How INMA will advance transformation in 2021

By Damian Eales

International News Media Association (INMA)

Sydney, Australia

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For all the fog of a global pandemic, the role of news media has never been more essential. And the path forward for news media has become clearer in many respects as barriers to transformation have fallen.

What that transformation looks like, and how best to seize it, is the mission of the International News Media Association (INMA) in 2021. How do we tell your story? How do we curate and distill for you? How do we convert our many conversations with members into knowledge?

Like news media companies around the world, 2020 was a year of transformation at INMA.
Like news media companies around the world, 2020 was a year of transformation at INMA.

The INMA family has grown remarkably to become a “small” town of more than 16,000 professionals at 850+ companies in 72 countries. INMA not only is the fastest-growing press association serving the news industry, it has become the No. 1 most visited press association in the world, according to Alexa.com. INMA’s own story of transformation last year in the face of COVID-19 was remarkable, as was shared recently with members.

At INMA we know that to generate knowledge at scale requires segmentation for the needs of members regionally and topically. It requires projecting a lot of energy to a membership that expects more from its industry bodies. It requires a lot of planning — and in the case of this blog post, a lot of transparency and detail.

How we harness the power of our global network is INMA’s ongoing challenge, and we have put together an outstanding calendar that you can review. Yet I want to share the details of that calendar created by your Board of Directors and staff that will guide us over the next 12 months.

Topical initiatives

INMA will run three topical initiatives this year aimed at lifting your knowledge base around subjects and connecting you to professional communities around those subjects — a mix of aspiration and practicality.

Those subjects are:

  • Subscriptions: As our Readers First Initiative enters its third year, INMA finds itself the world’s most trusted community in digital subscription insights for media. Led by Greg Piechota, we aim at benchmarking and securing your subscription gains of the COVID year. We are committed to helping you find new avenues of growth by moving our focus from heavy to light readers, reinventing news experiences, and getting smarter with pricing by growing beyond our consumer business with group subscriptions and partnerships.
  • Product: No single community is rising further faster in the news industry than digital product professionals. Our new Product Initiative led by Jodie Hopperton aims to spotlight issues such as product design methodologies and structures, measurement and KPIs, prototyping and experimenting, and more.
  • Data: We will soon publicly announce a third initiative focused on what INMA calls “smart data” — tying data initiatives to your business objectives and incorporating a data-first culture. We will focus on the practical applications of data to engage audiences, grow reader revenue, and reinvent advertising in the post-cookie era. Over the next year, we will surface your best practices in how to know customers better, tailor products and marketing to segments, predict behaviours and automate actions, and how to scale experiments.

In all three topical initiatives, we know that we are serving companies at different points of development. INMA aspires to serve companies deep into their subscription, product, and data journeys as well as those closer to the beginning. We have the foundational expertise through the INMA membership network and smart leaders like Greg and Jodie who can leverage that expertise.

Two other initiatives also are on our 2021 agenda: 

  • Digital Platform Initiative: While not a community initiative, I would draw to your attention the importance of INMA’s Digital Platform Initiative. What is happening at the regulatory level with the Big Tech platforms will have a profound impact on the news industry. Along with new contributors experienced in regulatory reform, INMA aims to distill and decode these developments in what will undoubtedly be a pivotal year on this front. 
  • Media groups: INMA also aims to promote the role of media groups — notably central services across properties and titles — in the year ahead. This will manifest itself in our Global Media Awards competition and our blogs. It’s high time we surface the great work of groups and dive into definitions of transformation at that level.

Training and development

INMA will return to physical conferences in 2022 when your full health and safety can be assured. Yet our virtual entrepreneurialism in the past year will pay dividends for you in 2021.

INMA has a robust virtual agenda for 2021 until we can be together in person in 2022.
INMA has a robust virtual agenda for 2021 until we can be together in person in 2022.

Broadly, I would break down INMA’s training and development plan this year into three parts:

1. Global conferences 

2. Topical Master Classes

3. Regional summits 

Meanwhile, we are working with the Facebook Journalism Project and the Google News Initiative on data- and subscription-related projects that will yield town halls later in 2021 for INMA members and the broader news industry.

Did you miss some of these training sessions? We have split up many of these sessions into pay-for-access training modules (video + presentations), which you can access here.

Webinars

In a span of three years, INMA went from producing zero Webinars to 73! Much of last year was COVID-related and just-in-time for our members. Yet a lot of what was created and scaled is now going to be a part of the “new normal” of your INMA membership experience led by Mark Challinor.

INMA produced 73 Webinars in 2020 and has an ambitious plan for 2021 as well.
INMA produced 73 Webinars in 2020 and has an ambitious plan for 2021 as well.

INMA aims to be a weekly presence on your computer screen or mobile via our robust Webinar schedule, which we know from your feedback is transforming the membership experience and bringing INMA closer to you.

