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One simple element you’re missing could double your impact

09 December 2013 · By Anette Novak

The news media industry sells itself short by denying a meaningful voice to women, who not only comprise half of humanity but also control two-thirds of U.S. spending power, according to recent research.

What if I said you were missing half of your target group? Would you listen?

What if I could show you they are the most positive, the most active, and the most influential? Would you believe me?

What if I said you can start attending to the needs of this crowd with some simple measures? Would you act?

While news media business fights for survival, there are other industries thriving on our quest for answers, making money on the thirst for a sustainable business model for quality journalism. I have not been able to find a global number representing the turnover on media conferences. But my gut feeling – and the fact that ad sales companies and management consultants are turning into conference organisers as we speak – is that this segment of the meeting industry is exploding.

  • “We bring together leaders of global media groups.”

  • “Hear the latest research.”

  • “Connect, network, explore…”

Amid this constantly increasing flood of invitations, I received one the other day that managed to catch my eye. It was from “Digital Media Strategies 2014,” sent from what seemed to be a private e-mail account.

The list of keynotes was impressive:

The way the organisers managed to simply exclude half of humanity’s input provoked me so much that I invested my time in writing them an answer: “Dear Tim, Thank you for the invitation. I hope that I must not deduce from the speakers list that this is an all-male conference.”

I got a swift reply from Dan Williamsson (above), who took full responsibility, but managed to:

  1. Tell me I was wrong, that there actually were two women on the keynote list.

  2. Ask me why he had not been able to create a more balanced agenda.

  3. Suggest I share my thoughts on gender balance in the boardroom so that “Jasper” could present them at the conference.

I won’t tire you by continuing to quote our conversation. Suffice it to say I am still puzzled as to what the organiser meant when he explained that “since they are high-level strategic topics, the only people who can effectively speak on these issues are usually at a board/director level.”

My goal is not to publicly shame anyone, but to be transparent about the actual event in an attempt to wake up this industry. Guys, more than half of humanity consists of women. Thus, half of your audiences (at least) are women.

But it’s not just any half. It’s the part of your audience most likely to act on newspaper advertising. They have a more positive attitude – and reading advertisements “helps them with purchase decisions.”

If you are still not convinced that you must stop ignoring and instead prioritise women, contemplate this fact: Women’s spending power is increasing and, according to Fleishman-Hillard Inc., women will control two-thirds of the consumer wealth in the United States over the next decade.

Convinced? Then a brilliant first step would be to recruit women to top management and board positions. If you tend to a female audience, what would be more strategic than to have them on your side? Don’t know where to find them? Try Equalisters,  the brilliant Swedish initiative led by Lina Thomsgård (@LinaT) that crowd-sources expertise in the domain of your choice.

Are you a man who wishes to contribute but you don’t know how: Copy the intelligent and modern Swedish trio of Internet researcher Marcin de Kaminski (@dekaminski), journalist and blogger Fredrik Wass (@bisonblog), and Sydsvenskan op-ed writer Thomas Frostberg (@thomasfrostberg). They recently started the campaign #tackanej (Translation from Swedish: #sayno), urging men to refuse to participate in all-male panels.

So, the next time you get an invitation and notice that half of humanity is not represented, just #sayno.

Update: I am delighted to announce that since my December blog post, the Digital Media Strategies conference has confirmed the following speakers:

  • Denise Warren, executive vice president/digital products & services, New York Times.

  • Anna Jones, chief operating officer, Hearst Magazines, UK.

  • Rochelle King, senior vice president/sser experience, Spotify.

The organisers also soon hope to confirm Kelly Leach, managing editor/Europe, Middle East, Africa, for Dow Jones.

What an impressive speaker’s list!

And what a strong indication that this conference wants to attract both male and female participants.

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About this blog

I am Anette Novak, CEO of Interactive Institute Swedish ICT, which conducts world-class applied research and innovation, creating groundbreaking user experiences. Also, I am an international media consultant, World Editors Forum board member, gourmet, long distance runner and Francophile – mainly because the Parisians walk and talk as fast as I do. I am former editor-in-chief of the Swedish regional media house Norran. I believe in digital opportunities for publishers, open innovation. The future belongs to media companies that are able to maintain the trust of the audience, who define themselves as active community players, and who are able to create amazing experiences.


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