New news media business models revealed at Publish Asia 2019 in Singapore

Key decision makers from a host of leading Asian news publishers gathered at Publish Asia 2019 in Singapore, held from May 7-9 in the city. The leaders discussed about the future of news media companies transforming amid sweeping economic and political developments. As this year witnessed general elections in India, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines and elsewhere in Asia, the need for timely and accurate information to drive decision making and inform the public is absolutely critical in a world which is awash with online falsehoods. This was one of the concerns at the conference.

Organised by WAN-IFRA, Publish Asia 2019 in Singapore was back in the city after moving across the continent for the past 15 years. Its return to the city coincided with the bicentennial of Singapore’s modern founding, the 35th anniversary of Singapore Press Holdings and Channel News Asia turning 20.

Around 40 speakers from 14 countries shared their best practices at the three-day event with conference sessions and master classes designed for senior management, executives and editorial staff in the publishing and media industries. The league consisted of internationally-acclaimed speakers such as Juan Senor, President of Innovation Media Consulting Group and Raju Narisetti, Professor of Professional Practice at Columbia University and former CEO of Gizmodo Media Group, ex-SVP of Strategy at News Corp, former Managing Editor of Washington Post Managing Editor, past Editor of The Wall Street Journal and founder of Mint.

What all revealed and discussed at Publish Asia 2019 in Singapore included strategies on new business models for news media houses, which involved with new products, pricing, data, events, trust in advertising, online video, podcasts and apps, etc.

Prior to the onset of the conference, in the Masterclass Session, London-based media innovator and consultant, Juan Señor, explored 11 specific business models for publishers to embrace for a diversified stream of revenues: some are tried and tested, while others require innovative thinking and editorial leadership. All point to a new way for news media to pay its bills in the digital age. Another Msterclass session was on Safety in Hostile Environments: Reporting in Conflict Zones, which was designed for journalists reporting in volatile contexts and hazardous situations and their newsroom managers covers reporting from hostile environments, personal safety and preserving the dignity of victims of violence. Speakers in the session included Jacqueline Rodríguez González, Forensics Advisor (Asia-Pacific), International Committee of the Red Cross; Patrick Griffiths, Communication Officer for Australia, International Committee of the Red Cross; Pawel Krzysiek, Communications Strategist for Asia-Pacific, International Committee of the Red Cross and Muhamad Haikel Mohamed, Psychosocial Support Consultant, Singapore Red Cross Academy.


Opening ceremony

At the opening of Publish Asia 2019, Thomas Jacob, COO of WAN-IFRA (Germany) delivered the welcome note, followed by the opening address of guest of honour, S Iswaran, Minister for Communications and Information, Government of Singapore. The opening keynotes highlighted how news media companies are reinventing their business models, changing the culture and transforming themselves into agile publishing powerhouses. With moderator Justin Doebele, Editor and Executive Director – Content, Forbes Asia, the panel of speakers were Ng Yat Chung, CEO, Singapore Press Holdings Ltd and Hu Shuli, Publisher, Caixin Media; Professor, School of Communication and Design, Sun Yat-sen University.

Session 2A

Then the next Session 2A: New Businesses, New Opportunities was moderated by Maura Fogarty, Singapore Bureau Editor, BBC News with Syamil Fahim Mohamed Fahim, COO, Karangkraf Media Group (Malaysia). Hari Shankar, CEO, Singapore Media Exchange; Sonny Kwon, Founder & CEO, PUBLISH Inc/Founder & Managing Editor, Econo Times and Token Post. The session focused on road to a sustainable & scalable programmatic supply eco-system—a Singapore Media Exchange perspective. And further discussion on securing financial and editorial independence through tokenisation, which Sonny spoke drawing on his experience in both the media and blockchain business.

Session 2B

In the Session 2B: The Evolving Digital-First Newsroom, which was moderated by Li Xin, Vice President of Caixin Media & Managing Director of Caixin Global, panel of speakers consisted of Esther Ng, Chief Content Officer, Star Media Group (Berhad); Warren Fernandez, Editor-in-Chief, The Straits Times & SPH’s English/Malay/Tamil Media Group; and Jaime Ho, Chief Editor, CNA Digital, Mediacorp. Speaking about the evolving of first-to-digital newsroom, Warren explained how moving the 174-year-old daily print newsroom of The Straits Times to become a 24×7 multi-media operation that took years of relentless effort to drive the process over several waves of change.

