News media companies around the world are reassessing their business models. With that comes crucial culture shifts that will drive companies’ future growth, executives told the audience at INMA’s World Congress on Monday.

Creating a culture of data is not about replacing the key aspects of a company’s current culture, Frederic Kachar, director general of Infoglobo, said.

“We come from a legacy company based on intuition and creativity, and these things are still important but they have to be submitted to metrics to analytics,” he said.

Maribel Perez Wadsworth of USA Today, Frederic Kachar of Infoglobo, Stephen Dunbar-Johnson of The New York Times, and Greg Hywood of Fairfax Media discuss business models with the INMA audience.
Maribel Perez Wadsworth of USA Today, Frederic Kachar of Infoglobo, Stephen Dunbar-Johnson of The New York Times, and Greg Hywood of Fairfax Media discuss business models with the INMA audience.

By shifting from a platform-oriented team to one focused on digital and paid premium content, news media companies will lose barriers between print and digital. This gives the staff an opportunity to focus on the quality of content itself and creates space for what Kachar calls an “obsession for metrics.”

Led by metrics, Infoglobo reduced the number of articles it produced per month and focused content creation efforts earlier in the morning. This refocus on content paid off, Kachar said: “We became the leaders of both page views and visitors.”

Using data and audience insights to drive decisions is one of the most transformative things USA Today Network has done, Maribel Perez Wadsworth, the company’s president, said. By creating proprietary tools to give all its staff access to data, the company found that decreasing 50% of its content production would only result in a loss of 4%-6% of its audience.

“That is a lot of opportunity to refocus and realign your resources,” Wadsworth said.

Realigning resources gives news media companies the power to put journalism at the heart of its operations. Metrics that guide the future of journalism are invaluable as companies decide where to invest time and money, said Stephen Dunbar-Johnson, president/ international at The New York Times.

“It’s investing in quality journalism that is the core piece of what we do. It is our north star metric,” Dunbar-Johnson said.

The intent to build a business with strong journalism at its core was a theme that resonated across the presentations.

“Our central mission is one that’s very much tied to our journalism,” Wadsworth said. “That’s where we invest, that clearly will always be a part of our company’s DNA.”

As advertising revenues continue to waver, an investment in journalism cements the value of news media companies in their communities. Across the world, media organisations experiment with revenue diversification that leverages current assets.

At The New York Times, a massive audience and strong global products creates a unique opportunity, Dunbar-Johnson said: “We are not really transforming our business model. We are adapting our business model.”

Legacy publishers across the globe are repositioning themselves as they work to diversify their portfolios. For Fairfax Media, legacy media also built a legacy of costs that had to be scaled back before transformation, Greg Hywood, the company’s chief executive officer, said. Once the budget was streamlined, the company was able to focus on growing non-print revenue.

“Fundamentally, we got a point where we’ve taken a very traditional model of newspapers with advertising and print subscriptions and created a new model with a variety of different revenue streams,” Hywood said.

Advertisers once valued scale, but as news media companies become more personalised to audiences, news media companies must reevaluate how it values its readers and its own offerings.

“We are not mass media anymore,” Wadsworth said. “We are not all things to all people.”