Surviving the crisis requires two actions: Transform. Innovate.
In today’s multi media landscape, transformation and innovation aren’t options but requirements — part of a sustainable business model — to build a loyal relationship with an audience that is young and commodified.
Media management, says Barbie L. Atienza, should therefore accept that the market has changed and embrace rather than resist the new medium. She is the external affairs head of Manila Bulletin and president of United Print Media Group Philippines.
“Now, how to optimize the use of this new platform leveraging on our traditional strengths is something we have to explore and exploit,” she said, citing a “need to decide to take new actions and new mindsets, keep ourselves open and grab opportunities as we find them, regardless of whether they are tested and proven or not.”
“We need to decide to be bold, be adventurous and take risks in trying out new configurations,” she added.
But developing a digital strategy requires a clear understanding of the “competitive advantages,” explains Gregor Waller of the WAN-IFRA Media Management Accelerator Program”
This means publishers have to broaden their understanding of competitors (traditional and startups), he said, as well as develop their flexibility and agility to learn fast from failures, and boost reaction time stresses.
Waller is the principal global advisory consultant for WAN-IFRA’s Digital Revenue Strategy & Diversification course.
A number of media companies around the world have transformed newsrooms, workflows and even ways of producing the news.
When Amazon’s Jeff Bezos bought the The Washington Post in 2013, he inherited a culture of “rejecting anything new that disturbs the process of print publication because we don’t have the time, the resource or the budgets,” and he replaced it with a culture that “embraces new ideas, evaluates them professionally and is willing to test those innovations on top of the day-to-day operation.”
Three years after the culture change, The Washington Post was recorded producing 1,200 digital journalistic pieces per day with an editorial staff of close to 700.
Newsrooms operate based on models that provide the best revenue possibility for its various publishing products.
The tried and tested circulation and advertising business model worked with print media, but as readers in the Internet era began shifting to digital platforms, advertisers quickly followed.
Publishers around the world have, since then, been grappling for new ones — from the online advertising model, which helps keep content free, to the paid content model, which includes subscription, pay-per-use, single editions, and bundles.
Making headway in the paid digital channels are The Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times.
Other business models include: e-commerce, club membership, syndication, data business and events.
In Slovakia, several newspapers are experimenting on a shared-payment scheme. For a certain amount, participating publishers unlock premium content and features across all sites.
Tomas Bella of Piano, the company that developed the scheme, said readers will pay for content if they find it convenient to do so.
The New York Times and The Daily Telegraph of Britain have launched wine clubs, while Canada’s The Globe and Mail offers branded cruises. Other newspapers also host conferences and events.
Another model is based on donations. National Public Radio in the US is partly funded by pledges, drives and donations. Pro Publica has the same strategy, supplemented by syndication. The Guardian is also heavily pushing a donation strategy.
However, the question remains: which of the business models, if any, will work? No one is certain; but it is clear that revenue from online advertising alone will not be enough to cover the costs of running a traditional news organization.
Traditional media, specifically the print media, will continue to face constant upheaval, but those in the industry argue that news is a special case.
Media may be a commercial enterprise, but it plays an important part in a democratic system.
“People want you to think that newspapering is ‘everyone is working on the next Watergate,” Clay Shirky, a media guru at the New York University, told The Economist in a recent interview.
But, most of the time, it is not. Accountability journalism has been subsidized by other activities. So finding a new model to support journalism is in the interest of society as a whole.
But is finding the right business model enough for newspapers, especially the community press, to survive the technological turmoil?
Hermann Petz, author of the German language book “The newspaper is Dead, Long Live the Newspaper,” pointed out several key points in favor of newspapers.
Among them is the fact that print ads are the only ads that people don’t oppose or find intrusive, and they are also the ones the people actually use. He cites coupons as example.
Newspapers, Petz said, will survive if they provide people with news that is meaningful and relevant to a community. He said 95 percent of people spend 95 percent of their time within an area of 25 kilometers.
“This is why regional information is so important. Real people, with real context within your region,” Petz said.
He pointed out there is a big difference between articles generated by an algorithm or by people from the region. Petz thinks regional publishers stand an especially good chance in the future—“if we fill the niches, then I think newspapers will have a long future.”