Why INMA matters most in 2020

By Damian Eales

International News Media Association (INMA)

Sydney, Australia

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Entering its 90th year, the International News Media Association (INMA) has never been so relevant to our industry and the 11,042-person community of media professionals that comes together to share ideas and inspire change. 

For all of INMA’s history, we have consistently delivered ideas and peer connections to grow the audience, revenue, and brand of news media companies. We have been a guiding light in strategy across generations.   

Yet something has changed. A timeliness has emerged. An urgency. Something tangible. INMA has moved from “nice to have” to “must have” at the world’s leading media companies.

Let me explain why.

Dainik Jagran’s Sanjay Gupta makes a point to members of the INMA board of directors during their meeting at News Corp Australia headquarters in Sydney. The Board meeting opened with a look back on 2019 achievements.
Dainik Jagran’s Sanjay Gupta makes a point to members of the INMA board of directors during their meeting at News Corp Australia headquarters in Sydney. The Board meeting opened with a look back on 2019 achievements.

Eight weeks ago in Sydney, the INMA Board of Directors met to discuss the association’s direction. We approved budgets and plans for 2020. We evaluated old initiatives and kicked off new ones. Yet what struck me is that the 20+ people in the room, a microcosm of INMA members worldwide, were not just talking about where our association is headed. They were talking about the symbiotic relationship with member news companies in 70 countries. 

And if INMA is that microcosm, our industry has a vibrant and promising future. 

Much of INMA’s energy today is focused on The Great Transformation to digital — and all of the cultural, organisational, and business model issues that come with that pivot. Our members need ideas, they need context, and they may need guidance and coaching. 

Each of us is somewhere on the same tech-influenced journey between print-centric Pakistan and digital-centric Scandinavia. I know that we at News Corp Australia are tilting heavily digital with a respect for where print fits. Like you, it’s been a challenging transition. Yet we are turning the corner and creating new value for customers. 

INMA President Damian Eales of News Corp Australia chaired the two-day board of directors meeting in Sydney.
INMA President Damian Eales of News Corp Australia chaired the two-day board of directors meeting in Sydney.

What we achieved in 2019 

In the past year, we have layered on major new initiatives to INMA membership resources: 

  • Readers First Initiative: We have surfaced global best practices in the art and science behind digital subscriptions for news media companies and created a road map toward the next generation of consumer monetisation. A community of digital subscription specialists has emerged under the INMA umbrella, enjoying 12 newsletters, 12 video meet-ups, three new strategic reports, workshops, a Slack Channel, and more. We have leaned heavily into customer value nurturing, consumer business innovation, newsroom transformation, and local media subscription opportunities. 
  • Digital Platform Initiative: I am particularly passionate about decoding the publisher-platform relationship. INMA now has invested heavily in better understanding the legal and regulatory environments, the 10 key issues impacting the relationship, and how best to tie this knowledge back to a strategic playbook that impacts the publisher’s business. We have produced a major strategic report on this and developed a regular blog aiming to shine a spotlight on what is happening with Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and others. When we look back on 2019-2021, I believe we will see this as the No. 1 issue confronting the future success of news media.  
  • Topical and regional newsletters: INMA launched 18 topical, genre, and regional newsletters aimed at surfacing our rich content universe, and I’m pleased to report that 1,134 people have signed up for at least one — and 177 have signed up for 10+!
  • Member personalisation: We introduced “areas of expertise” and “areas of interest” to each INMA member’s profile, and more than 1,200 people have provided this information. That means you can search for people with similar interests and expertise and even filter those people by region, company size, company genre, and more. Our member directory is an intensely useful tool.
  • Webinars: We went from zero Webinars two years ago to 31 in 2019. And they have become one of our most popular benefits: 2,691 people have registered and participated in at least one Webinar, and 113 have participated in 10+ in the past 24 months. 
  • Study tours: Five years ago, we started study tours timidly with one per year in Silicon Valley. In 2019, we conducted tours in Oslo/Stockholm, New York, Hamburg/Berlin, New Delhi, and Silicon Valley. These are the deepest, richest experiences you can share with INMA, and it’s heartening to see the world’s major media companies have come to agree — sending people year after year. 
INMA President Damian Eales of News Corp Australia gives formal remarks on behalf of the INMA board of directors to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison at his Sydney resident, Kirribilli House. Backed by Singapore Press Holdings’ Anthony Tan, Dainik Jagran’s Sanjay Gupta, and El Espectador’s Eduardo Garces, Eales pointed to press freedom issues in Australia as well as the transformation of news media internationally.
INMA President Damian Eales of News Corp Australia gives formal remarks on behalf of the INMA board of directors to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison at his Sydney resident, Kirribilli House. Backed by Singapore Press Holdings’ Anthony Tan, Dainik Jagran’s Sanjay Gupta, and El Espectador’s Eduardo Garces, Eales pointed to press freedom issues in Australia as well as the transformation of news media internationally.

