Last week's INMA World Congress in New York effectively poked and prodded at the edges of key industry debates while simultaneously packing an emotional punch that made you think, laugh, cry, and cringe. The conversation centered on “value” and the interplay among audience, content, and platform: when to segment and when to integrate for maximum benefit.

When you have 350 people from 48 countries, you're going to have splits in cultural likes and dislikes. Yet cutting through those cultural twists, there was something magical about the New York conference.

Here were my seven key takeaways:

  • Paid content: The paid content debate is about financial peanuts, but this small part of your future business has the effect of being the marketing conversation that sets in place a newspaper's multi-media strategy. Have that conversation, and be prepared to be surprised.

  • iPad: The iPad is sexy and fun and isn't a killer application. Yet it's the beginning of a new kind of mobile customer that could command 25% of a newspaper's revenue in the next five years.

  • What happens in New York: The New York advertising community is infatuated with social media — yes, over traditional media yet also over search marketing. What happens in New York soon happens in other media capitals.

  • Advertising a commodity buy: Advertising is shifting today to a commodity buying system that is forcing newspapers to tighten their unique value propositions with high-end research and a highly paid sales force.

  • Nuance of integrated advertising sales: With no ambiguity, integrated advertising sales is where every media company is going. Yet the timing of that shift must be based on the local advertising community's collective ability to talk and buy multi-media — not one step earlier than that and certainly not one step later.

  • Pricing strategy based on perceived value: Perceived value in the consumer's mind is the critical point determining whether successful price increases can prevent volume declines, and this can be applied to print and digital.

  • Audience + content + platform: Commercial value for publishers in a multi-media environment is the creative linkage among audience, content, and platform. This requires masters-level strategists, marketers, sellers, and researchers — and CEOs who “get it.”

The INMA World Congress produced dozens of practical, tactical takeaways. Yet it was these key strategic lessons that will have the lasting impact in guiding discussions during the year ahead.

As always, INMA aims to nudge the industry conversation forward based on a market view of what media companies do best: produce valuable content and sell quality audiences. More than any other industry conference in 2010, the New York conference did just that.