Here’s our plan for this year:

  • Global Webinars: The best case studies and the occasional newsmakers are featured in our global Webinars hosted by Mark. These are informative and even entertaining, with plenty of opportunities for your questions and input. Roughly, we will do three of these per month.
  • Meet-ups: Each of our three initiatives — Readers First, Product, and Smart Data — will conduct 60- to 90-minute meet-ups bi-monthly. These are multi-speaker, interactive meet-ups led by Greg and Jodie that include audience participation.
  • South Asia Webinars: Our strong INMA community in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka is supporting monthly Webinars: South Asians talking with South Asians about South Asian matters. These are trending toward a mix of strategic and case study and are held monthly.
  • Latin America Webinars: Our Spanish-language Webinars aimed at Latin American publishers have evolved into practical, case study approaches surfacing the best among our members in the region. These are being held monthly.
  • French-speakers Webinars: INMA quietly tested a Webinar for French-speakers worldwide last year, and it was such a success that we aim to expand this to quarterly Webinars this year.

In total, that would be up to 80 Webinars produced live by INMA — and then recorded and archived for you at your leisure. As a bonus, each presentation is also archived by INMA for your 24/7 review.

Awards competitions

Faced with 90+ years of awards ceremonies at physical conferences, our imaginations about what INMA should reward have been historically confined to how much time we have at dinner or even how big the room is.

Not so in 2021.

INMA has tweaked its Global Media Awards for 2021. The deadline to enter is January 29.
INMA has tweaked its Global Media Awards for 2021. The deadline to enter is January 29.

INMA will reward media business development through our Global Media Awards (presented since 1937), while we identify the best and brightest young professionals and elevate professionals from under-represented groups in two other individual-focused competitions. Deadline to enter is January 29.

Global Media Awards

The Global Media Awards competition this year will reward excellence across five broad subjects and 20 categories associated with those subjects. New this year: You may submit entries as a national brand, a regional brand, or a group. The group segment is a first for INMA: how to reward work from centralised operations.

In a nutshell, here are the Global Media Awards genres and categories for your consideration. This is one of the best ways for you to reward your best and contribute to the news industry’s knowledge base: 

  • News brands
    • Best brand awareness campaign
    • Best public relations or community service campaign
    • Best use of an event to build a news brand
    • Best idea to encourage reader engagement
  • Media platforms
    • Best use of print
    • Best use of video
    • Best use of audio
    • Best use of social media
  • Subscriptions
    • Best initiative to register users
    • Best initiative to acquire subscribers
    • Best initiative to retain subscribers
    • Best subscription niche product
  • Business development
    • Best idea to grow advertising sales
    • Best execution of native advertising
    • Best digital commerce initiative
    • Best product and tech innovation
  • Data and insights
    • Best use of data to drive subscriptions, content, or product design
    • Best use of data to drive advertising
    • Best use of data to automate or personalise
    • Best data dashboard

“30 Under 30” Awards

Under the banner of INMA’s Young Professionals Initiative, the “30 Under 30” Awards will seek 30 young professionals under the age of 30 who are rejuvenating workplace cultures, helping reimagine news brands, and are early leaders in the news industry.

INMA wants to identify future media leaders, and we could use your help in spotlighting those future leaders at your company – especially in advertising, audience, subscriptions, business intelligence, content and product, and leadership functions.

Deadline to apply or nominate a colleague is July 30.

Elevate Scholarships

INMA fully embraces the global struggle for historically under-represented and disadvantaged groups to get a seat at the table for training and development. We are heartened that publishers around the world have prioritised overcoming these cultural barriers in their H.R. and people initiatives.

We have created the Elevate Scholarship to equip new faces and voices with strong news industry fundamentals through training and networking.

If you want more information on the Elevate Scholarship, click here (apply yourself or nominate a colleague). Deadline to apply is September 24.

Reports

Predicting the full range of reports INMA will produce in 2021 is a dicey proposition. Who would have guessed one year ago that the bulk of our reports would end up being about the financial and strategic implications of a global pandemic on the media business?

With that proviso out of the way, here is what we’re working on:

  • The role of trust in building media strategy 
  • Best practices in podcasts and audio 
  • The state of personalisation for media
  • How will Big Tech regulations and settlements impact media?
  • The state of product in media
  • Next-generation subscription growth strategies
  • Where smart data is pointing news media

We will leave room on our agenda for the inevitable swerves of the year emanating from our conferences, master classes, and Webinars – our fountains of knowledge. On the data front, I am particularly interested in where media companies will be by the fourth quarter on integrating first-party data to sell digital advertising in light the pending disappearance of third-party cookies.

What subjects do you feel INMA should cover in 2021?

Distillation tools

INMA is fortunate to have a mountain of content available to members. The trouble with mountains is they are tough to navigate. We have created two distillation tools designed to divide the journey into pieces you can tackle based on your personal preferences:

1. INMA Knows

We have created an “INMA Knows” curation micro-site designed to marshal all association resources on vital subjects. Our editors personally curate the best INMA materials on a subject as well as third-party sources on the subject.

