The INMA Board of Directors met in Cape Town last week to discuss plans for 2017 and beyond, and I want to give you a first-hand report of what lies ahead.

In addition to the Board meeting, we conducted a Global Media Summit which drew 160+ delegates (photos interspersed below) – perhaps a precursor to further activities in Africa.

Achievements in 2016 

First, despite a media industry in enormous transition, INMA as an organisation is stronger than ever:

  1. We are tipping the scales at 8,000+ members from 614 companies in 63 countries. Membership will grow 5% in 2016!
  2. Some 1,210 people attended INMA conferences, seminars, summits, and study tours in the past year. This marks the second most attendees ever for us.
  3. Our events continue to get extraordinary marks: The average Net Promoter Score for an INMA event in the past year was 32 (which is excellent).
  4. We launched a totally revamped and rethought INMA.org, perhaps the biggest project in INMA’s 86-year history. The scope of the work is breathtaking.
  5. We helped guide and lead the industry conversation with strategic reports on native advertising, the Facebook relationship, distributed content, ad blocking, innovation, and revenue diversification.
  6. Our News Media Outlook report continues to be the ultimate guide to the strategic direction of our industry.
  7. We conducted nearly two dozen presentations to corporate members around the world about trends, providing guidance and advice where needed. We were glad to be a spark.
  8. Our first-ever World Congress in London drew record attendance and engagement.
  9. Entries to the Global Media Awards competition were up 23% this year. 
  10. We continue to lead the media industry with our investments in Big Data: reports, blogs, conferences. 

Through it all, INMA continues to tell the story of a transforming media industry that is embracing change on all fronts: audience, revenue, content, strategy. We want to tell your story!

New initiatives in 2017 

As for 2017, I want to alert you to key decisions from the Cape Town Board meeting that we hope add value for you and your company – and make you proud of the work INMA continues to do: 

  • We will launch a new distance learning initiative offering Webinars and live video chats on best practices in the media industry. 
  • We will introduce new membership classifications for start-ups and universities to infuse INMA with more of a taste of the emerging digital economy and the next generation of bright minds. 
  • We plan on going deeper in offering advisory services to corporate members who ask for a jolt of ideation and strategic direction based on the learnings from the INMA membership network. 
  • We will explore new ways of expanding membership activities deeper into East Asia and Africa.
  • We are aiming to build new bridges to INMA members via an app, messaging services such as WhatsApp, and traditional SMS.

Hot topics in 2017 

The Board, meanwhile, discussed some priority topics for 2017. Among the most discussed: 

  1. Disrupting media agencies: How media companies are (or can) disrupt media agencies. This is already happening, so how can INMA artfully tackle this? 
  2. The fast-evolving use of distributed platforms: Can we do a survey of members to find out how media companies are using Facebook Instant Articles, Google AMP, and Apple News, among other platforms? We have moved beyond the 2016 discussion of “distribute or not distribute” and how to prioritise platforms. This is a fast-developing nuance to the work we did in the past year. 
  3. Diversifying away from the core: Diversifying revenue streams away from the core of media was a big discussion. Why are companies investing outside the core? How are they using cash flow and marketing inventory to diversify? Some are losing and others are gaining valuation because of start-ups, so it is not universally successful. Moreover, some shareholders are insisting on 100% P&L success for every unit and don’t want those profits to subsidise journalism. 
  4. Digital subscriptions: With some Board members openly questioning whether advertising is a viable business model in 5-10 years, there was deep discussion about the necessity of paid digital subscriptions. Strategically, media companies must drive home in the consumer’s mind that content has value – just as we are seeing beyond media such as Netflix, Spotify, and the WWE, among others. Some media companies have begun to shift from metered paywalls to a freemium model, sparking a lot of talk – mainly around the reasons why and content economics’ Achilles Heels. 
  5. Best practices in native advertising: INMA should continue to burrow deeper into who’s doing native advertising correct. Several companies were highlighted as “best practices,” and we aim to surface those in the year ahead. Meanwhile, should advertisers create their own native advertising? 
  6. Virtual reality: Board members expressed enthusiasm for how virtual reality (VR) is being used in real estate with VR tours around buildings that don’t yet exist. Research suggests 300% better sales as a result of VR. How can that VR story be told across editorial and commercial parts of a news media company? What is practical in 2017? 
  7. “Who will be Number 3?” This subject came up throughout the Board meeting as Google and Facebook dominate the advertising market. How can media companies band together, country by country, to be the third player? A common ad exchange among New Zealand media players was particularly cited. 
  8. Value of news brands: A big over-arching theme was the value of news brands in the age of distributed content.
  9. Advertiser misconceptions: Confronting advertising misconceptions was another key topic discussed relative to the shaky digital numbers worldwide. Platform data has been shaky. CMOs are buying videos on some platforms without sound. The validity of measurements legacy publishers are competing against was called into question. We need to call out marketing metrics and focus on business outcomes down the purchasing funnel. 
  10. Unique values of media: What unique values do media companies have when trust is called into question and companies and sports club can do their own reporting on themselves?

Key events in 2017 

INMA is planning a robust agenda of conferences, events, and study tours in the year ahead. Here is what we know as of this moment: 

  • Global Media Awards: The ultimate competition for media excellence in growing revenue, audience, and brand has a deadline of January 27. Awards will be presented at the Harvard Club in New York May 23. 
  • Big Data For Media Week: Slated for London February 20-24, look for a study tour followed by an ideas exchange at the Financial Times and punctuated with a conference at Reuters headquarters in Canary Wharf. 
  • World Congress of News Media: INMA’s signature event will be May 21-23 at the TimesCenter in New York, including a pre-conference study tour and topical seminars, the formal conference on strategy and trends, an exclusive opening reception at the Museum of Modern Art, and a closing dinner at the Harvard Club. 
  • Media Viking Week: A two-day study tour of Stockholm and Oslo media innovators will be followed by a local media seminar and the European News Media Conference.
  • Silicon Valley Study Tour: We are aiming for an October Silicon Valley Study Tour and will reach out to members at the end of the first quarter to measure the direction we want to take the tour. 

Beyond these activities, we will soon announce dates and locations for conferences in Latin America, North America, and South Asia.

Conclusions 

If it sounds as if the Cape Town Board meeting was a window on the world of issues facing news media companies … it was. It was a meaty two days of discussions about our fast-changing industry, how INMA can affect the conversation, and how best to structure INMA for that conversation in the years to come. 

INMA will continue to share ideas and inspire change in the news media industry. We hope we live up to the high expectations of members everywhere. 

Thank you for your continued support, engagement, and interest in INMA activities. Feel free to reach out to me directly if you ever have questions, comments, or would like to get involved with our many initiatives.

Looking forward to a fantastic 2017!

P.S.: Click here to view Cape Town Summit photos, and click here to view the very interesting Twitter feed.