Dozens of ways of staying in the news media business

How many business models does a news publisher need so a news publisher can publish news? The modern riddle brought at least two answers at the second day of Publish Asia in Singapore.

Innovation Media partner Juan Senor presented 13 options - of which a publisher needed at least three - in a quick-fire presentation of his updated 304-slide stack, but found himself trumped at the end of the afternoon by Raju Narisetti with 22.

Senor argues you need at least three of his 13, with paid content publish at the top of the list: "If in 2019 you are not charging for digital content, you should not be in publishing, let alone journalism," he says, confirming pricing consultant Jochen Krauss's message from the previous day that a choice of three subscriptions offers is harder to reject.

"If in 2019, you are not asking readers for their data or their dollars, it's game over," Senor says.

Giving content away for free was the industry's "original sin", he says, adding that anything that generates value should generate revenue. He quotes GQ editor Dylan Jones that "we are at the corner of people realising that we are at the corner of people realizing that if you want quality journalism, you have to pay for it and you have to seek it out" and a Deloitte study that by the end of 2020 the average number of digital subscriptions a reader would take might reach four.

Reader revenue should be 40 per cent. There's a caveat however - and Narisetti is among others who also mention it - that the content should be worth paying for, requiring a transformation to 'journalism first' newsrooms.

Among those also on Senor's list are the publisher as "emotional advertiser", and as a club; reader recommendations; festivals; philanthropy (as recipient); as branded content agency; turning "clicks to clocks" to sell engagement by the hour; brand licensing, Forbes-style; as IT provider, selling algorithms like Amazon and Arc; and as educator.

Senor also makes the case for innovation in print to create a premium product for which you charge perhaps five times what you do today. "Print may not be the long-term answer, but it's part of tomorrow's solution," he says.

Later Raju Narisetti (pictured) - now a professor at Columbia University after a career which has included heading Gizmodo, founding India's Mint business newspaper, and time as strategy head at News Corp and of its Wall Street Journal digital network - also looked at ways media companies could grow and sustain journalism.

He urged publishers to "own the challenge" that print was "not going away any time soon", and leverage it to help digital which, he said, "will be a growing major revenue source, but not always for you".

He warned not to expect subscriptions to solve everything, and urged "other ways to make more".

"If you can generate seven or eight, even nine or ten different revenue streams for what you are doing in the newsroom, you can have a growing business," he said. In Narisetti's list of 22 streams were membership, events and more, but also e-commerce, management expertise, translation, newsletters, archives and a focus on young audiences.

The unassuming chief editor and chief executive of "Europe's first personalized mobile news site", Stig Jakobsen calls in on Singapore to tell delegates about iTromsø, which pitches a customized product to readers in a Norwegian "snow hole" of 76,000 inhabitants.

"The technology was pretty much there," he says. "We just let Big Data decide."

In this context, it doesn't hurt that data specialist Cxense Insight is part of the group of more than 30 newspapers, "plus 20 we just bought".

Jakobsen says he remembers reading printed newspapers when he was younger: "Each of us in the family with Aftenposten, each of us would choose a favourite section, and then swap."

iTromsø responds to trending stories as well as a reader's history, and uses "collaborative filtering" with a manual override so that readers get the stories an editor thinks they should. Read stories are removed - though there is a feature to allow them to be shown to a third party - and personalisation can be turned off... but seldom is.

Traffic has increased nine per cent, and Jakobsen says the average time spent has increased per story has increased from 22 to 28 seconds, 31 per cent more. An experiment with, which critically has fewer stories, was less successful.

SPH's Ernest Luis and Mamamia content head Holly Wainwright - two publishers at different stages in podcast development - also shared learnings in the second day of the conference.

"The main goal is to connect with the person on the other side," said Luis, "with average listing time in Singapore typically just five minutes and tailored to commuter timings. Listeners are increasingly young, mostly 18-35, and we have a growing overseas reach."

He urged publishers not to skimp on equipment, budgeting SG$20,000 or more with microphones very important. "People won't listen if the quality sucks," he said.

The Australian women's website, which started as Mia Freedman's 2007 blog, has been producing podcasts for four years and appears to have struck gold, with 62 million downloads (54 million of them by women). More on this here.

In a discussion after their presentations, Wainwright said she thought subscription for podcasts "was coming" but warned that it needed serious effort and commitment.

WAN-Ifra's next major events for Asia are Digital Media Asia in Hong Kong in November, and a digital marketing seminar in Kuala Lumpur from August 6-7.

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