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Key takeaways from CES for news media companies

11 January 2015 · By Earl J. Wilkinson

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?


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

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

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

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

GIA Winners

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

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 ...

Embrace the bold and diminish inch-by-inch change

14 April 2014 · By Earl J. Wilkinson

A decade ago, newspapers jumped on the print format change bandwagon with reckless abandon.

With an infusion of gutsy moves by The Independent and The Times in the United Kingdom to publish tabloid-sized editions of their famous broadsheets, a momentary rift in an otherwise conservative hide-bound industry opened up.

For a brief moment in 2004, newspaper publishers were open to new possibilities of packaging and connecting with readers because the tectonic plates of the competitive United Kingdom print industry unexpectedly shifted.

London became Mecca for newspaper executives from Europe, North America, Latin America, Asia, and the South Pacific. I recall former U.S. newspaper chain Knight Ridder setting up an anthropological outpost near a London newsstand as it watched British consumers choose between broadsheet and tabloid Independents and the Times.

After weeks of study, Knight Ridder did little, even as consumers chose tabloids by two-thirds, and The Independent and The Times switched to tabloid format.

With the hindsight of 10 years, what did we learn?

The big lessons were these:

  • Consumers prefer more compact formats: functionality, modernity, and the like.

  • A change in format can provide a temporary lift (often at the expense of a flat-footed competitor), but circulation trends tend to return to former patterns after a year or so.

  • There are few, if any, new readers gained in a market as a result of one publication changing format.

  • To preserve revenue, advertising formats must be shifted from the inch/centimeter/millimeter to proportional page measures before the format change. Otherwise, marketers will argue an advertisement half the size should be half the price.

  • All of this change masks, after many case studies, the best excuse for broadsheet to tabloid or Berliner format change: It’s an attention-getting move with consumers that galvanises the publishing house. Format change succeeded best when it was the face of broader changes.


The 3 keys to a multi-media transformation storyline

31 March 2014 · By Earl J. Wilkinson

As media companies transition from “best practices” to “storylines of transformation” as the currency to communicate value to stakeholders, a wild inconsistency is emerging that makes the news industry susceptible to misreading.

From the small local U.S. newspaper consolidating its physical space by 50% to the regional daily replacing real plants with fake plants to save money to the multi-media behemoth reviewing stretch limousine usage by its army of editors to the Indian company diversifying revenue from the seed of a news brand, “transformation” has many faces.

My visits to media companies in recent months culminated in a recent visit to the Middle East, where I was confronted by the most direct of questions: How do you systematically attack transformation as a business strategy?

The question crossed a few lines for me. I’m not a consultant. I am an orchestrator and synthesiser of the global “INMA conversation,” a constant chatter among our nearly 7,000 members. My answers usually involve pointing to who is doing what best.

Yet to put a toe across that line, I would put forward the following.

Print to multi-media transformation is about three things:


How publishers can embrace digital natives and digital immigrants

10 February 2014 · By Earl J. Wilkinson

I attended a publisher conference in recent weeks where the terms “digital native” and “digital immigrant” were liberally tossed around:

  • Digital native: Roughly, if you are 35 years old or younger in the United States, you likely are a “digital native.” You live and breathe all things digital. Gadgets jazz you. Social media experimentation is the norm. The world of 1’s and 0’s is a comfortable old shoe because you’ve known nothing else. Print is a mind-stumping peculiarity to you.

  • Digital immigrant: If you are older than 35 in the United States, you are a “digital immigrant.” While the world tilts digital, you spend much of your time un-learning your print habits (even as you secretly prefer them). You don’t want to look old. You understand social media, smartphones, tablets, and wearable devices like you understand that Mars and Venus are the next planets to us – you read it somewhere.

And, in a state of fluidity, digital immigrants are ferociously trying to lose their accents.


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.

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