Disrupted in disruption: Insights from INMA’s World Congress of News Media 2024

“You probably have only just recovered from the first wave of digital disruptions, and now that disruption is being disrupted.”

This is how Robert Whitehead, Digital Platform Initiative Lead at INMA, succinctly summarised the state of the news industry during the CEO panel. Needless to say, the news media world is faced with multiple concurrent challenges. The INMA World Congress hosted 600+ publishing and news media leaders to discuss the latest trends and challenges for the industry in the upcoming years.

We’ve identified four macro challenges for the media industry from the discussions held at INMA’s World Congress. They are: 

  • Maintaining and growing consumer revenue where the shift to digital subscriptions “at all costs” is making the news a “niche product for the elites” and not “essential” to people, according to Earl Wilkinson, INMA’s Executive Chairman.
  • Understanding and implementing GenAI is a double-edged sword for publishers with the potential to transform or disrupt news media and society as we know it.
  • The growing importance of content-based advertising.
  • Managing digital transformation to both serve audiences from different generations and retain talent.

In this article, we break these complex topics down and share the key takeaways and best practices from the conference.

Source: INMA

The Mission of News Media – Balancing Trust, Influence, and Monetisation

Today’s news media is tasked with maintaining trust, exerting influence, and ensuring sustainable monetization.

In his opening remarks, Earl Wilkinson, INMA’s Executive Chairman, questioned whether the current focus on digital subscriptions might restrict journalism’s reach to wealthier demographics, potentially diminishing its societal impact. Wilkinson proposed that while journalistic content should remain the core mission, media companies might need to monetize non-news content to support their financial sustainability.

Source: INMA

Il Sole 24 Ore, Italy’s leading financial newspaper, is an excellent example of successfully implementing this approach.

As CEO Mirja Cartia D’Asero described, her company is coping well with the changing media landscape. It has a range of revenue streams, including 40% from publishing, 40% from advertising, and 20% from other businesses.

Its parent company now makes 25% of overall revenue from professional services, providing tools and databases for various professions, including lawyers, public servants, and doctors, and acting as a trusted party to verify the “Made in Italy” label.

In a masterclass of public speaking, Mathias Döpfner, CEO of Axel Springer, also touched on the crucial role of impartiality in journalism to maintain and rebuild trust.

With bias being one of the main reasons for news avoidance, he criticized the blurring lines between journalism and activism, advocating for a transparent, unbiased approach that empowers readers to form their opinions.

He argued that this is essential for media brands to retain credibility and loyalty and ultimately build a sustainable news business.

Strategic AI Implementation in Media

A live survey during the congress revealed that 70% of attendees currently use GenAI to produce transcripts and summaries. In comparison, 60% use it for generating headlines and optimizing SEO, with many publishers like Schibsted already experimenting with trained AIs for audio articles. This quick survey shows the quick adoption of GenAI in media companies.

Neil Jacobstein from Singularity University emphasized the exponential growth and democratization of AI technologies in media and, more broadly, society, setting the stage for a deeper discussion on AI’s transformative role in journalism. Jacobstein highlighted the importance of maintaining a balanced view of AI’s capabilities and limitations, cautioning against the surrounding hype.

Following this, David Caswell of StoryFlow articulated how generative AI is entering a second era in journalism, akin to the widespread impact of electricity in the late 1800s. This era is characterized by the accessibility of AI tools that require no technical expertise, significantly altering newsroom operations and audience engagement. AI’s integration into media has evolved from simple automation, like the Associated Press automating business news, to more sophisticated applications, such as Rappler’s AI dialogue moderator, for interactive audience discussions.

Caswell predicts that the industry will rapidly approach a third era of AI, which could fundamentally alter journalism’s business models and disrupt traditional media structures. This forthcoming phase will likely explore new infrastructures and processes, potentially redefining how news is produced and consumed.

Source: INMA

Transformative Business Models and Advertising Strategies in Digital Publishing

The INMA World Congress highlighted significant shifts in the economic foundations of the publishing industry, particularly in how digital transformations and innovative advertising strategies are integrated into business models.

