots: early lessons from INMA’s visit to Silicon Valley

12 November 2015 · By Earl J. Wilkinson

Last week, INMA took 34 executives to 14 companies in Silicon Valley and San Francisco to better understand the fast-changing intersection of technology and media. 

It was an extraordinary five-day marathon with talk of the future, reinvention, innovation, what’s next in social media, computer history, driverless cars, the Internet of Things, talent acquisition and retention, video, retailing, ubiquitous computing, ad-blocking, programmatic, personalised marketing, and native advertising. 

It was Disney World for media executives – even for those of us who might harbour “been there, done that” mentalities. I suspect I speak for my fellow media tourists that you missed something special. 

Yet here I am, in the cold-eyed reality of the week after – surrounded by study tour PowerPoint presentations, notes, Twitter feeds, videos, tour evaluations, Storyful posts, and non-disclosure agreements – wondering what to make of the tour’s sensory perception overload.

Here are four initial thoughts that come to mind. 

Thought 1: We must separate the science fiction of technology from what technology can practically deliver in a time horizon we can digest. 

That’s a lot to ask for on a study tour populated by technology super-fans. 

The great connective tissue of platforms, the Internet Of Things, will not achieve mass-market consumer adoption without ...


News media companies: Stretch your imagination for mobility

29 March 2015 · By Earl J. Wilkinson

INMA Mobile Summit benchmarks mobile consumption, success, and cultural underpinnings of modern media companies

Every media company wants to know the secret sauce to mobile success, and INMA recently brought together the brightest minds on the subject. 

The INMA Mobile Summit was held a few days before the South By Southwest (SXSW) Interactive Conference in Austin, Texas. Combined, the events were a baptism into all things mobile. 

Here are some key takeaways I got from the INMA Mobile Summit. 

Mobile remains more of an audience story and a cultural story than an advertising story – to the consternation of publishers. 

For example, non-voice mobile usage increased 613% from 2010 to 2014 to nearly three hours per day among American consumers. According to Yahoo, while 66% of consumers interact with news on their mobile device, less than 5% of their time on that mobile device is dedicated to news. 

Most start-ups in the Austin technology corridor are not “mobile-first,” but “mobile-only.” There is no ...


Think all news media companies have the same value proposition? Think again

23 March 2015 · By Earl J. Wilkinson

Media industry becoming less homogenous than ever, an analyses of the future of news media.Emotions run high these days when talking about the definition of success among news media companies. 

The old barometers of profit, revenue, and circulation are often replaced with the new barometers of valuation, audience, and engagement. 

No wonder media companies seemingly under the same umbrella have difficulty fathoming their peers’ futures (and choices). 

The tectonic plates beneath the news media industry are shifting. While each genre of company identifies what drives value, the broader storyline for news companies continues to blur. 

Here’s why. 

Whereas we once comfortably talked about clear buckets for newspapers, magazines, TV, radio, and more, those lines are mashing together into a digital space that is only now being defined. 

The newer buckets are national media and local media regardless of platform or format – print, mobile, desktop … text, video, multi-media. 

For national media, the definition of success is ...


Key takeaways from CES for news media companies

11 January 2015 · By Earl J. Wilkinson

Tune in for what’s new, big and relevant to news media from CES this year

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas this week featured 150,000 people, 3,600 exhibitors across three convention centers, utilising 2.2 million square feet of space. 

Overwhelming for a first-timer like me, I distilled four big themes from my interactions in exhibits, conference sessions, briefings, and hallways: 

  • Connectivity: More and more power is shifting to the consumer with wearables, connected cars, and ever-smarter television units in addition to mobile and desktop computing.
  • Personal data center: The game is increasingly about how to connect to wearables, cars, and homes likely via a mobile device that is a data center. Big Data is becoming more about anticipatory computing. And this will have an impact on advertising and couponing.
  • Access vs. ownership: The ethos of renting rather than owning is overtaking all industries – from real estate to cars to cable TV to renting content vs. paying for subscription services. (Hint: subscriptions are winning.)
  • Proliferation of screens as devices proliferate: There is a general belief that screens are trying to do too many things, ranging from ...

Naver: the “frienemy” search engine unifying Korean publishers

27 October 2014 · By Earl J. Wilkinson

When I first visited Korea a decade ago, the conversations centered on how the big three publishers — JoongAng Ilbo, Dong-a Ilbo, and Chosun Ilbo — could break out of their calcified battle for print supremacy. 

Newspaper reading habits die hard, and these three very serious news brands were not above crazy promotional wars to win over more malleable readers. My foggy memory recalls cars and refrigerators somehow in the promotional mix. 

Since all great truths come from taxi drivers and bartenders, I recall asking these truth-tellers which national newspaper they read — and why. These were the two answers that stood out: 

  • A taxi driver said he read Dong-a because his father read Dong-a and his father’s father read Dong-a. 
  • A bartender said she read JoongAng because her father read Chosun and her father’s father read Chosun. 

So much for family loyalty. Yet it illustrates the richness of newspaper tradition in Korea — whether a loyalist or a family rebel. 

Fast-forward to 2014.

