Connecting a network of regional titles into one national hub has transformed Mexico’s Organización Editorial Mexicana (OEM) and its connection to local communities, Francisco Torres Vázquez, the company’s vice president, told participants during Sunday morning’s pre-conference Brainsnack presentations at the INMA World Congress in Washington, D.C.

Community insights from one title are shared with other companies across the country, Vázquez said. For example, a regional title may write a feature on one of the candidates running for president that is from its community and share the story across the country. Depending on the size of each local newspaper, 30%-60% of its content comes from other titles.

Francisco Torres Vázquez explained how OEM’s agency-like structure empowers journalists to focus on regional issues with national support.
Francisco Torres Vázquez explained how OEM’s agency-like structure empowers journalists to focus on regional issues with national support.

“Our local newspapers, their national section is built from stories of other newspapers,” Vázquez said. “We’re basically our own news agency.”

This model also empowers journalists to invest in their own regions with national support.

“We’re trying to get our newspapers to play around, to know its OK to fail,” he said. “It’s OK to experiment. And if they fail, well, we’ll learn from that also.”

One of the biggest challenges to this transformation has been internal culture, Vázquez said. A new focus on digital has made some staff nervous about the state of print.

For the South China Morning Post (SCMP), cultural transformation has also been a significant hurdle. Mi Li, head of global marketing at SCMP, outlined four pillars in which the company has strived to evolve its digital strategy: cultural transformation, digital transformation, market transformation, identity transformation.

Hiring a new CEO at the South China Morning Post made a big difference in the company’s cultural transformation, according to Mi Li.
Hiring a new CEO at the South China Morning Post made a big difference in the company’s cultural transformation, according to Mi Li.

The company’s cultural transformation started when it hired a new CEO, Gary Liu, last year.

“He was 33-years-old,” Li said. “Asian-American. Digital native. And he also gave up his career in technology industry.”

With a new leader at the helm, SCMP also embarked on a physical transformation in the office. Stairs visibly connect the operation, which currently spans six floors of a building. About 40% of the seating in its new workspaces are high desks or collaboration tables.

“Since we moved to new offices, it has actually helped us become more digital, integrated, agile, but, most importantly, joyful,” Li said.

A digital transformation, with data at the heart of its strategy, gives more insight into the company’s efforts to reach new audiences. Enhanced digital efforts such as a real-time dashboard, partnered with an identity transformation, are driving the company’s goal of reaching readers outside of China.

“We see the potential for our publication to move from a regional paper covering the world, to a global organisation,” she said.

New initiatives aimed at U.S. audiences, called Inkstone and Abacus, are the first of many plans to market SCMP’s value and insights to those across the globe, Li said: “What we’re trying to do here is create a new market of people who probably don’t know much about China, but the China story does matter to them.”