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7 pitfalls of digital transformation

28 September 2015 · By Dietmar Schantin

Understanding universal pitfalls helps media organisations in their newsroom transformation.

You’ve agreed on the need for newsroom transformation. Money has been earmarked, fears calmed, hopes raised, and the voyage to the promised land has started. 

But for some reason, the whole brave endeavour seems to be stalled or in danger of running onto the rocks. Why? It all looked so good on (e)paper.

Chances are your efforts are being sabotaged from the inside by a number of all-too-familiar culprits acting alone or together to trip up your transformation.

The good news is that in 10 years of working with media companies on digitalisation and newsroom transformation, we have been able to identify those responsible and can present you a detailed rogues gallery.

The bad news is that they aren’t individuals, technologies, or cultures. They are tendencies and temptations, and they can be hiding anywhere. Look closely, because you may find some of those tendencies are lurking deep in yourself. 

Every news organisation is unique. Every one has its own special quirks, needs, and challenges, depending on where they are, who they are, and the make up of their audiences. But when it comes to restructuring the newsroom, there are certain universal ...


Creator of “Newspaper Extinction Timeline” lays out industry’s optimistic future

22 June 2015 · By Dawn McMullan

Ross Dawson is famous for predicting, year by year, the end of the newspaper. But thats not exactly what he meant.

Dawson, founding chairman of Future Exploration Network, created the “Newspaper Extinction Timeline” almost five years ago, which he calls “significantly misunderstood.”

“This is one of the only predictions that I’ve made,” Dawson said at the INMA World Congress in New York City last month. “As a futurist, I believe predictions are often not worthwile because nobody knows the future. The future is unpredictable. Yet the reason why I did make these predictions was to provoke, to be able to wake people.”

If he provoked people to consider why they disagreed with the timeline, then ...


6 pillars of a revenue-generating business model for digital journalism

23 February 2015 · By Caio Túlio Costa

The newspaper industry’s financial health is almost hopeless. Traditional media has survived with water through its nose because it has failed to prioritise investments in digital media.

But there is salvation. Traditional media needs to create new sources of revenue to make up for what they lose in the digital life with advertising and circulation revenues.

I conducted research at Columbia University that remains very current. Called “The Business Model for Digital Journalism,” the report is subtitled with a hopeful phrase: “How newspapers should embrace technology, social, and value-added services.”

In this year of 2015, Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press – one of modernity’s most important achievements – turns 576. Over the span of almost six centuries, a business model has developed and been improved upon to make journalism a powerful, respectable, and profitable industry.

Without a doubt, one of the best examples of this strength is The New York Times, internationally acclaimed for the quality of its journalism.

In 2000, the last year of the 20th century, the newspaper’s parent company earned revenues of US$3.5 billion with operating profit of US$636 million. Net income was US$397 million or 11% of revenue for a very solid margin as compared to other industries, where the average margins of Fortune’s largest 30 publicly traded companies were 8.5%.

These figures derive from the acquired capacity to compose revenue from advertising and newspaper sales that covered the cost of a reporting team of more than 1,000 editors and reporters around the world.

Fourteen years later, in 2014, the same company saw revenue fall to US$1.5 billion with operating profit of US$92 million with net income of ...


Why the news media industry is ripe for start-up level optimism, growth

01 December 2014 · By Wolfgang Bretschko

One of my favourite video clips on YouTube is a short piece of a presentation given by Al Gore, the former vice president of the United States.

He shows what happens if a frog jumps into a pot of boiling water: he jumps out immediately. But if you put the very same frog into pot of lukewarm water and you bring it to boil slowly, the frog stays in the water until ...

We are very often in situations where we do not recognise dramatic changes around us because the development itself unfolds very slowly but steadily. And when we realise the impact of the development, it’s very often too late to change the course.

If one compares the situation of the newspaper industry with the frog in the pot, one will find many similarities. For many years, we have seen the slow but steady decline of our readership. We realise the water around us is getting warmer and warmer, but nobody is ...


SPH Magazines revamps its business model with print, digital advertising innovations

13 October 2014 · By Gloria Arlini

The print industry is battling a headwind of digital disruption. And like any industry amid turbulence, magazine publishers need to dig deep for the courage to transform — not just to ensure survival, but more importantly, to advance resilience.

This was the essence of the speech by our SPH editor-in-chief of English and Malay newspapers, Patrick Daniel, when he spoke about transforming the media business in the digital age last year. The words were not verbatim — this author admits to be seduced by Christensen’s idea of disruptive innovation — but the call for transformation was unmistakable in its urgency. 

The publishing business needs to accurately identify its core strengths and relative advantages, to quickly formulate responses in this volatile media climate.

This is the story about one such journey of transformation. This is a narration of learning processes we undergo in SPH Magazines as we revolutionise our businesses by disrupting the traditional magazines business cycle and opening new opportunities in the process.

The death watch: How do we get to this point? 

Contrary to how it may sound, there’s nothing cool about this. In fact, our journey began from an unenviable starting point: a death sentence. Such as this one. Or this one. And since third time’s the charm, this one.

You know you have hit the rock bottom when you have Newspaper Death Watch and a Museum of Dead Magazines erected in the industry’s honour. 