Meanwhile, we have launched other quieter engagement mechanisms that many members now enjoy that I would like to bring to your attention: 

  • Adding yourself to corporate membership: We have made it easier for our corporate members to add employees to their membership through an online registration funnel and a simple onboarding link that can be shared on your company’s intranet. Nearly 1,300 people have added themselves to their company’s INMA membership this year. 
  • Onboarding new members: We have created an eight-step new member onboarding process that, frankly, could be copied and used by many member media companies. Several new members have inquired about this INMA initiative. To give you one snapshot in time, through the first 10 months of 2019, 1,840 people were welcomed to INMA and encouraged to participate, yielding a 41.2% unique open rate and a 20% unique click rate. Those are numbers most publishers would be proud to have in their digital subscriber onboarding. 

This is all in addition to a New York World Congress, Hamburg Media Innovation Week, Stockholm Subscriptions Summit, Bogotá Latin America Conference, New Delhi South Asia Media Festival, and Silicon Valley Study Tour that attracted, in total, 1,270 people. 

INMA’s North America Division Board, meanwhile, created our first-ever video master classes — both on the subject of digital subscriber retention. Across the two initiatives (each six hours of programming across three modules), we attracted 175 people. Maybe this a model for INMA moving forward. 

All the while, INMA generated 468 blog posts (mostly from member contributions), four new strategic reports, 795 additions to our Best Practices archive, 166 new conference presentations, and 1,560 external headline links

Finally, 19 companies became corporate members of INMA in 2019: 

  • Adria Media Group, Serbia
  • AFP (Agence France-Presse)
  • Alma Media, Finland
  • Atlanta Journal-Constitution, United States
  • Australian Community Media
  • Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC)
  • cXense, Norway
  • Facebook
  • FTI Consulting, United States
  • Guardian Media Group, United Kingdom
  • Hanza Media, Croatia
  • The HideAway Report, United States
  • Korea Press Foundation
  • Metro Market Media, United States
  • Press Trust of India
  • Prisa, Spain
  • Roularta Media Group, Belgium
  • Sonoma Media Investments, United States
  • Viafoura, Canada 

We certainly want to welcome these companies and their employees to the INMA family. 

INMA Executive Director Earl J. Wilkinson goes through the day’s agenda with the board of directors at the beginning of the meeting at Nine offices.
INMA Executive Director Earl J. Wilkinson goes through the day’s agenda with the board of directors at the beginning of the meeting at Nine offices.

What’s ahead for 2020 

You can imagine the pride and satisfaction that members of the INMA Board of Directors had when we were updated on these initiatives in Sydney. 

A big challenge in the next year is keeping all of these new initiatives updated and moving ahead. 

Yet I want to preview for you what our board is aiming for in the New Year: 

1. The news industry’s best conferences 

The INMA World Congress of News Media in Paris April 23-28 is the best executive-level overview of the strategy, trends, and best practices of our industry — bar none. And who wouldn’t love Paris in springtime?

Meanwhile, our third-annual Media Subscriptions Week in New York February 25-28 has a robust programme and study tour already put together for that active community within INMA building digital subscriptions and reader revenue. 

In New Delhi, we will hold our South Asia News Media Conference August 6-7 — and split off the study tour this year to Bangalore later in the year. 

The Latin America News Media Conference will be September 9-11 in Lima, with a special emphasis on the innovative Peruvian market. 

Our popular Media Innovation Week October 5-9 in Dublin will focus on best practices in Europe, as well as the peculiar intersection of “media and tech” for which Dublin is now known. 

2. Distilling and making actionable INMA’s content 

We love INMA’s content universe. We think carefully about our one to two articles and five to seven headlines per day. We think about what that looks like in a daily or weekly newsletter. 

Yet this is just one part of our ecosystem. We do extensive blog coverage of our conferences. We do Twitter streams at some events. We have more than 6,000 case studies archived in our best practices archive and another 2,071 conference PPTs in our presentations archive. We have 69 Webinars archived from just the past two years.

That’s a lot of content that needs to be distilled for easier access for you and your team.

