Three media leaders shared their “Brainsnack” success stories on the first day the INMA World Congress with 7-minute presentations from Advance Central Solutions, Grupo Clarín, and The Drum.
Pam Siddall, president of Advance Central Services, took to the stage for INMA’s Brainsnack Seminar to talk about media leadership and how it can positively transform companies.
In 2011, Advance Local experienced a period of decline and had to make a decision: to make either incremental change or radical change.
“We decided to disrupt ourselves,” Siddall said.
The main goal was to build a sustainable, digitally focused model, Siddall said, as well as to grow digital ad revenue at a faster pace than print revenue declined.
The transformation was indeed radical. It led to developing a new culture, new content model, and new sales strategy, along with further developing the company’s core competencies: audience development, strategic planning, sales analytics, talent management, financial analysis, production and facilities solutions and, most importantly, innovative technology use.
The company split into two separate but aligned companies: Advance Local which handles the marketing and digital side of business, and Advance Central Services, which handles the print work and rest of the business.
Siddall described the transformation results five years later. Advance Local now:
- Is the eighth-largest news organisation in the United States with growing traffic in all 50 states.
- Has the No. 1 reach to the markets it serves.
- Has 100 million video views (a 158% increase).
- Has more than 3.1 million Facebook fans.
- Is the No. 1 news organisation in Philadelphia and Detroit — despite not having markets there.
“Who is to say you have to have a print product to go after the digital share?” Siddall asked. “We’re proving that point.”
Advance Central Services and Advance Local continue to invest heavily in key growth opportunities such as mobile, video, data science and consumer insights, audience targeting tools, and, of course, people.
“It’s all about the people and the leadership,” she said. “We changed so much so fast and it all boiled down to the leadership.”
Luis Garcia, corporate strategy manager at Grupo Clarín, also spoke on the topic, describing the transformation of his own company from a newspaper to the largest media conglomerates in Argentina.
He compared the change to that of Darwinism saying that companies have to transition, develop and change: “You have to have sustainability and you have to survive. It’s an evolution.”
Although the company has grown and transformed radically since Garcia joined it 1994, he said the challenges are still similar.
“We have to cope with audience, we have to cope with content, quality content, research, innovation and increasing revenue,” he said. “We have to work with people and leadership.”
Now one of the main challenges Grupo Clarín faces is integration.
“We want to create a digital ecosystem and integration between our companies,” he said. “We have 30 companies.”
Garcia described the importance of reshaping the company’s capabilities in order to maximize the audience’s experience. Part of this is learning to work with Big Data to predict future behaviours.
“We have to put users and audiences first,” he said. “We also have to learn different capabilities.”
Nick Creed, co-founder and digital director of The Drum, ended the Brainsnack seminar by telling of The Drum’s transformation that began seven years ago.
“We were in a bad place six or seven years ago,” he said. “We were overextended; there was a recession and marketing and advertising was changing dramatically.”
The key objective was to break away from the advertising model and develop a product that could stand on its own and could also sail across geographical borders and expand outside of the United Kingdom.
To do this, the company needed to utilise creative solutions: “Creativity is a key part of what we’ve done in recent years,” Creed said.
The company also underwent divisions, which resulted in the development of several different sectors such as:
- The Drum Network, a peer learning effort that helps agencies develop themselves.
- The Drum Research, which is dedicated to the gathering of data.
- The Drum Awards, which gives out 25 awards, including online media, digital and creative awards.
- The Drum Live Events, where companies share and develop new ideas.
Once primarily focused on print, The Drum has come a long way in its transformation and now reports that print accounts for less than 10% of its revenue.
“We were quite static six or seven years ago,” Creed said. “The revenue has grown quite dramatically since we made the changes.”