What does ‘Digital First’ actually mean now? Sharing the CNA Digital Experience, the group’s chief editor Jaime Ho shared how this pan-Asian broadcaster has made the transition to the new digital reality, and how CNA has leveraged the best of visual, social and written story-telling. At the lunch session, PUBLISHsoft introduced blockchain-based content management system for newspaper businesses. In the session, PUBLISH Inc presented its state-of-the-art content management system for newspaper businesses, which can assist publishers in launching their own cryptographic token and managing a reward system that promotes a participatory mode of news production and consumption.

Session 3A

Moderated by Joon-Nie Lau, Director, Asia, WAN-IFRA APAC, Session 3A: In NewsMedia Ads We Trust, focused on the latest studies out of the APAC region showing a high level of consumer trust in TV, newspapers and news websites. The session had a panel of speakers discussing on AdTrust APAC Survey results. The speakers included Simon Davies, Marketing Director, NewsMediaWorks (Australia); Soji Nagano, Managing Director, Syno Int Asia; Barbie Atienza, Head of External Affairs, Manila Bulletin Publishing Corporation/President of United Print Media Group (UPMG) Philippines; Andy Budiman, Chief Executive Officer, KG Media; Elsie Cheung, COO, South China Morning Post; Simon Davies, Marketing Director, NewsMediaWorks (Australia); Jokke Nurminen, CEO, Syno International.

Simon narrated that more than 90 percent of Australians choose news media to stay up to date with the issues that matter most to their lives. A key factor that drives this continuing engagement with news media is trust. NewsMediaWorks’ latest research into this hot topic shows how news media is the most trusted of all mediums and how this trust halo extends from editorial content to advertisers. The session also revealed the AdTrust APAC Survey Results featuring the region’s largest such survey on the most and least trusted platforms involving 12 APAC countries.

Session 3B

Session 3B titled ‘Wooing The Millennial: Audience Engagement With Videos & Apps’ was a look at the innovative and creative products and applications newsrooms have been developing to attract and retain new and young audiences, and keep existing users engaged. The session had moderator Cherilyn Ireton, Executive Director World Editors Forum, WAN-IFRA (UK). In the panel of speakers in the session were Fergus Bell, Founder, Dig Deeper Media, London (UK); Uni Lubis, Editor-in-Chief, IDN Times; and Cherilyn Ireton, Executive Director, World Editors Forum, WAN-IFRA (UK).

In the session, Cherilyn narrated Verificado created a new way of engaging young Mexicans during the elections. The goal of Verificado was simple: to provide clear and credible information about the 2018 elections to the Mexican public, and limit the impact of mis- and disinformation on public discourse. Uni talked about strategy to grow IDN Times’ digital media destination among the Millennials and Gen Z in Indonesia from 10 regional hyperlocal sites to 33 by the end of 2019.

Session 4A

With moderator Joji Philip, Founder & Editor-in-Chief of Deal Street Asia, Session 4A: Pricing Strategies For Maximum Profits, had a panel of speakers comprising Lulu Terianto, President Director, Bisnis Indonesia Group, and Dr Jochen Krauss, Partner, Simon-Kucher & Partners.

Setting the right price can make all the difference between winning new subscribers or losing loyal long-time paying print and digital readers. How much is too much? What value and bundles can publishers offer to hit that sweet spot? Speakers share the factors that go into pricing considerations, marketing tactics and attractive add-ons to ensure subscribers feel they are getting value for their money. In the session, Dr Jochen expanded on a Market Excellence Framework that covers Pricing Strategy (i.e. current & future revenue sources in context of digitalisation), Product Design and Price Setting (i.e. portfolio design and price optimisation) and Price Implementation (i.e. Campaign design and Price communication).

Session 4B

Moderated by Elena Torrijos, Session 4B with title ‘New Products, New Jobs: Bridging Newsroom Gaps’ had a panel of speakers such as Tan Lee Chin, COO (Content & Commercial), Sin Chew Media Corporation; Tan Lee Chin, COO (Content & Commercial), Sin Chew Media Corporation; Zuraidah Ibrahim, Deputy Executive Editor, South China Morning Post; and Fergus Bell, Founder, Dig Deeper Media, London (UK).

Tan Lee Chin shared what she has learnt from setting up an online video product in a print company – the glitches, pitfalls and the awakening moments. In his viewpoint, Zuraidah said preparing for a fast-changing newsroom focused on collaboration, innovation and trust. With a growing number of organisations starting to collaborate with other organisations or with different teams in their own company, newsroom staff often temporarily find themselves performing functions or roles they couldn’t have predicted, let alone train for.


Session 5

Following the opening remarks, moderator Nurini Kassim, CEO, Malaysian National News Agency (BERNAMA), greeted speaker Juan Señor, President, Innovation Media Consulting Group (UK). The discussion focused on the topic ‘Way Forward: How to Save the News Business & Why Only Journalism Will Save Journalism’. Based on its annual book Innovation in News Media – the industry’s barometer published in conjunction with WAN-IFRA for more than two decades – this fascinating and thought-provoking presentation demonstrated that news publishers can survive and thrive in the digital age through content-driven innovation.

