Digital transformation at KG Media, Omnicom focus on non-ad revenue, audience insights

By Michelle Palmer Jones


Nashville, Tennessee, United States


If media companies are feeling like they’re often at a crossroads, they’re in good company. The transformation to digital has been on the minds of media companies around the world for years, and the action to make a big change to digital varies drastically depending on a country’s resources, landscape, audience base, and many other factors. 

During the recent INMA Asia/Pacific News Media Summit, members learned about the transformation to digital in Indonesia from Dian Gemiano, president of the Indonesia Digital Association and chief marketing officer of KG Media in Indonesia, and Eileen Ooi, president of Malaysia Digital Association and CEO of Omnicom Media Group in Malaysia.

The Indonesian media market

Like many other countries, Indonesia is seeing digital advertising grow and conventional media advertising shrink. At KG Media, they’re also seeing real opportunity in non-advertising revenue. 

“I think it’s obvious that video and influencers are getting very good traction in the past two years,” Gemiano said. “So this is the area that we also have been exploring and trying to capture in Indonesian media companies.”

While it’s fun to explore these areas of potential, there’s no denying the top three biggest forms of digital advertising in Indonesia: search, banners, and video. The trouble KG Media sees with this is news publishers don’t always have control of their digital fate in these spaces.

“So digital growth is good, but as publishers, it’s hard to fully control the growth of our own business because we are really dependent on platforms such as social media and other global technology partners,” Gemiano said. 

Finding a balance between being somewhat dependent on third-party technologies and platforms and still providing the best value with content is becoming more of a challenge. 

“We have lower value per user for the publisher because there’s more emphasis on the volume of the content and less emphasis on the journalism or good quality content, so that also drives less user loyalty to the publisher,” Gemiano said.

Dian Gemiano, president of the Indonesia Digital Association and chief marketing officer of KG Media, explained the growth found on KG Media's video platform
Dian Gemiano, president of the Indonesia Digital Association and chief marketing officer of KG Media, explained the growth found on KG Media's video platform

Recognising this isn’t good for sustainability as publishers, KG Media and others in Indonesia are trying to reduce their dependence on other platforms by creating their own video platforms and building their own first-party data capabilities.

“I think we have to regain our control of the next rising advertising platform and also content platform so this is something that we are exploring,” Gemiano said. “We have to try to monetise that data capability. We try to build our own ecosystem so we can control our business — [then] we can have more control of our product and business growth.” 

Not forgetting the fundamental values of being a media company is also what KG Media works towards for the future.

“As a publisher, we know in our heart that we have influence as our core value: influence to policymakers, influence to industry decision leaders, influence to the public,” Gemiano said. “Then I think we have to try to figure out how to monetise this kind of influence so we have a better, more sustained business model in the future instead of just giving your sustainability model to other platforms.” 

Kompas' B2B2C model makes up 50% of the media company's digital subscribers.
Kompas' B2B2C model makes up 50% of the media company's digital subscribers.

At KG Media, this looks like driving audiences of the Kompas daily newspaper into a subscription model. It also looks like holding a CEO forum to engage industry leaders. KG Media also measures its impact on society. They decided to attach themselves to a big marathon event and used their influence to inform the public about the race’s impact on the local economy. They also attach themselves to sustainability initiatives after learning more than 60% of their audience said sustainability in a company can impact their decision-making on whether they’ll interact with a brand and how.

“There’s a lot of big communication challenges for Indonesian companies to communicate their sustainability activities,” Gemiano said. “That’s why we created this platform — to allow stakeholders to communicate their sustainability activities and also to collaborate.”

In terms of AI and other emerging technologies, Indonesia is still in the very beginning stages of exploration. They see the key lesson for them in digital marketing. 

“We have to invest as soon as possible because in the long run the goal is to regain the direct relationship with our audiences and also with our business partners,” Gemiano said.

The Malaysian media market

Omnicom Media Group and other news publishers are looking to capitalise on the fact that more than 97% of the Malaysian population is online. Much of the content being consumed in Malaysia is through smartphones and it’s led by video. 

