7 lessons from interviewing 7 news media innovators

To learn about publishing and its future, speaking with those involved in the frontline is a must. At the Digital Growth Summit 2021, we held exclusive interviews with 7 leaders from publishers including Le Monde, Le Parisien and The Times, to ask them:

  • What has been the most unexpected change in the news industry over the past 10 years?
  • How can publishers remain independent from big tech?
  • What will the news industry look like in 10 years time?

1. Alliances to remain relevant

Sophie Cassam Chenaï Director of Digital at Le Parisien, a long-standing customer and innovation partner of Twipe, said the publishing industry needs to take a broader perspective on future decisions.

In doing this, Sophie emphasised that we need to see more alliances between media companies. A key reason for this is the comparative size difference between big tech and publishers. Despite their best efforts, publishers will never be as big as big tech. But, publishers can assure a bigger independence if they remain very good in their own domain and work together. This message of collaboration struck to the core of DGS and provides hope.

We have already seen the start of these alliances being built within the industry. In June 2021, the publishing industry saw almost 30 publishers in Denmark come together to form an alliance against big tech. The publishers came together to make sure that the US tech giants pay for their news and provide them with a fair price for their quality journalism. In doing this, the alliance hope that the tech giants will not be able to divide and conquer. The initiative of the Danish Alliance is based on the foundations of the EU copyright directive. This directive gives news publishers the right to claim revenues for online use of their material, ensuring a fair deal for publishers.

Monitoring the success of this alliance and future alliances across the world will be intriguing to follow as the global population grows more aware of the role of big tech.

2. NFTs will change the world as we know it

Steven van Belleghem believed that the next 10 years will see a new form of technology taking over. The next 10 years for him will change with the role of NFTs. Not only will they change the way publishers create, but Steven predicts they will change the relationship between brands and customers forever. NFTs are expected to drive a new form of customer loyalty and create a branded economy.

I’m convinced that in 2030, NFTs are going to be part of the world just like mobile.

Steven van Belleghem, Thought Leader and Author

This economy could be particularly interesting as when companies do well, so will their customers. Alan Hunter, former Head of Digital at The Times and Sunday Times, added that customer loyalty will be vital, therefore the number one thing publishers must do to thrive is to focus on user needs by becoming more data literate and product centric.

Jakub Parusinski, Editor of The Fix, hoped that in 10 years’ time, technology will be changed forever. Instead of discussing the eradication of print, something that has been discussed for well over 10 years, he believes that we will be discussing the next transition. In this transition, Jakub foresees a more diverse employee base with more space for creatives, along with tech and solution players. The face of news could really change.

I hope that in 10 years we will no longer be talking about how it was like to have a print newspaper and how this transition has been painful.

Jakub Parusinski, Editor at the Fix

3. Formats will continue to be at the forefront for future generations

CTO/CIO of Le Monde Sacha Morard highlighted that to get ahead in the next 10 years, technological innovation is key. For him, innovation is crucial in serving information correctly to readers. Moreover, Sacha argued that technological innovation will help publishers to evolve their product as the market evolves. Le Monde have long been a hub of innovation. They innovated their offering and co-created a 1:1 Replica product with a fully automated workflow with Twipe.

Within this product innovation, Sophie Cassam Chenaï pointed out that new formats have been crucial to past success and will be crucial to the next 10 years in news. It is beyond doubt for her that these formats will all be digital and fundamental to winning the confidence of readers. Sophie hopes that in 10 years’ time, we will have a world where media companies are going to win the confidence of their readers with quality content, new formats and an economically viable model.

These new formats will be vital to winning over the future generations, who after all are the ones who will be consuming the news of the next 10 years. Emma Tucker pointed out that we must think about how these generations will consume their news when building these news formats. The days of a headline and text being the foundations of news may be over. Instead, Emma suggests that audio could be a vital tool to winning the next generation in the next 10 years.