INMA created "INMA Knows" in 2020, with 11 topics currently curated for members. This year, INMA will continue the initiative with one topic per month.
INMA created "INMA Knows" in 2020, with 11 topics currently curated for members. This year, INMA will continue the initiative with one topic per month.

Scanning the “INMA Knows” site now, pertinent subjects for this year include what is happening with digital platforms, mobile, newsletters, personalisation, podcasts and audio, print engagement, subscriber retention, third-party cookies, and video.

We will add one subject per month this year, and we’ll notify you when this is live.

2. Newsletters

One of the more popular features of INMA membership is our 23 free newsletters. All members get either a daily or weekly general newsletter so you can keep up with the latest.

Yet from there, you can opt in to newsletters that segment the INMA universe by region, genre, or topic: 

  • Region
    • Asia/Pacific
    • Europe
    • Latin America
    • North America
    • South Pacific
  • Genre
    • Advertising
    • Audience
    • Business Intelligence
    • Content and Product
    • Leadership
  • Topic
    • Product Initiative
    • Smart Data Initiative
    • Readers First Initiative
    • Brand Development
    • COVID-19
    • Data Analytics
    • Digital Engagement and Retention
    • Digital Platforms
    • Emerging Advertising Platforms
    • Print

Interested in these newsletters, which typically come out monthly? Click here to sign up.

Evergreen empowerment tools

I have talked a lot about new initiatives and programmes for 2021. Yet I would be remiss if I did not point out to members the profoundly valuable tools we have put at your fingertips:

Member Directory

How do you navigate 16,125 members from 72 countries (our current count as of today) in our powerful Member Directory? We have created powerful filtering tools to do just that:

  • World region
  • Type of media company
  • Size of company
  • A person’s professional focus based on job title
  • A person’s area of expertise
  • A person’s area of interest

Combined, you can find peers like you and companies like yours, to share ideas and inspire change directly.

Blogs

You see that INMA works hard to surface the best practices of our media membership network every day — usually 3-4 new articles per day, second to no one in the news industry. Yet did you know that this work is captured by 70+ volunteers and staff curators across 22 blogs? Click here to see all of our blogs.

We organise our blogs by five big subjects: Advertising, Audience, Business Intelligence, Content + Product, and Leadership. Within each subject, you can drill down further into hundreds of micro-topics.

INMA members have access to many empowerment tools, including blogs, best practices, headlines, and presentations.
INMA members have access to many empowerment tools, including blogs, best practices, headlines, and presentations.

Best Practices

INMA has captured and databased more than 6,000 entries in the Global Media Awards competition from the past decade in a Best Practice archive – then tagged it by category, by year, by country. We have even tagged finalists and winners.

Most entries not only come with descriptions of the campaigns, but collateral material such as video, audio, site links, print materials, and so much more.

Headlines

We had a European INMA member recently praise us for inclusion of third-party headlines and links in our newsletters. She suggested that we aggregate and tag those headlines so that can be a research tool over time.

We were happy to report that we already have such a tool!

INMA reviews 50+ Web sites each day and distills about six headlines and links of most interest to members. Yes, they go into our newsletters. But they also get housed here.

Like our other smart archives, you can filter our 2,000 annual headlines by date range, topics, and world regions to create an amazing executive briefing on broad subjects – all at the click of a few buttons.  They also are searchable.

Presentations

A lesser-known fact is that INMA archives all of its event presentations – including Webinars. Currently, we have 2,339 presentations from INMA events, and they can be filtered by topic, by event, and by year. They are also searchable.

This requires a deeper dive, but is a fantastic tool for those looking for subject depth.

Conclusion

It should come as no surprise that the president of the association that plans on executing this agenda in 2021 — still in the midst of a pandemic — is very proud.

INMA is an indispensable community for the news industry. We have become the most trusted community, a safe place where ideas can be shared and peers who have only our interest at heart reside. That is a rare space in any industry.

I hope you conclude this comprehensive blog post with great enthusiasm for the work we do at the International News Media Association (INMA). I would especially like to offer thanks on behalf our members for the leadership from our governing Board of Directors; the undying support from our European, Latin America, North America, and South Asia regional boards; and the enthusiasm from our new Young Professionals Committee. In particular, I would again like to pay thanks to the amazing work of our CEO, Earl J. Wilkinson, and the indomitable spirit of our 22-person staff, all of whom have given their all in this year more than any.

There will come a time, likely in 2022, when we have an opportunity to meet again in person. Probably with vaccination paperwork. Probably with fist bumps. And who knows about masks and social distancing? Yet normality will return.

Until then, let’s make the best of the situation and embrace the creativity and reinvention of the news industry through the virtual marvels that INMA facilitates.

Here’s to great outcomes in the year ahead!

About Damian Eales

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