The focus was very pointedly on “local” at INMA’s Local Media Ideas Day programme on Wednesday — helping local media thrive and adapting to their particular needs.

Programme moderator Niklas Jonason, CEO of Stadsporten CityGate, drove the point home right at the start, comparing the local craze of cycling here in Amsterdam with how things are back home for him in Sweden. 

“Walking around, I couldn’t help noticing that absolutely no one here is wearing a helmet! There are as many people riding bikes in Stockholm, but everyone wears a helmet,” he said. “It is quite striking, the local differences.” 

And with that, Jonason launched into a full afternoon of quick brainsnack-style talks about automation, strategies, and start-ups aimed at local news media in and around this region.

“It’s about digital maturity. The users demand from us local news, and we cant meet that demand by producing content just with people.” — Robin Govik, chief digital officer, Mittmedia, Sweden.

Govik’s Homeowners Bot presentation is a favourite at INMA gatherings. It’s not really about the automated tool his publishing house created to robo-write contextualised articles on every home sale in the region. It’s about the fact that executives and editors mined their reader data to discover that real estate transactions are a high-interest topic, and they could do much more to cover and to leverage that into more subscribers.

It’s a three-step process, Govik advised: “Focus on the reader. Produce content that readers want. And make it easy to buy a subscription and to continue to be a reader.”

Marie-Louise Timcke, head of interactive team at Funke Interaktiv, describes an interactive reader map for its newsroom.
Marie-Louise Timcke, head of interactive team at Funke Interaktiv, describes an interactive reader map for its newsroom.

“Statistically you can’t see Berlin as one city but as two sides because they are so different socio-economically.” — Marie-Louise Timcke, head of interactive team at Funke Interaktiv (parent to Berliner Morgenpost), Germany.

Timcke is a data-journalist turned data-scientist for her publishing house. She showcased how her group created an interactive reader map melding subscriber and advertiser data so the newsroom can see where there are opportunities or needs for local coverage.

In one case, the map highlighted a particular neighbourhood in central Berlin where there was a decline of readers. The response was to start a new edition in that area and open a local office there with dedicated journalists. Now the map shows rising readership in that area and the newsroom is identifying more areas for similar treatment. 

Stefan Aberg is managing editor at Västerbottens-Kuriren, which uses AI technology for a text generation initiative.
Stefan Aberg is managing editor at Västerbottens-Kuriren, which uses AI technology for a text generation initiative.

“Every new company that is formed in our region, the next day well get an automatically generated text. Our business editor looks over the texts, adds a picture, and publishes it. If it’s very interesting, our own reporting is added.” — Stefan Aberg, editor-in-chief, Västerbottens-Kuriren, Sweden.

When Aberg’s media house started a new business-news vertical in 2015 called Affärsliv24, it committed to making it a non-traditional effort in many regards. That ranges from its design, to how the newspaper’s departments work together, to involving AI company United Robots to automate text generation.

“The main goal was to get more engagement and get more people reading the material,” he said. 

“It was so important for us to have just a few steps. The steps are very important.” — Charlotte Pour, head of new business, Politikens Lokalaviser, Denmark.

Pour’s newspaper wanted to promote more small business and private ads because they have strong reader interest and generate good revenue — as long as the back-office workload can be managed efficiently.

“We looked into a way to find a do-it-yourself system that could help these expectations,” she explained. Their DYI solution used Danish start-up Adwonce and now lets users book, create, and pay for their own smaller display ads, obituaries, and other private notices online in as few as five steps.

Martha Riemsma, editor-in-chief at De Twentsche Courant Tubantia, shares the company's one desk newsroom organisation.
Martha Riemsma, editor-in-chief at De Twentsche Courant Tubantia, shares the company's one desk newsroom organisation.

“We have a new role. We are becoming more an intermediary. This isn’t about numbers. This is about claiming a new position within the city, with the people, on how to solve problems.” — Martha Riemsma, editor-in-chief, De Twentsche Courant Tubantia, The Netherlands.

The newsroom reorganisation at Riemsma’s newspaper created one desk that combines all the functions involved in handling any story. This includes student media, presenters, video producers, reporters, the producer of the news bulletin, podcast producers, volunteers, techies, debate leaders, the chief of broadcasting, and the overseeing news manager.

The result wasn’t just new journalism but a new editorial mission. Once everyone became equally involved in developing special editorial projects, the multi-platform efforts turned from simply reporting on community problems to getting involved with readers to fix them.

“Anyone visiting the site, anyone visiting this list, can vote on his favourite cocktail place. With that simple mechanic, we started with one list. Now every week we add a list. It’s not business based. It’s theme based. We try to activate our users.” — Florian Schiller, OVB24, Germany.

Schiller’s media house has reinvented its local guide around lists of whatever readers think needs listing. They wound up with a runaway success and a growing revenue source, benefiting from businesses doing their own viral marketing to get people to vote for them. 

“There is a great network effect at work,” he explained. “For every listing we put out, we get more users on the site. The more users, we get more votes. The more votes affects the credibility of the site. Which gets more users. And it goes on like that.”

“We try to be at the center of all the data-driven reporting in the newsrooms in our region …. The best way to describe our company is as like a press agency.” — Jelle Kamsma, founder, LocalFocus, The Netherlands.

Media start-up LocalFocus provides an online tool that helps local publishers get into data journalism by doing a lot of the work for them. The company pulls in data through both public sources and freedom-of-information requests, which it then analyses and shares insight about with different reporters through its platform. Newsrooms can also input their own data and use the system to analyse it and automatically generate an embeddable chart or map. 

“If you think about the trailer for a movie, it’s an opportunity for engagement with readers around the movie.” — Jaime J. Candau, CEO & co-founder, Isnottv.com, Spain.

Media start-up snottv.com creates content and interaction for publishers around movies and series such as those on Netflix, Amazon, in local Cinemas and regular TV programmes. 

“E-mail subscribers are almost twice as likely to become subscribers. So e-mail is a very important channel.” — Martijn de Kuijper, founder and CEO, getrevue.co, The Netherlands.

Media start-up Revue helps local publishers launch newsletters that provide an attractive way to bypass the roadblocks of Facebook and other social platforms in reaching readers. Kuijper noted the average open rate for generic email content is only about 22%, but the average open rate specifically for editorial newsletters is 60%. 

INMA Media Innovation Week continues Thursday and Friday.