Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Research findings: Innovation at the top of the agenda for news executives worldwide

When almost 500 newspaper owners, publishers, editors-in-chief and senior commercial managers take the time answer 21 detailed questions about the issues that face their businesses today and their plans for the future, the results are bound to be fascinating. But I believe they're also important - and give cause for optimism about the future of the industry.

The World News Future & Change Study 2010, which  Journalism Leaders Programme director François Nel has been conducting in collaboration with Martha Stone at the World Association of Newspapers & News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) and Erik Wilberg of the Norwegian Management School, is the largest and most comprehensive study of its type.  Nel says the findings clearly show three key points:
  1. The impact of the global economy recession is easing. No, we're not out of the woods yet. Far from it. But a third fewer publishers (18.5 % in 2010 vs 28% in 2009) reported severe revenue declines – that is more 20 per cent. Declining print advertising revenue was the biggest driver of overall revenue decline, with more than 80% of the respondents saying they lost between 1% and more than 20% of their print ad revenue, with the most pronounced declines happening in Northern Europe and North America regions. Meanwhile online advertising revenue and content revenue did not take the same hit as print revenues, with half of the respondents reporting growth, many reporting no change, and a handful, less than one-­quarter, reporting a decline in the last fiscal year.

  2. Advertising-supported print products are no longer enough. The vast the vast majority of the world's news publishers recognise their traditional revenue sources of print advertising and newspaper subscriptions will no longer provide the financial returns of years past and, in response, the publishers are making it a top priority to diversify their revenue streams and to development new products and new channels.

    Publishers are bullish about mobile.
  3. Innovation - and mobile - are keys to future success. One question summed up the publishers’ collective desire for the future of their business, and that is, new business growth. Respondents in both 2009 and 2010 spoke loudly and clearly: the way forward is through investment in new product development for new revenues. We consider this to be one of the most important findings of the study. Other clear investments for newspaper companies were marketing and branding for newspapers, increased audience research and investment in customer relationship management. In 2009, investment in new product development was followed by marketing and branding for the newspaper, increased audience research, investment in customer relationship management and investment in editorial technologies. This year, investment in new product development was followed by marketing and branding for the newspaper, and then "mobile platforms."  When asked, “Please consider which of the following platforms could be opportunities for your organisation over the next three years,” the top choices were mobile phones (58%), followed by Websites (54%) and then e-readers, such as Kindle and iPad (53%.). Clearly the emerging importance of mobile is an important take-away from this year’s study and, of course, we’ll be investigating this in some greater depth in 2011. 
Innovation and growth targets might be set in the boardroom, but they're enacted by those in the newsrooms and backroom offices. 

Helping build the capacity of those charged with making the future of news happen remains the focus of the Journalism Leaders Programme which, after having the winds taken out of our sales somewhat by the global economic recession, is once-again accepting applications for our innovative executive development courses that will run from after Easter 2011.

free summary of the study is available for download on the WAN-IFRA site. And, of course, François Nel would be happy to answer any questions about the research or any other Journalism Leaders Programme activities [Twitter @francoisnel / FPNel @ uclan . ac . uk ] .

"We’re already working on the 2011 survey," said Nel, "and we're planning to expand the study to 10 languages by including Arabic, along with (in alphabetical order) Chinese, English, French, German, Greek, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish."

For academic citations of the report, please use: STONE, Martha, NEL, François and WILBERG, Erik. (2010) World News Future and Change Study 2010. Paris, France: World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA).