How does a news publisher evaluate revenue opportunities?
Which pied piper do you follow?
When do you know to put your considerable financial resources behind one of them vs. experimenting with several?
When do you lead, and when do you follow?
Across 80+ countries – which defines the INMA network – it can often be difficult to find the signal amid the noise.
The signals can be found through a series of triggers as part of a bigger funnel.
Trigger 1: Technology and middle class
I don’t believe in the print vs. digital arguments on the basis of the platforms. I believe in them based on the audience the news brand serves:
- The market’s access to technology.
- The size and strength of the market’s middle class.
Technology adoption is an obvious point. If it can go digital, it will go digital. Markets that claim print’s dominance have not yet seen the impact of broadband, smartphones, and tablets.
Despite digital advances, history still shows that a growing, aspirational middle class reaches for print newspapers to climb the social ladder personally and professionally. Until the data proves otherwise, I will stick with this historical storyline.
Latin America and South Asia have relatively small (percentage) middle classes, though they are growing and South Asia is particularly aspirational. They have low penetration of broadband Internet, though low-end smart devices will soon change this.
By contrast, North America, Northern Europe, and the South Pacific have strong, mature, yet stagnant middle classes with a saturation of technology options.
For these reasons alone, Latin America and South Asia are print-centric markets for the foreseeable future, while their Western counterparts are digital-centric.
Yet the clear direction is more digital. “If” is not an option; “when” is the only option....[more]
20 December 2012 · By Earl J. Wilkinson
The exponential changes that technology will bring to how information is consumed in the next five years requires a relentless drive by news publishers today to diversify revenue streams and take advantage of the unique synergies of print and digital platforms.
By now, I hope you know this is the lead to the story in my recently released report, “News Media Outlook 2013: The Print + Digital Dynamic in Exponential Times.”
The report has gotten ferocious feedback — mostly positive, some questioning conclusions and tone. I’m happy with any reaction because it was a report designed to provoke.
What I want to leave you with as we conclude 2012 is something the news industry has had little of in recent years: hope....[more]
07 December 2012 · By Earl J. Wilkinson
An INMA committee was recently developing the theme for an upcoming conference when the debate turned on one word: “ecology.”
The volunteer advocating the word said this: “I like 'ecology' because, like most technologies, we haven't ended up with a print world, then a digital world added on — it's an entirely novel world that takes some understanding.”
Looking up ecology's precise definition, I found this: “The science of the relationships between organisms and their environments.” Yes, that sounds like “an entirely novel world.”
After some discussion, the word was dismissed as not broad enough and translatable, and we moved on.
Yet something happened in recent days that pulled me back to this word.
I didn't think there was much to say about the unique ecology that today resides between print and digital until I heard from INMA members in preparation for the association's upcoming 12th annual News Media Outlook report.
In a brief, open-ended questionnaire sent to members, I simply asked about priorities in the news industry and at your company.
What I got back — in near unanimous chorus, tinged with emotion — was that this new news ecology of “print + digital” has reached some kind of apex of frustration and excitement. It feels like a “bang your head against the wall” moment, both a cauldron and opportunity. And members shared these dueling emotions by e-mail and telephone calls....[more]
19 November 2012 · By Earl J. Wilkinson
Lien Verwimp flipped through the rumpled, yellowing newspapers with a bemused look on her face, not sure how to react to the curious birthday gift in front of her.
Her father, Herman Verwimp, had just shared an 18-year-old secret with his 18-year-old daughter.
The secret involved her birth, a father’s excitement about his first-born’s birth, and of all things, INMA.
Like arguing that the product is the paper and not the journalism, Herman’s gift for Lien was not the notebook of old newspaper clippings. It was the love behind the notebook.
And the story.
In 1993, Herman Verwimp was a young marketing manager for the Belgian regional daily Het Belang van Limburg.
Like many newspapers of the day, much of the company’s focus was on how to attract young readers and female readers. Research suggested that birth announcements connected well with these demographics, though Het Belang van Limburg tended to place them next to the obituaries — not the best packaging, not even two decades ago.
Herman took his curiosity to his first INMA World Congress in Toronto in April 1993 where, as a new member of INMA, he asked delegates what they did with their birth announcements. A natural networker, Herman gathered the ideas and aimed to package them for his company.
