A man with glasses speaking at the INMA World Congress.
A man with glasses speaking at the INMA World Congress.

Last week’s INMA World Congress was both a beginning and an ending.

The ending was closing loops on why and how culture change is a foundational step for transitioning to a multi-media news company, a discussion which INMA has spent much of the past year leading. This is now less a leadership subject than a best practice that needs to be hammered home repeatedly, company by company.

The beginning was opening loops on the new priorities for our industry. I believe there are five such priorities that emerged from the INMA conversation in recent months, as well as during World Congress in Los Angeles last week. They deserve our special attention in the year ahead:

    • Smartphone boom: Preparing for the smartphone and tablet boomerang effect on the publisher’s business model, especially distribution models.

 

    • New product development strategy: Creating a new product development and management process template that points the way to how we conceive and manage consumer-driven portfolios.

 

    • Core competencies: Identifying and simplifying core competencies on the content, audience, and advertising sides of news companies and making these the cultural driving forces of product development moving forward.

 

    • Digital advertising rulebook: Collating the emerging digital advertising revenue streams and making these common practice in the news industry.

 

  • The people equation: Confronting the tough issue of attracting the best and brightest talent to traditional yet transitioning news companies.

I left Los Angeles believing clear revenue models are emerging that can give news publishers hope that powerful, differentiating journalism that infuses democracy and relevantly informs communities will survive the dislodging of old ways. In short, there is light at the end of this long, long tunnel.

Yet I also left Los Angeles nervous about change fatigue for our industry. There has been so much change for so long. And there is still so much change in front of us.

Building on the priorities above, for example:

    • Mobile: The game in mobile is what’s about to happen when the gap between global mobile penetration (86%) and the people who are connected to the Internet via mobile (33%) is eliminated in the next three to five years. Closing this 53% gap will be transformational for how people consume news.

 

    • Product pipelines: How many products should you have in your pipeline at one time? Should it be one big initiative or several small ones? What is the time for success, and is that different for print versus digital? What is the role of editorial? Should new products be launched loudly or softly? As we shed advertising in print, quickly getting to these answers is crucial.

 

    • Strategy based on what won’t change: Amazon’s Jeff Bezos said recently that companies should only base their strategy on things that won’t change. What are the core competencies of news companies that won’t change in the next 10 years? How do we organise and lead our companies on those principles?

 

    • Digital revenue play: Can we boil down the digital revenue play to a napkin conversation that neatly explains the new solutions such as search, social, mobile, geo-targeting, and behavioural targeting? McKinsey and Digital First Media helped point the way at INMA in Los Angeles.

 

  • Level the mountain: News publishers aren’t attracting the best and brightest talent because the creative class can’t overcome our image. Nobody wants to climb our cultural mountain. How can we create models that liberate people from editorial to advertising to marketing? How can we level the mountain?

Can we hold onto enough capital (audiences, advertising) to continue these constant changes? I believe we can, based on the tenor and robustness of the interactions in Los Angeles.

INMA is a unique fountain of ideas, and our World Congress is our primary tool to shape those ideas into a global conversation. If you attended, you know what I mean. If you didn’t, hopefully you were able to follow along online and plan to attend next year.

Stay tuned to INMA to follow what’s next.