The fight for marginal readers continues even as print economics in the broader sector is showing cracks. But the atmosphere is totally different. There is unity of purpose among the major publishers. They are joined by the broader family of news publishers from throughout South Korea.

What has united Korean publishers?


Screenshot of the website for Naver, the Korean version of Google.

Naver is the Google of the Korean language. Pronounced like the English “neighbour,” the word “Naver” comes from the word “navigate.”

Founded in 1999 by ex-Samsung employees, Naver is a search portal that ...


Who we are in conflict with points publishers to their unique value

06 October 2014 · By Earl J. Wilkinson

Portrait of a man named Ajaz Ahmed of AKQA.As CEO and co-founder of the world’s most-awarded digital agency, AKQA, Ajaz Ahmed is a digital pioneer whose passion for brands was evident at the recent Asia Pacific Media Forum in Bali, Indonesia.

Echoing themes in his upcoming book Limitless: Leadership That Endures, Ahmed was speaking to an audience of agencies and media buyers. Yet his message struck me as peculiarly relevant to media companies aiming to find their place in the New World Order.

First, the test of a good organisation is that if they disappeared, society would be poorer for it. News brands most assuredly would qualify – more so for newspapers that pump out the vital information that keeps communities going every day. 

Second, channeling his best next-generation Jason Jennings, he toyed with a maxim aimed on marketers yet seems relevant for ...


If digital talent in newsrooms equals younger hires (and it does), why aren’t media companies making them?

21 August 2014 · By Earl J. Wilkinson

Younger talent needed in the newsroom to help build the future of digital first media, mobile, and digital media.

Anette Novak wrote this week in her INMA blog that media companies claim to be “digital first,” yet they don’t hire like it. Her words struck a chord with me, echoing what I hear and see in my travels around the world interacting with news publishers.

My two big observations about today’s newsrooms are this:

  • The talent pool for digital-first editorial leadership is shallow. 
  • We need to get younger – fast – if we are to adapt to the changes in how people consume news.

In the past three years, I have heard an odd confession by CEOs of major publishing companies: They are having difficulty filling their top editorial leadership positions with what they perceive as ideal candidates. 

The reasons for this are three-fold:                 

  1. Digital leaders for print newsrooms: They are seeking digitally savvy editorial leaders for newsrooms that, despite the polite “digital-first” talk to the contrary, remain stuck ...

How print-centric Latin America is coping with the rise of digital

07 July 2014 · By Earl J. Wilkinson

Fourteen newspaper covers from Latin America.

Latin American newspaper publishers are caught in the early stages of the vice peers worldwide have struggled with the past decade: how to diversify revenue streams even as print continues to contribute 98% of revenue.

In a 10-day period last month, I visited 15 media companies in six Latin American countries: Panama, Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Colombia. I talked with advertising agency executives and media buyers.

It was an intense baptism into the opportunities and threats facing executives who have long questioned why peers worldwide have tilted so far digital so quickly.

The opportunities

First, the optimistic news ...


Details emerge about how world’s best media companies innovate routinely

16 June 2014 · By Earl J. Wilkinson

Logos for companies, Fairfax Media, Gannett, MittMedia, the Global International Awards.

Innovation is a process more than it is a great idea. That was one of the great lessons from last month’s INMA World Congress in San Francisco

And it’s especially important for media companies aiming to reinvent themselves in the eyes of readers, advertisers, communities, shareholders, employees, and other stakeholders.

David Kelley, the founder of the global design and innovation firm IDEO, told INMA last month that companies should prioritise the art of “innovating routinely.” 

Merging that idea with what I see among media companies worldwide, I would say that it is the willingness to throw down seeds that will multiply that separates the companies that occasionally come up with great ideas using gut instincts akin to the mad scientist in his garage and those that are laying the foundation from which ideas grow systematically via culture and process. 

“Innovation” is an over-used word in the media industry these days. For companies to capitalize on innovation’s ramifications...


How news publishers are adjusting to technologically exponential times

19 May 2014 · By Earl J. Wilkinson

A collage of company logos for companies such as Buzzfeed and Yahoo.

INMA’s recent visit to Google, Yahoo, Facebook, and Twitter yielded unique insights that were confirmed last week at its World Congress in San Francisco: 

  1. Technology drowning share of voice: Publishers are operating in a technologically exponential environment that is quickly dwarfing their share of voice in the markets they aim to serve.

  2. Print culture holding back digital development: While Silicon Valley digital pure-plays attack audience, product, and monetisation with fervor and radical experimentation, the publisher attention span is constantly divided by what to do with the print side of its business.

  3. What does news brand represent across platforms: Brands and missions must communicate the news brand’s essence across platforms. We can’t be a collection of tactics that add up to a strategy. What does your brand represent? Then how to ...

About Earl

Earl J. Wilkinson is executive director and CEO of INMA. In his interactions with INMA members worldwide, Earl has one of the broadest views of newspapers of anyone serving our industry today. He is a trendspotter and a leading advocate for cultural change, transformation, and innovation. This blog represents his unique view of the emerging global news media industry.

Biography | INMA profile

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