Clearly the old publishing model no longer works. Magazines cannot survive ...


Fairfax Media takes transformation to its employee workspace

22 September 2014 · By Gina Creegan

The story is familiar. Fairfax Media knew that retaining and attracting the best available staff, creating a culture of collaboration and innovation, and increasing online focus were the keys to success. The answer to how to do that in the face of significant change in the media industry was not so obvious. 

In pursuit of answers, Fairfax realised that a key enabler to reaching its business objectives would be a new workplace strategy covering property, technology, and staff.

In August 2012, in a move that signalled a key change in its workplace strategy, the People and Culture sub-committee of the Fairfax Board approved what it called the “Real Time Working Project” (RTW).

The project focussed on our 2,400 staff in Melbourne and Sydney. It embraced upgraded and flexible building fit-outs, a technology upgrade that created an anytime, anywhere set-up to enable ...


When it comes to the future, is your media company a pioneer, revolutionary, evolutionary, or in denial?

25 August 2014 · By Jim Chisholm

“There are no case studies about the future.”

I don’t know how often I have said this in reply to the question: “Jim, can you present a few case studies on what my company should be doing?”

It is many years since I lost the inclination to deliver an answer to the wrong question. So when Australia’s Newspaper Works asked me to write “a piece on what some publishers are doing to increase revenue or create new revenue streams,” much as I love them to bits, I simply ignored them.

What I’ve learned over 20 years advising publishers on growth strategies, including creating and directing the World Association of Newspapers’ “Shaping the Future of the Newspaper” project, is that if peer emulation is your only raison-d’etre, you will die. 

If you really want to not only survive in an industry with a half-life, in mature markets, of around five years — but also create value for the future — you have to innovate from the heart, not the blog.

To be fair, our industry began to pass its point of inflection — where digital growth exceeds print decline — around the turn of the year, with the rates of decline slowing as finally, after 20 years living with digital, it finally ...


Postmedia shares 4 reality checks discovered during its marketing strategy transformation

04 August 2014 · By Siobhan Vinish

News media marketers have managed well, or at least well enough, for decades with limited budgets and limited objectives.

For a very long time, the main objective was “own the community” with few resources to achieve it or methodology to measure it.

With a limited budget, marketers have often found creative ways to execute creative campaigns — mostly using enthusiastic young people eager to schlep boxes, set up booths, and attend various business and community events waving the company flag.

Marketing took some creativity, a little bit of money, physical work, and a few great pairs of comfortable shoes.

And yes, we owned the community.

Our media companies were connected: We knew every ...


Gannett shares 5 lessons learned by asking advertisers what they want

30 June 2014 · By Michelle Krans

When you think about being customer-centric, it doesn’t sound revolutionary. In an age of tight resources, being customer focused is crucial for success. But what does being customer-centric mean to our clients?

We decided to ask them.

We initiated customer research with more than 1,000 decision makers across 11 markets to understand their pain points and expectations. We had them tell us, in their own words, what they needed and wanted from a media partner.

In essence, SMBs told us they wanted:

  • Help managing the complexity of their media and marketing investments.

  • Partners who truly understand their business.

  • Proof that their investments are paying off.

Armed with that information and with a ...


Can storytelling be the industry’s savior?

02 June 2014 · By Dawn McMullan

Editor’s note: Raju Narisetti was named senior vice president/deputy head of strategy at News Corp in February of 2013. Prior to this move, he was deputy managing editor of The Wall Street Journal and managing editor of The Wall Street Journal Digital Network, managing editor of Washington Post Co., and founding editor of Mint, the second-largest business newspaper in India.

Here’s why he believes in print, feels newspaper brands have a more long-term view than, say, the Huffington Post, wonders why we didn’t create the Facebook Paper app, and thinks the industry needs to be embrace the genius of a good story. 

INMA: You say “brands have moved from marketers to publishers.” What does this mean and how does this bring opportunity to the media industry? 

Narisetti: Lot of brands want to engage their customers, audiences, or consumers using stories. Brands really don’t want to get into the news business, but they want to get into the storytelling business around themes, topics, and occasionally around specific brand that matters to them.

GE, for example, cares about innovation, wants to be in the conversation about innovation, and wants to engage audiences with great relevant content — often in the form of storytelling. 

As more and more brands realise they can target and reach their potential customers or audiences — and realise that they don’t have enough content beyond just advertising — they will figure out ways to create it themselves or partner with others who can. Many of these brands used to rely on advertising to do that and now, in some cases, they are shifting ad dollars into


About this blog

Every conference has a keynote presentation, that one speaker who connects the dots on a key industry issue and brings clarity to chaos. That is what we aspire to do with the Keynote Blog: identify the top strategic issues facing the news media industry and marshal the smartest people behind them. This blog represents INMA’s “keynote presentation” for the month. Begun in January 2013, this content previously resided in Ideas Magazine; for an archive of past magazine cover stories, click here.

Blog editor

Dawn McMullan is the editor of the Keynote Blog and senior editor for INMA. If you are an INMA member and would like to contribute a keynote blog, please contact Dawn directly by clicking here.


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