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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 ...

Embrace the bold and diminish inch-by-inch change

14 April 2014 · By Earl J. Wilkinson

Newspaper covers for The Independent and The Times.

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.


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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