World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers

“Charge or Die”: Juan Señor gives a sneak preview of 2020’s Innovation in News Media World Report.

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“Charge or Die”: Juan Señor gives a sneak preview of 2020’s Innovation in News Media World Report.

By Alysha Chandra

“Overall, the message from all the leaders we spoke to was: don’t waste a good crisis,” said Juan Señor, President of the Innovation Media Consulting Group.

Señor is the co-editor of this year’s Innovation in News Media World Report, which is produced on behalf of WAN-IFRA and will be ready on 1 September.

In this session, moderated by Dean Roper, WAN-IFRA's Director of Insights and Editor-in-Chief, Señor gave a sneak preview into some of the insights from the book. Titled ‘Reimagining the News’, it contains perspectives from 20 leading news publishers and editors, including Mark Thompson of The New York Times and Maria Ressa of Rappler.

While the world may be frozen due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Señor said media leaders should act and not wait for the crisis to pass.

“There is finally a global recognition that independent journalism is valuable and must be paid for. You must seize this moment or lose it forever,” said Señor, stressing that the silver lining in the crisis has been a public more primed to pay for their news.

“In a pandemic, essential services are not free. People are willing to pay for medicine, water, electricity and the internet. There’s no reason why reliable, independent information should not be considered essential and paid for as well,” he said.

Therefore, Señor added, this is the moment to invest in newsrooms and sell journalism instead of ads. With many publishers left with empty advertising space on their websites, he advised that now is the time to be "relentless" on launching a brand campaign reinforcing that message.

"COVID-19 has accelerated not just a digital transformation, but a revenue diversification transformation," said Señor. "COVID-19 has accelerated not just a digital transformation, but a revenue diversification transformation," said Señor. 

Señor acknowledged that many publishers have been lifting paywalls for news concerning the pandemic, but made a distinction between breaking news, which he said is a publisher's responsibility to society and should be free, and deeper analytical pieces, which he said publishers should have the confidence to charge for.

He dismissed predictions that working from home would continue beyond the pandemic, saying that face-to-face journalism, in which reporters meet sources and witness events, is what creates journalism worth paying for. Señor also touched on concerns that working from home would erode work-life balance and lower productivity. 

“Perhaps you can fact-check, or edit from home. But the craft, the profession of journalism is done on the street and is done face-to-face, with editors and with your teammates,” – Juan Señor

Señor also said that every trend before the crisis would accelerate and become a norm, projecting that Australia’s move to require Facebook and Google to share revenue might herald the end of free news for the social media giants.

While social media platforms are making efforts to reach out to traditional media (the Google News Initiative and Facebook Journalism Project sponsored this summit), he said their “dysfunctional’ relationship” needed further mending before global media leaders find a way forward with these platforms.

He advised publishers to only serve "appetisers" on social media platforms, using them to link to their own websites. He highlighted the BBC’s iPlayer as an early adopter of this method. When their content is posted on these platforms, however, Señor told publishers to demand a share of the revenue, and deploy cease and desist notices for content posted without their permission.

Innovation in News Media World Report examines 14 business models .Innovation in News Media World Report examines 14 business models .

Señor referred to 14 business models examined in the report, including the paid content model. He disagreed with the view of some observers that reader revenue might not be enough to sustain the industry.

“We think that many publishers can expect to get up to 50% of their revenues from reader revenue, and it’s growing,” – Juan Señor

Non-profit journalism would come at the cost of a publication’s freedom, he said.

“To be out there searching for money, every single year, perhaps only one or two brands can sustain this going forward. We don’t advise it. Non-profit news means you’ll just become mendicant media, which is not what anyone wants to become,” he said.

Among other business models, Señor mentioned the publisher as a data broker, an exclusive club (as Argentina’s La Nacion has done), a retailer recommender (New York magazine’s the Strategist site offers e-commerce opportunities) and a librarian (capitalising on nostalgia by offering readers stories and pictures from the past, as Canada's Globe and Mail has done with success).

“You must expand on three or four of these business models, but of course really focus on the primary one, which has been our consistent message of innovation to grow your reader revenue. If you don’t do that, it's game over,” – Juan Señor

He also listed 10 paywall models, including micro-membership models like The New York Times’ cooking and crosswords verticals, the adaptive and individualised paywall used by The Wall Street Journal and Svenska Dagbladet, and the premium ad-free paywall seen in the Athletic and the Information.

When it comes to choosing a paywall, first ask what content you have that is worth paying for and would trigger a subscription, he said.

“Change or die, charge or die.”

About the author: Alysha Chandra is a third-year student at Yale-NUS College in Singapore.


WAN-IFRA External Contributor


2020-08-03 06:03

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