The biggest opportunities for news media publishers today are digital subscriptions and reader revenue, says Earl Wilkinson, executive director and CEO of INMA.

On the flip side, the biggest challenge is how to transition from a print and advertising-based business model to a digitally-focused, Netflix-like subscription model.

Speaking at the INMA Conference de Medios Latinoamerica, Wilkinson asked, “How do you build a company around that?”

Digital subscription is the No. 1 revenue model that’s changing the game for publishers today, he said. “I was at a U.S. mid-sized, metropolitan newspaper last week, and the CEO said that they’re generating US$33 million per year on digital subscriptions. That’s a big enough revenue model to preserve the size of their newsroom and survive — whatever advertising challenges there are ahead.”

When it comes to advice for media companies as they move into 2020, Wilkinson was clear. “If you are going to go down the road of digital subscriptions and reader revenue ... it is not one department in a company. You’ve got to have a company-wide approach, it’s got to be a culture change, and you’ve got to have the right people to execute it. You can’t have old print guys like me running younger digital subscription operations.”

People and culture are the key to digital subscriptions, Wilkinson concluded.