And then life interjected a dimension Herman never could have imagined.
Two months after the Toronto conference, Herman’s wife, Bea, gave birth to Lien.
Herman was so excited that he came up with the idea to send faxes and letters to INMA members worldwide, asking them to put a birth announcement in their newspapers announcing Lien’s arrival into the world.
He even shared a copy of her birth card that included a cartoon by a Het Belang van Limburg cartoonist saying Lien is “made in Venice” and arrived by gondola over the river that flowed in the back of Herman’s garden in Voeren.
Remember, this was before the age of e-mail, SMS, mobile phones, and instant messaging. Herman was determined to get as many announcements in newspapers internationally, and he was doing it the only way technology of the day allowed.
In total, 30 INMA members placed the ad for free from Norway to South Africa to Australia to the United States to Indonesia to France. Prensa Libre in Guatemala didn’t have a birth announcement section, so they placed an editorial announcement that started, “Dear readers, we received an unusual request from ...”...[more]
09 October 2012 · By Earl J. Wilkinson
Note: I gave the following speech in recent weeks to a dinner gathering of CEOs and editors of the Dutch and Flemish news industries in The Hague organised by the national press association NDP Nieuwsmedia.
* * *
Four hundred fifty-six years (456) years ago, the world’s first regularly produced newspaper was published in Venice to inform the merchant class of developments in Europe.
The history of print-packaged journalism since has been the story of:
- Speaking truth to power.
- Expanding access to the truth.
- Monetising that access.
Words and a bundle, 1556-2012
Our history can be marked by four big occurrences:
- The development of the print bundle in the 17th and 18th centuries.
- The launch of the penny and pauper press, which unleashed a mass market in the 19th century.
- The commercialisation of the mass-market bundle in the 20th century.
- And the slow shedding of that bundle and unleashing of digital access in the 21st century.
At each inflection point, there was the moment of change followed by a transition period that lasted many decades.
We are living in a similar Great Transition today....[more]
12 September 2012 · By Earl J. Wilkinson
At the same time as newspapers have launched cross-platform bundled subscriptions (print + Web + tablet + smartphone), there has been a similar trend of “television everywhere” (TV channel + streaming video on any device).
Yet just as news publishers have difficulty shaking free of print in the bundle, television purveyors can’t let loose of their core product.
A citizens group (Twitter #takemymoneyhbo) has petitioned HBO to let them sign up for HBO Go without actually subscribing to the cable TV channel. They are perfectly willing to pay US$10 to US$15 per month for HBO Go, which allows for streaming HBO programming and archived materials to any digital device.
Among news publishers, the majority of new subscriptions today are digital-only (80% is a number I keep hearing) — despite intense efforts to bundle print at very affordable prices.
Media companies, we have to let go. Organise distribution offerings around the consumer....[more]
05 September 2012 · By Earl J. Wilkinson
Single-copy sales of magazines in the United States dropped 10% in the first six months of 2012. This is the latest major shift taking place that merits study by news publishers everywhere.
Hamish McKenzie writes in Pando Daily: “Ten years ago, (magazine) readers were on the bus, on the couch, in waiting rooms, and on the beach — places where paper could dominate, and where PCs and even laptops couldn’t offer competitive long-form reading experiences. Today, tablets and smartphones accomplish what paper owned in those years, but with added benefits — no pages that flutter in the wind, instant access to information from all over the world, supreme portability, and the ability to immediately share content with friends.”
McKenzie warns that the magazine package on tablets and smartphones no longer makes sense. While journalists and editors continue to have value, “we don't need them so much to bundle disparate pieces of content into one immutable chunk.”
Clearly, this echoes loudly for newspaper publishers.
While bundle defenders advocate serendipity is lost by disaggregation, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that social media has become the new serendipity....[more]
28 August 2012 · By Earl J. Wilkinson
Bloomberg Businessweek recently reported that high-end adult film industry producers will soon introduce a proprietary micropayment system designed to push back against the rise of free pornography online.
Promising to do for adult movies what Apple did for the music business with iTunes, advocates want to differentiate poorly produced free offerings with their high-quality productions. They will replace the traditional porn site model of US$24.99 up-front monthly memberships with 99-cent short clips that also would be mobile-friendly.
