How news publishers are adjusting to technologically exponential times


A collage of company logos for companies such as Buzzfeed and Yahoo.
A collage of company logos for companies such as Buzzfeed and Yahoo.

INMA’s recent visit to Google, Yahoo, Facebook, and Twitter yielded unique insights that were confirmed last week at its World Congress in San Francisco: 

  1. Technology drowning share of voice: Publishers are operating in a technologically exponential environment that is quickly dwarfing their share of voice in the markets they aim to serve.

  2. Print culture holding back digital development: While Silicon Valley digital pure-plays attack audience, product, and monetisation with fervor and radical experimentation, the publisher attention span is constantly divided by what to do with the print side of its business.

  3. What does news brand represent across platforms: Brands and missions must communicate the news brand’s essence across platforms. We can’t be a collection of tactics that add up to a strategy. What does your brand represent? Then how to drive that throughout the organisation?

  4. Mobile and native environments: Like the initial efforts by colleagues in Silicon Valley, publishers today are under-estimating the boomerang effect of mobile on how people consume information and how publishers compete for their time.

    We know the storm is coming (it’s here!), yet can we marshal the internal resources to play in this exponential part of the technology chessboard? Atomize what you do best and re-assemble in native mobile environments.

  5. Innovate routinely: Publishers should focus less on the next great idea or the next great hire and focus more on creating beachheads from which innovation can flow, notably in human resources, data, and mobile.

    As IDEO’s David Kelley reminded us at the INMA conference, innovation is a process more than an idea. How to innovate routinely within your company?

In the new book, The Second Machine Age, authors Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee talk about the exponential leaps forward taking place today in technology. Like the concept of compound interest in banking, Moore’s Law – and the concept of doubling computing power every 12-18 months – meant pennies adding to pennies for the better part of 10,000 years.

A group of people standing outside a Google office building.
A group of people standing outside a Google office building.

Yet, suddenly, in the past decade, the technological capabilities building and building since the Industrial Revolution are yielding breakthroughs that boggle the mind. Google’s driverless car is about to be the poster child for this concept. 

Where do news publishers fit into that environment?

My key strategic takeaway on the voluminous content from the INMA World Congress is news publishers must invest in things today with exponential returns on investment if we are to play in The Second Machine Age’s “second half of the chessboard.” Those ROI elements are disproportionately digital, mobile, and people. 

It is the willpower to create an innovation beachhead culture that separates media companies that are operating leaner and faster and those that are falling behind in fast-moving times. The World Congress even nudged me to believe this is true in markets where print remains dominant. A nimble culture has little to do with the physical wrapper of your journalism.

I would single out INMA Global Innovation Award winners Fairfax Media in Australia and MittMedia in Sweden for their audacious steps to change their cultures through physical, cultural, and training transformations – and sustaining them every day. We will unveil these stories in the days and weeks ahead. 

I left the San Francisco World Congress pumped up about the direction of media companies as we transform into a market-sensitive, technology-focused, and culturally adept news industry that surfaces, prioritises, and connects great journalism with great audiences.

The era of the publisher transformation plan is over. Let’s accelerate.

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