How INMA leverages unique insights from its membership network has evolved through the years.
For the first 38 years of INMA’s existence (1930-1968), the association had no staff. Volunteers ran everything. Over the next 56 years, INMA slowly staffed up as volunteers had less and less time. Yet as we enter our 94th year, that original culture of volunteer inputs to the direction of INMA remains alive — even if how we draw out those inputs has changed.
I’d like to share with you a small sample of what the unique “INMA conversation” looks like in 2024 — across our governing board of directors, regional boards, initiative committees and leads, staff, and more.
How we channel the news industry’s ideas into something actionable, tangible, and insightful is at the heart of the modern INMA.
Let’s peek behind the curtains of INMA in the first few weeks of the year.
“Mobile is where we lose our brands”
In talking with Product & Tech Initiative Lead Jodie Hopperton about her March INMA master class on How to Create Engaging Mobile-First News Media Sites, she provided insights on why this is being elevated now.
Yes, 2024 is a big news year with 76 elections impacting 4 billion people — with the Paris Olympics, to boot. Yes, Facebook’s pullback from news is impacting traffic. Yes, GenAI is going to impact traditional search.
Yet within the product and tech community, there’s a lot of talk of how to elevate mobile in engagement to take full advantage of this unique year.
Jodie told me: “Mobile is where we lose our brands. How can we make our brands clearer via mobile? It’s very tricky.” Jodie reports that she’s coming across countless news media companies that say they are mobile-first — when, actually, they are not. They are still designing for a desktop, not mobile. They are not separating out desktop and mobile stats.
There are pushback mechanisms. The Financial Times brand is wrapped up in the colour “champagne pink.” With The New Yorker, it’s fonts and headline styles. Yet with most news brands, their characteristics don’t translate well to mobile.
Can INMA lend a hand with this?
I just saw her first draft of the March 14-21 master class, and clearly Jodie is aiming to address these points:
The fundamental elements of building for a mobile audience.
Why the Texas Tribune killed its app to make its mobile Web site great.
What media brands are doing to address the essential ingredient of speed.
Relevo’s sports home page for the next generation.
How Ringier Axel Springer is doubling scroll depth and improving ad revenue.
Design and content layout for mobile.
Intuitive navigation and user experience.
Digital Platform Initiative Lead Robert Whitehead emphasised the re-emergence of overhauling the brand experience to secure more direct traffic, especially in light of search and social sources going off the cliff.
Very practical approach for every media company this year.
Figuring out “newsroom transformation”
What is newsroom transformation?
As INMA bends its core newsroom initiative toward transformation, INMA members have been weighing in hard on the subject.
New Newsroom Transformation Initiative Lead Amalie Nash is sketching out a year focused on data, newsroom restructuring, GenAI, and battling news fatigue. Setting up industry standard KPIs is an aspiration, with one INMA board member calling it “content accountability.”
Amalie told me that INMA members keep bringing up “culture change,” but I pushed back a bit. What’s the difference between “newsroom culture change” and “newsroom transformation?” Radically different words, but aren’t we talking about the same thing? Words do matter. Can we be consistent with what we label this?
When it comes to newsroom restructuring, I warned against re-arranging the chairs to look like the bridge of Star Trek’s Enterprise. Instead, Amalie talks about streamlining print workflows to focus more on digital — to which I also scoffed. Then the INMA board weighed recently, and print workflows came up three times. Yet another reminder of how wrong I can be.
Board members notably gravitated toward Amalie’s idea of using data to stop doing things — which, let’s face it, media companies are horrible at. One board member said it differently: “How can newsrooms use data to let things go? For example, transforming newsrooms to be production-light and good for subscribers.”
You’ve heard this anecdote multiple times, but Amalie brought it up again for emphasis: Several media companies have confessed that, based on data, they reduced content 40% and lost zero traffic. That’s game-changing, and how can INMA elevate more of those stories?
Finally, Amalie uses a turn of phrase that intrigues me: How do we know that a newsroom is “transformed?” Later in the week, I asked this of a board member representing an elite “top of the pyramid” company, and I set up the question for failure:
“Surely, your company’s newsrooms are transformed,” I commented cheekily. To which she responded, broadly: Legacy media company newsrooms won’t be truly transformed until they are 100% digital. In a smaller picture, she said her group has different brands serving different markets, and they would like newsrooms to leverage digital for more targeted news products and content for target groups.
How to tell the story of GenAI
We are talking a lot about GenAI inside of INMA these days — especially practical use cases. We are trying to get our arms around commonalities and outliers through our new Generative AI Initiative led by Sonali Verma.
In meetings with the INMA Board of Directors and our initiative leads recently, punctuated with our Webinar with OpenAI, it struck me that a common theme is emerging: For the love of God, can we sic GenAI on the stuff we’re bad at, loath doing, or can’t otherwise fathom putting humans on? Where is that blunt list?
Distilling this focus across multiple meetings in recent weeks, this might include SEO, auto-tagging, digging through databases, and how to be more efficient with print production. Bottom-line: How to free time for more “real journalism,” a board member summarised.
Make no mistake: The INMA board had some high-minded ideas around GenAI, too. How to get the GenAI platforms to work with publishers, and the do’s and don’ts around AI principles and how that relates to trust.
One peculiarity that has popped up with me in recent weeks is that even the brightest stars in media, as proud as they are with their efforts with GenAI, seem to be looking to INMA for validation that others are plowing the same ground. I didn’t know that was our role, yet we will adapt!
Across INMA, the glass is half-full when it comes to GenAI. It’s clear media leaders are optimistic about the subject.
How the c-suite should look at subscriptions in 2024-2025
The most insightful comment I heard recently came from Readers First Initiative Lead Greg Piechota. It was a throwaway line, but I felt it had repercussions all the way up to the CEO.
If 2024 will be the biggest news year since the pandemic, shouldn’t the strategic focus of media companies be on acquisition-driven subscriber volume at all costs? He didn’t say it, but I take that to mean invitation pricing if need be.
Surely, 2025 will be a “down” news year, during which news brands should focus on subscriber revenue and retention.
How, then, should media companies be mobilising now for this special year?
This will be an over-arching theme of our February 26-March 1 Media Subscriptions Summit in New York, which is overseen by Greg.
How you can get involved
Across these initiatives, there are multiple ways INMA members can interact and get involved:
Sign up for the INMA Slack channel and specify which initiatives you want to affiliate.
Subscribe to initiative newsletters. It’s free as part of your membership.
If you’re a corporate member of INMA, you can do up to three Ask Me Anything sessions with initiative leads per year (contact Brooke Dillier at email@example.com). You can also reach out individually to the initiative leads.
The “INMA conversation” across 21,000 members at 1,000+ companies in 90+ countries across digital native media, newspaper media, magazine media, and broadcast media is one of the most unique things in the news industry today.
Take advantage of it.
I hope you enjoyed this peek behind the INMA curtain.