Earl Wilkinson, executive director/CEO of INMA, wrapped up the 2015 INMA World Congress on Tuesday afternoon by describing the differences and strategies of legacy versus digital media.

As Wilkinson sees it, legacy and digital are like two ends of a rope, burning toward each other. Legacy media companies see journalism as an end, while digital media companies see journalism as a means to an end.

Wilkinson mentioned The Huffington Post, Vice, BuzzFeed and Business Insider, some of which he visited during the INMA pre-conference Media Disruption Study Tour of digital media companies in Brooklyn and Manhattan.

“These are companies that believe in journalism with an attitude,” Wilkinson said.

Keys to success in such companies include advertising both in bold and subtle ways; targeting an audience of young, adult urban dwellers; and prioritising mobile, then desktop, then tablet platforms.

Technology is forcing the migration from print to digital. This transformation is a dangerous for media companies. Too much transformation at one time can cause problems for companies. It’s a step-by-step process.

“I’m sure everyone in this room has some kind of transformation story,” Wilkinson said. “Start telling it.

When it comes to digital data, there is a lot to learn, Wilkinson said. There needs to be less Big Data and more smarter data: “The importance of Big Data is that it’s in the middle of the burning rope.” 

Wilkinson left the audience with what he feels should be the focus of legacy and digital media companies: Legacy should preserve print audience and advertising, while digital should grow its audience at all costs.

“You’ve got the road mad. This isn’t new to you,” he said. “The question is about the excellence of execution.”