Knowledge Bridge

Global Intelligence for the Digital Transition

INMA European News Media Conference in Berlin

Over the past week, MDIF and its European clients attended the International News Media Marketing Association’s (INMA) annual European News Media Conference held in Berlin on October 23rd and 24th.   Large global news conferences can be a challenge for smaller publishers with only a single or at best a handful of related properties.  These media companies are presented with impressive examples of experiments from the world’s largest and richest media companies.  Millions of euros spent on subscription systems at the New York Times Company or on comprehensive data solutions at Schibsted are usually beyond the means of the individual, independent publisher.  But these investments provide some clues to the tools that every publisher will want to consider as part of their multiplatform (print, TV or radio and digital) future.

Both on the speaker’s dais and among participants, there were several clear themes for news media publishers – “big data”, paid content, branding for news media, content packaging for targeted audiences, as well as clever approaches to creating new revenue from print.  All of these themes support the view presented by Earl Wilkinson, INMA global CEO during his closing presentation.  Wilkinson underscored that digital is here to stay.  The presentation, distribution and management techniques characterized by successful digital media companies will progressively dominate in the media management world.  Wilkinson emphasized that the adoption and evolution of these techniques are at different stages of development around the world.  But in every case, digital content creation and distribution and the supporting tools will be the key to future success in digital as well as print.

First among the digital themes has to be “big data” and its role in developing advertising and audience.  Frode Eilersten, Schibsted’s newly appointed Executive Vice President for Strategy and Digital Transformation presented the media group’s investment in data acqInnuisition and analysis to support advertising sales, product development and marketing.  Eilersten who recently joined Schibsted from US consultancy McKinsey highlighted the investment required in data acquisition and analytics, but also the need to build an internal business culture to make use of the data to solve complex business problems.  Data in particular was the “secret sauce” in advertising networks that allowed a publishing company to create extra value from the advertising presented to their audience.  Data and research was presented as one of the required success factors in the development and launch of paid content at sites as different as the New York Times and the TB+ premium content model developed by Tønsbergs Blad, from a small town southeast of Olso.

Content marketing or native advertising was another important area of discussion.  In content marketing, the role of advertiser and publisher are increasingly blurred. Advertisers are now supplying, choosing or at a minimum approving content for publication on news media websites in exchange for an “advertising” fee.   The advertiser recognizes that strong editorial brands offer special “brand benefits” to their audience.  By associating themselves closing with strong news brands, advertisers enhance their own brand credibility and recognition.  There were many potential implications of this discussion.  The movement of advertisers to create their own media and sidestep news media for brand advertising was one important implication.  Bennetton’s Colours magazine or Google’s advertising and marketing quarterly Think+ were cited as examples of this trend.  For publishers, content marketing creates the need for a clear and well articulated plan for how to create and present “advertiser content” in order to maintain the overall credibility of the news brand.  Finally, speakers highlighted how publishers will increasingly need to think about investing in the brand of their news media in order to create value in the publishing brand not in just the audience for an individual story.

Finally, the conference came back to its roots and presented some interesting programs to enhance the reception and profitability of the printed product.  Two examples of this approach stood out.  First, presenters from Die Welt Kompakt and NRC.Next presented content packages developed to target young professionals.  But other examples targeting children as well as women reminded the conference that targeted content well-delivered can still create an audience attractive to advertisers.   The second approach to the product development came from Sandy MacLeod, Vice President Consumer Marketing and Strategy at The Toronto Star who presented several examples of well researched and well delivered content products like improved TV guides and puzzle books provided for a price.  MacLeod made the compelling case that there is still revenue available for the print product, if you look for it.

The INMA European News Media Conference provided a wealth of examples for regional media companies to pursue.  For many in the audience the challenge is how to minimize the risk to developing, customizing these models to their different media markets.  For large companies like Schibsted, Axel Springer or Sanoma Corp, there are ample corporate profits available to experiment without too much risk.  Internally these companies have the ability to raise internal start-up capital and to recruit and train media managers with digital capabilities.   The challenge for smaller companies lies in finding resources, both talent and capital, to develop experiments.  But the need to continually experiment, measure, improve or discontinue new products was presented repeatedly as one of the fundamental requirements to success in the emerging multiplatform world of news media.

Article by Ross Settles

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