In 2020, INMA will launch a series of Web pages that highlight subjects for which we have a critical mass of content. We will do this so you can prioritise the most relevant content subject by subject. 

We will aim to launch post-conference PowerPoint presentations for event participants. In this way, attendees can distill the faucet of information communicated at a conference or seminar for peers back home. 

We hope to create white papers and articles distilling content across our ecosystem to more smartly elevate big subjects for our members. 

Over the horizon, we aspire to go beyond developing content and distilling content and to answering custom questions from members: What problem are you trying to solve? 

3. Upgrading our corporate member ambassador programme 

One of the funnier moments of the Sydney Board meeting was when some of our board members realised they were listed as the ambassadors for their corporate membership (surprise!). That’s never good. 

Yet from the ashes of humour comes some potential solutions. 

Corporate memberships are complicated. We have some corporate members who have as few as 10 people and others that have as many as 900 people. Each company is different. 

Watch this year for a new reach-out to more tightly define how best to structure this communications infrastructure between INMA and your company. 

News Corp Australia Executive Chairman Michael Miller, INMA CEO Earl J. Wilkinson, and McPherson Media Executive Chairman Ross McPherson share a moment during a reception with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison at his Sydney residence.
News Corp Australia Executive Chairman Michael Miller, INMA CEO Earl J. Wilkinson, and McPherson Media Executive Chairman Ross McPherson share a moment during a reception with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison at his Sydney residence.

4. What’s next with Digital Platform Initiative 

We will definitely do a Version 2.0 of the Digital Platform Initiative report. How did the key findings from Robert Whitehead’s report evolve, and what should be priorities for news publishers? 

One angle to the publisher-platform relationship that we thought got under-reported last year was ad tech — a piece so important that we are looking at different angles for beginners, CMOs, and industry influencers. 

5. What’s next with Readers First Initiative 

News publishers are setting new records in the numbers of digital subscribers. For 2020, we want to focus our Readers First Initiative led by Grzegorz (Greg) Piechota on: 

  • Maximising lifetime value of readers. 
  • Defining a distinctive subscriber’s experience. 
  • Tactical playbooks in subscriber acquisition and retention. 

Members love the Readers First Initiative. It shows in the numbers and the engagement levels. Yet we are making two evolutions based on feedback in the New Year: more practical playbooks for those early in their journey and perhaps shorter newsletters and video meet-ups — yet more focused and with greater frequency. 

6. Taking Webinars to the next level 

I hope you see how active INMA is on Webinars. Past President Mark Challinor has taken charge of these and already has an ambitious agenda for the first quarter of this year. We aim for three “Webinar Wednesdays” per month, and we are mostly reaching that target. 

What you may not know is there is more on the way: 

  • Asia-Pacific: Monthly Webinars for members in the Asia-Pacific region, where the current time for live Webinars is not convenient. 
  • Latin America: Bi-monthly Webinars for members in Latin America (en español). 
  • South Asia: Bi-monthly Webinars for members in South Asia. 
  • Advertising: A North America-focused Webinar series anchored on advertising. 

There may be weeks where we run more than one Webinar. We will do our best to target market each Webinar. Yet be aware the full agenda is in your regular newsletter and on the Web site. 

7. Key subjects to be covered 

The Board had a robust discussion about topics we want to cover across the INMA ecosystem in 2020. Here’s what we want to do:

  • Data: Shift the dialogue from KPIs to monetisation at the pragmatic level. How to push the data discussion down to the user level instead of the aggregate level.
  • Content studios: Best practices, best case studies. 
  • Future of digital advertising: How to prove effectiveness. 
  • Content economics: How to democratise content via data.
  • E-commerce: Other products to be sold other than content. 
  • The next generation reader: What’s in the minds of 24- to 29-year-olds?
  • Beyond: There were several “beyond” recommendations ranging from “What’s life like after digital advertising?” to “Beyond the Web site” to “What’s the revenue model for tomorrow?” 
  • Ad tech: Litigation, the makers’ perspective. A key question: How to make this subject digestible for a broad audience
  • What’s next: AI, audio, the fast model, e-commerce, revenue diversification in general. 

8. Vail Roundtable 

You probably heard that INMA is assuming in 2020 The Roundtable at Vail from long-time news industry entrepreneur Tom Ratkovich, who recently retired.

Our plan in Year 1 of INMA’s stewardship is to build on Tom’s legacy, keep The Roundtable free, cap attendance at 60 people, invite CEOs of INMA corporate members, and focus on horizon planning for news media companies in a relaxed and confidential setting.