Session 6A

Session 6A: Events, Experiences & Engagement had moderator Moderator Ravi Balakrishnan, Editor, Mumbrella Asia. Live journalism and a variety of events have proven effective in rewarding loyal readers and wooing new ones. The panel of speakers in the session were Helena Phua, Executive Vice President, Asia Pacific, The New York Times; Savan Wijewardene, Head of Digital, Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Limited; and Loh Woon Yen, Managing Editor, Chinese Media Group, Singapore Press Holdings.

Sri Lanka’s Oscars, profitable poetry, reader-chosen cricketers, Savan Wijewardene of Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Limited, also known as Lake House—Sri Lanka’s largest publishing group—shared their learning in terms of leveraging their brand, sales force and physical premises to create sustainable event platforms. He took an honest look at what worked, what didn’t, and what might work in the future.

Session 6B

Moderated by Samanthi Dissanayake, Asia Editor, BBC News Website, speakers in the Session 6B: Driving Editorial Decisions With Data were Samanthi Dissanayake, Asia Editor, BBC News Website; Stig Jakobsen, Editor-in-Chief and CEO, iTromsø, Norway; Tamilavel, News Editor and Digital Editor, Tamil Murasu, Singapore Press Holdings; and Yan Naung Oak, Senior Advisor, Phandeeyar Innovation Lab, Myanmar & Open Data Advocate.

In the old days, the ‘editor’s instinct’ was everything. These days, this instinct is supplemented with hard data and artificial intelligence to tell stories better and distribute them in a smarter and more effective manner. Moderator Samanthi narrated this aspect and Stig Jakobsen explained how his news group systematically gathers information which helps them make editorial decisions, and how they went from there to becoming the first newspaper in Europe with full personalisation of the mobile front: what worked, what didn’t, and the adjustments made.

Tamilavel, News Editor of Tamil Murau, explained how an 84-year-old vernacular newspaper in Singapore revamped its website and transformed itself to cater to the needs of its digital audience through data analytics and product development. In the similar tone, Yan Naung narrated presented examples of impactful data stories he has worked on with Myanmar newsrooms and highlight the challenges faced, including getting access to data, lack of data literacy, and security concerns.

Session 7A

‘Have You Heard The News? Voice-Assisted Devices & Podcasts’—this was the topic in the Session 7A, in which moderator Barbie Atienza explained that ‘voice’ has been as the next big medium for news. While this spells good news for broadcasters, what must text-driven publishers do to build up their capabilities and produce appealing audio content for listeners? Early adopters share their tips and key learning from their pilot projects so far.

Speakers in the Session 7A were Ernest Luis, Head of Podcast Productions and Content Strategist, English, Malay and Tamil Media Group, Singapore Press Holdings. He described how The Straits Times and The Business Times are offering podcasts in various formats and on different platforms, including mobile, and the strategy to get into more ear buds.

Session 7B

In a world where trust in media is at all-time lows and even reputable media are vilified and discredited by those in power, the challenge to weed out misinformation/ disinformation, grow one’s credibility and regain lost audiences has never been greater. In this Session 7B, editors in the region discussed how they tackle these challenges in their respective countries in this hour-long conversation moderated by veteran broadcaster. The session had moderator Teymoor Nabili, Managing Editor, The with speakers including Goh Sin Teck, Editor, Lianhe Zaobao & Lianhe Wanbao, Singapore Press Holdings; Wan Chern Kang, Editor and Business Editor, The Myanmar Times; Chavarong Limpattamapanee, Chairman, National Press Council of Thailand.

Closing keynote

Closure of the conference was marked with the session titled ‘Beyond Advertising & Subscriptions: On Revenue Diversification Experiences and Roadmaps for Sustainable Growth’, moderated by Meidyatama Suryodiningrat, President Director, Antara, Indonesia, with speaker Raju Narisetti, Professor of Professional Practice and Director, Knight-Bagehot Fellowship in Economics & Business Journalism, Columbia University (USA). After that an arrangement was made for delegates to visit Singapore Press Holdings Newsroom located at Toa Payoh North. The visitors got the chance to an insider’s glimpse of the digital transformation underway at the news.

One of the largest media companies in Southeast Asia. Learn how editorial decisions are informed by data and find out how print, digital and radio operations work together in the newly renovated newsrooms of The Straits Times, Lianhe Zaobao, SPH Radio, the integrated marketing department, and the brand new multimedia studio. Places are limited.

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