Media08: Digital Media Innovation Conference

As I blogged about before I caught the flight to Sydney, I’m at Media08 in Sydney. I’ll be blogging about some of the sessions. I probably will backfill some of these posts because I’m juggling a lot today.

Jack Matthews, CEO of Fairfax Digital, kicked off the day of presentations. He said, that Fairfax did not the luxury of multimillion R&D departments. We need to be lean to innovate. And originally, we thought about doing this. We thought it was going to be an internal staff as part of our professional development plans to bring together this elite team of ‘thought leaders.

This is the conference equivalent of speed dating. RSVP, their dating site, set Guiness Book of World Records for largest speed dating event.

David Kirk, (former captain of the All Blacks and) CEO of Fairfax Media. The issues you will discuss are on my mind everyday. How we rise to the challenges of today and manage them. They are difference between achievement and growth and mediocrity and decline.

Innovation is often thought of as the new new. It is not often that innovation is thought of in the context of the old: Publishing, automotive and mining (for instance). The Sydney Moring Herald reaches more people than ever. Moving from print publisher to multimedia company. They are focusing on integration and collaboration.

Three cornerstones of our strategy:

  1. Defend and grow our newspapers. Involves innovation and change. Key to culture. Have to hang on to core of our values and history.
    “Our newspapers have to be connected to our audience and our readers. It remains the core of our success.” In US, see only decline. But the market is not the same here.
  2. We need aggressive growth online. Three years ago, less than 2% of revenues. It will grow to 20% in a couple of years. It is the high growth part of our business.
  3. We need to be a leading digital media company for media markets of 21st Century. The strategy has to be robust. Consumer behaviour is changing rapidly.

Discussing this to our staff has been the most difficult thing for me as a CEO. Rapid changes make it difficult to communicate a sense of certainty. We learn along the way to describe what we talk about.

Focus on transition from publisher to leading multimedia company. We have to the best at originating content. It is our fundamental history and heritage. I often say digital content, but everything that we do is digital these days. No one has the people on the ground in communities as Fairfax.

Building ability to deliver audio and video content. A year ago 800,000 downloads a month, now 4 million a month.

To be successful, we have to own and leverage cross media brands to drive extension of audience reach.

He then talked about building multimedia brands. As a social media guy, I talk about building connections not brands. Certainly now those connections are part off that brand. I am wary of the obsession around brand. The menu is not the meal, and sometimes abstract discussions of brand misplaces a focus.

I agree with him a lot more when he is talking about multi-platform.

Where the audience goes, we have to go. The only way to aggregate audiences is to chase them.

New media is littered with companies without business models. You need proven revenue models. The revenue models turn audience and brand participation into money. We are focused on classified and display ads and transaction market. We have stuck to our subscription model. WSJ and FT see as sensible way to go.

I don’t necessarily agree 100% with him. Comparing a general media company to the FT and WSJ misses a point. We used to joke that the only content you can sell online is sport, business and porn. General content is commodity.

We have to build innovation into the DNA of the company.

We believe that we can hold our own. We still need to focus on the basics of good business everyday whatever the medium.

Fundamental drivers:

  • compelling content, every minute, every hour, every day
  • innovative, creative advertising and content sales
  • reader, viewer, listener community – audience -connection and management
  • production and distribution excellence
  • every day need to be managing, developing and training people.