While plans are still being developed, let me give you a peek into the INMA Board’s vision: Can we create a Chatham House Rules discussion-driven environment to cover subjects that don’t normally appear on a conference stage? For example: how to shift from fixed to variable costs, print periodicity, salesforce transformation, and other “hardcore P&L things.” 

9. Study tour augmentations 

We have big plans for study tours in 2020, led by new initiatives in China and Southern California. 

We will do tours of New York (subscriptions), Paris, Dublin, and Bangalore — all but India being associated with an INMA conference. These bundled events have proven extremely popular. 

The game-changers for INMA and the news industry will come with a China Technology Study Tour in October and a Los Angeles Next-Generation Media Study Tour in November. In Shanghai, Hangzhou, and Shenzhen, we will look outside the Euro-American vision of tech: AI, Blockchain, data, facial recognition, 5G, and more. In Los Angeles, we will focus on video, data, and personalisation. 

10. Making INMA more attractive to young professionals 

During the past two years, INMA has opened its World Congress doors to young professionals. Our board believes the news industry needs a nudge, and scholarships seem to be a great facilitator. Yet we want to do much more in 2020. 

The INMA Board is working on a proposal to create a Young Professionals Initiative that would establish a community of young media professionals under the age of 30. The idea of a young professionals initiative or community would bring that demographic more into INMA consideration, create a new benefit of membership, and inject young life into the INMA board of directors (we are looking at various models for this, notably Axel Springer). 

We are reaching out to potential partners now about supporting scholarships for young professionals to INMA conferences. We continue to need a nudge. 

11. Global Media Awards 

Finally, the Board has done a thorough review of the INMA Global Media Awards competition for 2020 (deadline January 24). Key to know is we are introducing eight new categories focused on data analytics, print, audio, tech/digital products, subscription initiatives, advertising acquisition/retention, corporate culture, and empowering and retaining talent. 

I am particularly interested in how those last two categories will be received — very non-traditional yet vital to our industry. 

Winners will be presented at the Global Media Awards Dinner Tuesday evening, April 28, at the historic Opera Ballroom of the Intercontinental Paris Le Grand.

Conclusions

I hope you agree that this is a hefty agenda.

INMA is the most ambitious association serving the news industry today. We match good words with good deeds. We create value every day. 

Aftenposten Editor-in-Chief and CEO Espen Egil Hansen discusses the future of journalism with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison at his Sydney residence, Kirribilli House.
Aftenposten Editor-in-Chief and CEO Espen Egil Hansen discusses the future of journalism with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison at his Sydney residence, Kirribilli House.

It’s why my company, News Corp, supports INMA — from London to New York to Sydney. And it’s why INMA crossed the 11,000-member mark in recent weeks, a record for us. 

I know our motto is “Sharing Ideas, Inspiring Change.” 

Yet I am motivated by something else: Why in the world would you go it alone in today’s fast-changing news industry?

I want to thank INMA’s Board of Directors for its active guidance and hands-on assistance in making our association what it is today. I want to thank our regional boards for making INMA even more relevant in Europe, Latin America, North America, and South Asia

I want to especially thank our professional staff, which continues to grow despite the shrinking trends of virtually every other press association today. I joked in Sydney that they put up with our board’s constant “one more idea,” and they execute every one of those ideas at an extremely high level. 

In particular, I would like to call out and thank our CEO, Earl Wilkinson. We are very lucky to have Earl, not just for his leadership of our organisation, but for the way he nurtures our global community. Thank you, Earl.

And while I have to set special e-mail inbox rules to govern the communication volume from INMA, I appreciate the continued effort to break through my radar screen — and I’m happy to green-light those efforts. 

The INMA Board of Directors, pictured along with the top executives from News Corp Australia and Nine, as they met with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in November at his official Sydney residence, Kirribilli House.
The INMA Board of Directors, pictured along with the top executives from News Corp Australia and Nine, as they met with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in November at his official Sydney residence, Kirribilli House.

There is a reason INMA is growing and other associations are not. It goes back to that genesis moment in 1930 when an angry band of news professionals took ownership of the direction of their industry and profession. They rolled up their sleeves and took a stand against reinventing the wheel company by company.

Today, INMA members are carrying forward that torch into the third decade of the 21st century. Thank you for your membership in INMA, and thanks for your continued contributions and trust. 

Here’s to a fantastic 2020 ... and the 90th anniversary of INMA!

About Damian Eales

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