Digital Media

Support digital as a matter of life and death

By Michael Golden, Vice Chairman of The New York Times Company (USA) and President of WAN-IFRA

Michael Golden

This is a fascinating and difficult time for the news industry. In times of rapid changes, people rely on information they can trust and that helps them understand what's happening in the world. Despite considerable pessimism about the future of journalism, we have the opportunity to create our future. To succeed, our challenge is to change how we deliver news and information as fast as our customers change the way they consume it. This applies to both readers and advertisers. If we fail to change as fast as they do, then we are moving backwards.

We have to embrace technology, finding new ways we tell stories and present our information to readers that range from younger people who expect a snappy, bright, graphic-driven presentation to readers who want to engage in depth with the text and the nuances of our journalism. So we need a wide variety of ways that we present information.

With digital delivery there is a firehose of information coming back at us, and we grapple with how to sort through it. How to measure what our readers are seeing, when they see it, on what devices. Understanding this data in a fundamental way is the key to managing engagement with our audiences. Large-scale numbers, such as unique visitors per month, are not always the best goal. The competition for advertising is almost unlimited, so reader revenue needs to be the core of the business. Advertising is important and will continue to be so, however we can better manage reader revenue. The reader is the key to both consumer revenue and advertising revenue.  We need to understand and manage a one-on-one relationship with each of our readers. Only engaged users will become subscribers. This makes date management a core competency for all of us.

 Publishers and social media platforms

I often hear the question, “Google and Facebook – are they friends or foes?” Social media platforms are reality, and we should find ways we can profit from them. The attraction of Facebook is that it's about me and my friends. I can go and see what people are doing and get information that I value. Additionally, you see something fundamentally different than what anyone else sees. When you go to the website of a newspaper, quite often you still see the same thing as everybody else. The key to success is personalisation, because people have different interests. We want to show our readers we know them and value them.

At the same time, Facebook is not doing a great job of interpreting the world. So that's the opportunity: to understand what touches people's lives, for example on a local level, and address that. We have to explain why our information is better than getting news from a variety of sources chosen in strange ways.

 Innovation, the best opportunity

Newspapers have resources, great distribution, and brands. But we have to change rapidly and support digital as if our life is dependent on it, because if it doesn’t already, someday it will. Of course each company is in a different position with a certain set of strengths as well as issues that it wants to overcome. But innovation is our best opportunity to increase the speed of change that is necessary to survive. The exhibitors at the IFRA World Publishing Expo and the DCX Digital Content Expo have the tools to help us. This is a great opportunity for us to get tools that we can go purchase or lease, and use them to expand our journalism in better service to our readers and advertisers.

Meet Michael Golden at the IFRA /DCX: Tuesday, 10 October, 10 am, Conference Stage

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