Snickers aside, the industry is very serious that what they produce is high quality. And people should pay for quality. Critical to high-end adult film advocates is that the value proposition is about price, quantity, and specificity.
Jordan Weissman, writing recently in The Atlantic, exposes the flaw in the porn industry’s comparison of their content to the music industry: “Here’s the problem: Pornography is mostly a commodity product. Music is not. People have favourite bands and expect a certain level of product value in their music.” He goes on to extol the virtues of Bruce Springsteen while pointing out that porn audiences aren’t “sensitive” to production values.
So, where does journalism fit on the quality prism of music to porn?
Weissman places journalism more toward commoditised porn — with notable exceptions being the Wall Street Journal and New York Times and their demonstrated ability to get people to pay. Writes Weissman: “What holds for journalism in this case holds for sex. In both cases, the competition is so broad that customers are likely to go elsewhere rather than pay.”
How is the journalism that you produce demonstrably different than citizen bloggers? How is the video and photography you produce sharply better than a really talented amateur? What attribute in the content that you produce would drive a person to pay at least one penny? How about 50 cents? How about US$1?...[more]
19 August 2012 · By Earl J. Wilkinson
I thought it was an obvious bow to tie around my presentation to an INMA New Delhi conference earlier this month about what it will take to become multimedia news publishers tied increasingly to consumer behaviour: Start rewarding “relevance” over “quality” in the culture of your company, notably the newsroom.
The line represented 15 seconds — or one-half of 1% — of the 45-minute presentation. Yet it represented 50% of the questions that followed and 100% of the emotion. And the emotion carried over to the Delhi conference’s hallways for the next 24-plus hours.
Why is being relevant to the audience such a sin for journalism?
A common mistake from newsrooms worldwide is aspiring to be The New York Times. I hear this weekly from INMA members. That may be a benchmark, but that likely isn’t your lot in life. The New York Times is an aspirational model not just because it produces quality journalism in the abstract; it’s relevant because it connects quality journalism with quality target audiences.
Success to a publisher-owned newsroom in 2012 is about:
- The reach of your target audience.
- And the level of engagement of the audience you have.
To define success requires an honest appraisal of whom your brand aims to reach and adopting metrics across platforms that can be boiled down to a transparent dashboard or napkin.
One of my questioners in New Delhi scoffed at the idea of managing for relevance, equating it to management by the numbers. I answered with a question: Do newsrooms want to be disconnected artists or make a difference in the lives of the communities they serve?
He was exasperated at my answer. He struggled to find the words to retort, as if I was speaking another language or was from another planet. Surely, I had just cursed in church....[more]
10 July 2012 · By Earl J. Wilkinson
What if your news company had a business model that contributed to society and the environment instead of taking from them?
That is the compelling question Unilever CEO Paul Polman discussed with Harvard Business Review (HBR) in its June edition. Polman was talking about Unilever, yet the interview struck me as something useful to news industry CEOs, boards of directors, and management teams in developing mission statements and strategies and dealing with shareholders.
Polman has been anything but the traditional CEO since taking over in 2009. He abolished quarterly financial reporting and told hedge funds they weren’t welcome as investors. He aims to double Unilever’s revenue by 2020 while simultaneously halving its environmental impact.
In short, he wants Unilever to have a social mission while protecting its core.
Unilever has established for all its brands a social mission, an economic mission, and a product mission.
Says Polman in the HBR interview: “We think that businesses that are responsible and actually make contributing to society a part of their business model will be successful.”
He cites William Lever, who started Unilever in the 19th century. Great Britain had severe hygiene issues, so he invented bar soap not to make money but because one out of two babies didn’t live past their first year. Lever established the company’s values and built on them.
In discussing the proper role of shareholders in a modern corporation, Polman tells HBR “you need to attract a shareholder base that supports your strategy — not the other way around.”
With that as a foundation, a company can approach consumers with a multi-dimensionality that is missing in many brands and companies today. Says Polman: “(I)f you satisfy the basic conditions of price and quality and then provide more on top, you will be in a significantly better position.” He cites Lipton, where Unilever has moved to sustainable tea sourcing. While the tea needs to taste good and have a competitive price, its sustainable sourcing gives the brand a life “and consumers think it's even better.”...[more]