Mathias Döpfner of Axel Springer discussed a groundbreaking approach to leveraging digital assets, marking a potential pivot point for the industry. Under his leadership, Axel Springer secured a landmark agreement with OpenAI, where the tech giant compensates the publisher for using its content and data to train large language models. “I found it urgent that someone who wants to use our data has to pay for it,” Döpfner noted, revealing the negotiations led by OpenAI’s Sam Altman that culminated in a significant deal. This arrangement provides a new revenue stream and sets a precedent in the industry, underscored by similar recent agreements, like that of the Financial Times with OpenAI. Döpfner regards this move as potentially the most transformative phase in media, comparing it to his realizations about digital media in 1995 and mobile’s dominance in 2011.

On the advertising front, Jonathan Roberts from Dotdash Meredith outlined their effective formula for digital publishing success: faster websites, the best content, and no bad ads. This approach prioritizes user experience and engagement, which is crucial as advertising shifts from volume-based to value-based models. Roberts emphasized the importance of first-party data in crafting targeted advertising that eschews traditional cookie-based methods for more sustainable, content-based strategies. By enhancing ad quality and focusing on meaningful content, Dotdash Meredith sets a standard for how publishers can maintain financial viability while upholding journalistic integrity in a digital age.

Transforming the Newsroom – Generational Dynamics

Monocultures slowly kill company growth.

Tomasz Grabowski, Board member of Agora SA

Tomasz Grabowski’s (Board member of Agora SA) insights at the INMA World Congress highlighted the imperative for newsrooms to bridge generational gaps, fostering an environment where diverse age groups can significantly contribute to the media industry’s evolution. He outlined several key takeaways:

  1. Product Fit Across Generations: News products should cater to diverse age groups, offering “different flavors” to ensure relevance across the generational spectrum. This approach enhances user engagement by tailoring content and presentation to varied preferences and consumption habits.
  2. Talent Retention: Organizations thrive when they foster environments where intergenerational relationships are encouraged – people stay for people. Emphasizing human connections within the workplace can decrease turnover and increase job satisfaction.
  3. Positive Impact on Operations: Aligning the specific strengths and work preferences of different generations within various roles and tasks can optimize operations, making the workflow more efficient and adaptive.
  4. Improvement of Business Resilience: Diverse generational perspectives can enrich strategic directions and crisis management, offering a broader range of solutions and resilience in facing industry challenges.

With an unprecedented five generations consuming news, Grabowski highlighted the unique opportunity to leverage this diversity to drive creativity and innovation. He suggested implementing cross-generational mentorship programs and collaborative teams to synergize the varied approaches to technology and communication. These strategies can help organizations balance traditional techniques with digital-first strategies, fostering a more adaptable and innovative workplace.

During the editors’ panel, Alex Wood Morton, executive editor of Fortune in Europe, emphasized the entrepreneurial spirit necessary to expand media presence, given the difference in audience preferences in different geographical areas. He highlighted the importance of journalists developing personal brands to attract and retain a diverse audience.

Tony Gallagher echoed this sentiment, noting that journalists who embrace an entrepreneurial, brand-ambassador role can significantly enhance their publication’s reach and relevance, particularly among younger demographics.

Source: INMA

How do we address news avoidance and appeal to younger audiences?

An essential aspect of bridging generational gaps is understanding how to effectively engage younger audiences, particularly in combating news avoidance.

Kassy Cho, the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Taiwanese media outlet Almost, highlighted an issue with traditional media’s news delivery to young people. Despite their interest in current events, young people often find it challenging to connect with news in a format that doesn’t resonate with them. The success lies in meeting them where they are, particularly on platforms like Instagram, which dominate their media consumption.

Jodie Jackson advocated for journalism beyond highlighting problems, suggesting that integrating solutions into narratives can combat reader fatigue and disengagement caused by pervasive negativity.

Ben Haywood discussed the implementation of sentiment tracking to gauge emotional responses to news content, which helps understand and reduce news avoidance by making content more relatable and less overwhelming.


The INMA World Congress of News Media showed that we are navigating through an era of unprecedented disruption in the news media landscape. Industry leaders navigate these changes by:

  1. Integrating generative AI responsibly to enhance operational efficiency.
  2. Bridging generational gaps to ensuring content resonates with diverse audiences.
  3. Exploring innovative revenue models to overcome limitations posed by a digital subscription-centric approach. This includes diversifying income streams through leveraging new technologies and partnerships.
  4. Maintaining a steadfast commitment to impartial and trustworthy journalism.

As the industry evolves, building on the brand’s credibility will safeguard reader loyalty and support sustainable growth. Embracing these strategies will help tackle current challenges and position your organization to thrive in a rapidly changing digital ecosystem.


Carlo Prato
Digital Marketer

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