“That’s a massive shift now that we are seeing, especially for our news publishers where they are now having to actually adopt new sets of content, especially if they are print-based publishers,” Ooi said. “They now need to get into a multitude of content options to actually engage the audiences as well as the readers.” 

Eileen Ooi, president of Malaysia Digital Association and CEO of Omnicom Media Group, shared the upsides of Omnicom's digital transformation.
Eileen Ooi, president of Malaysia Digital Association and CEO of Omnicom Media Group, shared the upsides of Omnicom's digital transformation.

So Omnicom is looking at data and analytics as a critical area of development. Through the insights, publishers are able to understand audience behaviour and start personalising content.

“That’s a huge advantage in comparison to where we were before where it was very much a one-to-many communication style,” Ooi said. “Today it is sort of one-to-different-clusters-of-audience segments.”

With analytics,  Omnicom is also able to look at A/B testing things like headlines, visuals and videos.

“The other thing is obviously the rise of new media platforms has increased distribution channels as well,” Ooi said. “Social media being one of the biggest naturally in Malaysia. Malaysia is actually a country that is highly social media driven. This has allowed publishers today to also reach wider audiences.”

A challenge facing Malaysia as it travels down the path of digital transformation is while consumers and advertisers are shifting their focus to digital, ad dollars going to print and TV continue to dwindle. 

“And unfortunately, even though there has been a rise of digital revenue, that doesn't compensate for the loss that’s happening on print and TV media,” Ooi said.

Malaysian news publishers are facing three key challenges.
Malaysian news publishers are facing three key challenges.

Another issue is a majority of digital ad revenue is dominated by massive companies like Google, Meta, and TikTok so local publishers are having to fight for ad revenue space.

Data privacy and digital security are also a big concern in Malaysia.

“Malaysians are very concerned in the aspect of data tracking or being able to provide data,” Ooi said. “So 68% of Malaysians today actually do not opt in for cookies to be tracked.”

Developing first-party data and leveraging existing analytics becomes crucial to understanding audiences. And because of its diversity, Malaysian media companies know there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to how they speak to their audiences. 

“Content consumption differs very much by an English-speaking Chinese versus an English-speaking Muslim audience versus an Indian audience,” Ooi said. “So to actually be able to scale for a news publisher, it is very important to be able to have the ability to connect across multiracial or diverse audience segments.”

The other option, which some choose, is to be hyper focused in a particular niche. An example of this is Malaysia’s top English newspaper The Star, which only serves higher-income, English-speaking audiences.

Media companies in Malaysia that haven’t completely abandoned print or TV are struggling to find a budget that allows them to be focused on digital, keep their traditional products and remain profitable. Thus, some publishers have been forced to move completely digital in order to afford running their businesses.

A lot of Malaysians also don’t pay for content because of privacy concerns, high rates of plagiarism and a lack of governing, making it hard for publishers to enact a subscription model.

Where Malaysian media companies are finding successes are personalising news feeds, leveraging data, and analytics and technology.

At The Star, the mobile app allows readers to personalise the types of news stories that show up on their home screens.

“This allows consumers to feel that from a publisher perspective, this publisher understands me and that actually further improves the engagements as well as keeping the readers to be more loyal,” Ooi said. 

Large and smaller publishers alike have also been able to successfully use social media to move audiences to their media platforms. They also are looking at other revenue streams apart from digital advertising, like podcasts and content sponsorships. Some publishers are even creating their own events and awards.

“The publishers are able to charge for ticket price, they’re able to charge for obviously award entries and then also gain advertising revenue through sponsorships of the event,” Ooi said.

As far as AI, Ooi likes it in terms of supporting fact-checking for publishers and automating research or analysing data, but is concerned about biases in algorithms and ethical implications.

“I think for publishers to kind of stay relevant in the future, data is the new oil, so data driven solutions are critical,” Ooi said. “If today you have yet to be invested in any marketing tech platform or even completely fully using data to power some of your marketing, power some of your content creation or the news generation. Then there is that opportunity to start thinking about it immediately.”

About Michelle Palmer Jones

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