Welcome to a new blog from INMA, Unlocking the Value of Content.

INMA remains committed to offering members innovative and interesting resources on the key topics of the day. With such a dramatic downturn in advertising in North America in the past 18 months, it’s no wonder that the value of content and audiences has become so topical.

While it’s unlikely that we will be successful in offering concrete answers to very difficult questions, we hope to at least help the conversation along. Often the answers come after a long string of dialogue.

It’s our hope to have regular weekly postings to this blog offering different points of view. Of course besides the appointed bloggers, we would love your comments.

Now, let's get started.

When traditional news organizations consider how they might unlock the value of content, is it simply considering how we might better monetize audiences or are we truly looking to have our readers/users pay to actually cover the cost of content generation. For generations, newspapers have been fortunate to actually have a revenue source from their products – radio, television and in recent years websites – and it has mostly relied on advertising dollars to generate sufficient revenues to generate quality content. In the world we live in today, online has so fragmented the advertising spend that many content generators are looking for new revenue streams.

Newspapers are beginning to think more about becoming content managers, not just content creators. Figuring out exactly how that content is delivered to the end user may very well be the key to the puzzle, and it’s not a simple puzzle. Let’s think for a minute about the four platforms readily available to most newspaper companies:

Paid print newspapers:  While it’s true that newspapers’ fortunes have suffered greatly over the past 18 months or so, most of these challenges have been due to balance sheet issues rather than operating problems – most daily newspapers still generate positive operating income. In Canada, readership of daily newspapers has been holding well with many titles actually showing growth in the past year. In short, daily newspapers are not going away anytime soon; there may very well be fewer of them, but newspapers there will be. In a future posting, I will go deeper into how aggressively we might price print subscriptions – there is an opportunity here.

Free print newspapers: In Canada, the free daily newspaper is here to stay. Toronto now has a total of seven daily newspapers – four paid and three free. Metro Canada publishes in X Canadian Cities and 24 Hours publishes in Y markets. Metro is now virtually tied with the mainstream tabloid publication, the Toronto Sun, as the second most read newspaper in Toronto, after only the Toronto Star. Advertising revenues continue to grow in this area.

Websites: Virtually every media site in North America these days has a website – all offer 24/7 breaking news and most offer a full suite of inventory. In fact, most break news first to the website and publish all quality news items to their sites – often the photos and stories are virtually images of what will (or has already) appeared in print. The business model is advertising based – generate large audiences, grow engagement and sell the traffic to interested advertisers. The model works, it’s just not turning out to be as large as many expected. We will go deeper into the topic of paid online content in a future posting.

Mobile: The newest content platform available for media companies and one that has exploded in Asia and Europe but has been slower to gain traction in North America. The latest and greatest innovation in this area has been the recent interest in tablets – the Kindle, the Sony Reader, new entrants from Hearst, and, the most exciting, an announcement that Apple will join the field shortly. Some think mobile in one form or another may very well be our future.

While the future of newspapers in clearly uncertain it’s not nearly as bleak as some predict. It’s true the path forward is somewhat fuzzy, but the opportunities available to us are enormous.

I hope you will follow this blog and help us guide the conversation thorough these murky times.