INMA Virtual World Congress on Re-Thinking News Media in the Age of Coronavirus

A re-creation of the spirit of the cancelled Paris World Congress 2020

Due to the evolving situation regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, INMA has cancelled the World Congress of News Media in Paris, which was scheduled to be held from April 23-28. With an overriding concern over health, safety and well-being of participants, the association organised the INMA Virtual World Congress on Re-Thinking News Media in the Age of Coronavirus from May 5-28, for the first time ever, in a virtual setting.

       INMA virtually kicked off its 90th Annual World Congress of News Media, with some 332 media executives from 43 countries converged around their computer screens, tablets, and mobile devices to hear a futurist, a marketer, and a design guru try to make sense of what comes next for media companies after this COVID-19 moment.

Under the Congress theme of ‘Rethinking News Media in the Age of Coronavirus’, the opening module focused on “where news media goes next after COVID-19.” Themes that emerged from the first module from futurist Ross Dawson, eMarketer’s Geoff Ramsey, and design strategist Mario Garcia included the following.

The future: Media and other societal institutions are experiencing a rising “trust moment,” how news brands respond today’s crisis will determine future relationships, the crisis will yield new fluidity in where consumers make purchasing decisions, and work will get rebalanced across office, home, and virtual spaces.

Consumers: As COVID opens the gates for new audiences, it is changing how people interact with media. For example, research shows forced isolation has added one hour to daily media consumption — with news, mobile, audio, and streaming up.

Advertising: News publishers are seeing a bigger hit on programmatic than publishers in general, while there is a slight shift away from programmatic to direct buying from premium publishers. Only 16 percent of people look “less favourably” on advertising next to COVID-19 coverage.

Storytelling: COVID is intensifying the consumer’s relationship with her mobile device, meaning contextual “journalism of everywhere with interruptions” is the “new normal.”

According to INMA CEO Earl J Wilkinson, the Virtual World Congress plays to the fact that two hours is usually a person’s maximum attention span in one sitting. In total, the INMA Virtual World Congress included 18 hours of programming over those nine modules featuring 50 speakers.

In only three weeks, INMA merged the Paris programming with COVID-19 programming and tilted the theme in how publishers are creatively responding to the pandemic and its economic effects, built a web site, marketed the virtual event and made a plan to execute a creative combination of in-person

The executive-level overview of the congress responded to COVID-19 effects and the inspirational ideas to grow audience, revenue, and brand in an unimaginable atmosphere. I helped everyone step back and connect with innovators in an urgent environment that nobody should try to tackle alone.

May 5: Module 1

Where News Media Goes Next After COVID-19

In this module, the discussion revolved around how leaders and their companies prepared for deep uncertainty and complex futures—strategic trends that influence business, media, and society after today’s massive disruption. It also involved in capitalisation on the ‘trust moment; for media in today’s crisis and how consumer time spent with media is shifting towards digital, phone, digital video, and streaming.’

May 7: Module 2

Subscription Experiences Amid the Surge: Opportunities in Chaos

Amid the chaos of the COVID-19 disruption, publishers have experienced double- and triple-digit surges in digital traffic and new digital subscription starts. In this module, go behind the scenes of what’s working and not working, when your content should be free or have a price tag, how to build a subscription model so compelling your customers will never want you to leave, and refining the news experience in the age of attention wars.

May 11: Module 3

Advertising In Crisis: Navigation and Uplift

With the COVID-19 lockdown came issues never before imagined: advertiser brand safety issues around coronavirus coverage, the re-making of restaurants as general stores and takeout enterprises, the need to support independent and local small businesses, re-thinking marketing messagaging to one of empathy and support, the reading of tea leaves to shift sales reps from collapsed accounts to rising accounts, where to place bets, how to reposition fourth estate media in the marketing mix, and so much more.

May 13: Module 4

Smart Data In the Shadow of the Cookiepocalypse

The media business often takes a reactive, not proactive, approach to changes in market. Because of that, opportunity for new initiatives is often forfeited in lieu of defensive measures to satisfy existing business models instead of pushing against the tide to pioneer new ones. This session focused on these opportunities, such as the embrace of first-party data, and how media companies can thrive in this era with speakers from The Washington Post, JP/Politikens, Amedia and Aller Media.

May 15: Module 5

The Content to Commerce Revolution

Magazine and newspaper publishers are upending the status quo with business model approaches that redefine value and shorten the runway between editorial discovery and the ‘last click’. This module focused on how media companies are ushering in the new revolution of ‘content to commerce’, ranging from data-fueled bets on content experiences that drive engagement to web sites that drive the last click to lifestyle networks to bets on personal finances and other growth projects.

May 19: Module 6

Building Brand and Community: How Will You Be Remembered Post-Crisis?

Did news companies need a pandemic-induced lockdown to remind us that we are at the center of the wheel in most communities? What has emerged in recent weeks are herculean efforts to save local businesses, create hub-and-spoke networks for restaurants, livestream community events, inject our brands into the emerging concept of digital socialising, and other concepts. In this inspirational module, INMA surfaced the best examples internationally of community programmes during the COVID-19 turndown — case studies to emulate in your markets.

May 22: Module 7

Brainsnacks: Quick Ideas You Can Apply Immediately

In a lightning round of ideation, case studies of inspiration from colleagues around the world on revenue wins, cost savings, and big bets were presented, signifying the fact to turn distribution from a cost center to an asset, wagering and gambling, how to become a brand embedded in culture, digital transformation and adopting the 7×1 model, smart use of print for audiences and advertises, overcoming the conversion challenge of men under 35, how to cover climate and pandemics, sustainable media, machine learning and neural networks, automated curation, and more.

May 26: Module 8

Business Model Innovation and Creating New Value

Before, during, and after the coronavirus, there have been stand-out news brands that could imagine value creation as something more than profitability. They re-thought their mission. They created new measurements of success. They were able to make space that allows new products and services to flourish – sometimes disconnected from the legacy business. Those brands broke out in recent weeks with new products, new services, and new ways to engage their markets in the most chaotic environment possible.

May 28: Module 9

News Media Outlook 2021: What To Expect Next

Everything literally did change in the COVID-19 shutdown: advertising evaporated overnight, digital engagement and subscriptions surged, employees shifted from in-office to work-from-home, cost structures and workforce structures changed, print as a platform came under new scrutiny, and e-commerce skyrocketed in importance. In this closing module chaired by CEO Earl J Wilkinson, INMA looked on the other side of the health crisis and its economic ripple effects to identify the ‘new normal’ for the news industry over the next 6-18 months.

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