4. Mobile has been the biggest disruptor over the past 10 years

Changes in the news industry have been widespread over the last 10 years. We have seen the rise and fall of the tablet, the astronomic take-off of social media and mobile, and of course COVID! The growth of mobile, however, has been the big one.

The progression of mobile has gone far beyond our own expectations according to Steven van Belleghem, Thought Leader and Author. Steven explained that the mobile-first world has had a significant impact on our habits. After all, habits are a key aspect of why consumers act as they do and they are something crucial for future success for all companies, fighting for attention.

The fact that we now live in a mobile only world has really changed our day to day habits and really changed the way companies have to relate to their customers.

Steven van Belleghem, Though Leader and Author

Interestingly, Steven added that mobile has changed the way companies must appeal to customers. This has been evident not just in the development of mobile apps, but through social media, audio and many other tools. Being mobile ready has been key to the past, and will continue to be key to the future.

5. Content distribution has diversified

With the growth of mobile and digital platforms, the way content is consumed and distributed has diversified. Maxime Rezé, Head of Digital Product at Ouest-France who launched their Digital Only “Edition du Soir” with Twipe back in 2013, suggested that this diversification of content distribution has been the biggest change over the last 10 years.

For Maxime, this is because publishers do not feel like they are the only ones who expose their own content. With wider digital capacity and greater sharing potential on social media and beyond, content control has been lost by publishers. Now, publishers see their content being spread across platforms and aggregators. Importantly, this has sometimes been without consent.

There are giant tech groups that are exposing our content, but sometimes without consent.

Maxime Rezé, Head of Digital Product at Ouest-France

This signals a growth in the power of big tech and external actors over the past 10 years. This power has grown beyond the wildest imaginations of many. Monitoring their growth and influence over the coming years will be important for the future of publishing.

6. Editions the tool to combat tech giants?

Talking of big tech, publishers are faced with the challenge of how to define their relationship. The way publishers have interacted with big tech has been varied, and this issue is something bound to hit the heart of publishing.

Alan Hunter, highlighted that this is the biggest challenge facing publishers. The challenge is more difficult since tech giants are becoming the primary destination for their users. This has been easy for them as the majority of the global population are these users. Big tech have truly become a part of consumers’ everyday lives.

Providing a state of the art user experience for news is something that can set publishers out from the crowd. For him, tech giants can’t match this experience due to their nature of being aggregators. Therefore, Alan argued that publishers must make sure that their edition or publication experience is at the forefront of their digital strategies. Alan was careful to highlight that publishers must also be data literate to do this and understand their users needs.

I think this is the decade of data.

Alan Hunter, former Head of Digital at The Times and The Sunday Times

Emma Tucker, Editor at The Sunday Times, complimented this. She explained that the beauty of publishing is being able to offer an edition product, vital for creating reader habits. This is something which Emma believes will be crucial because people like to know they are getting something they can finish. Her belief is that more publishers will move towards an edition-based system as they grow conscious about what they are putting out and when. The edition therefore has a significant part to play in the future battle with big tech.

7. Brand identity key for future success

Branding has always been a tool that has been at the core of publishers. Beyond their journalism, publishers are institutions that have built their reputation over many years. Staying true to this brand and keeping it at the core of future missions will be a necessity for future success.

Alan Hunter underlined that looking into what a brand stands for is key for future values. Despite the shift to digital, publishers are still newspapers and have a duty to report accurate fact based news. To maintain their independence, publishers must therefore define what their brand stands for. Journalism must remain the core concept.

I think you will find a lot more publishers moving towards an edition based system.

Emma Tucker, Editor at The Sunday Times

Emma Tucker furthered this, underlining that the relationship between publisher and subscriber is key. She explained that this relationship is far greater than that between big tech and their users as the relationship has been built over a longer period of time. Being clear about brand identity therefore provides a key differentiator between publishers and big tech.

Matthew Lynes
Media Innovation Analyst @ Twipe

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