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In his new report for INMA, Mark Toner wonders what the world of revenue growth possibilities looks like for media companies who can approach the problem with a bit of creativity. As the Washington Post’s CIO and VP of Technology Shailesh Prakash framed it, “To solve a problem you need a mindset. You say it’s a problem and that you need to get the right talent to fix it.” This study presents 14 case studies of global publishers doing just that.

For publishers it’s been somewhat of a staunch race to cut costs on the print side to mitigate compressing EBITDA margins compounded by revenue declines while trying to scale audiences and revenue on the digital side. Of course, there can be significant growth on the digital side. For example, elsewhere we can observe the friendly competition between the Washington Post and New York Times and how print newspapers can get relevant on the digital side and achieve satisfying success metrics with digital advertising and subscription revenue strategies in social, native, mobile and web platform.

However, the INMA study goes beyond some of the usual suspects for revenue growth to highlight some more innovative success stories for revenue diversification.

Success is premised on pursuing a handful of strategies amplified by developing key competencies. The strategies addressed in the study are (1) opening new markets, (2) reaching new audiences, (3) creating new partnerships, (4) making smart acquisitions, and (5) seeking steady income. This gets to Prakash’s first challenge of developing the mindset.

The next ingredient for revenue diversification is “getting the right talent” and core competencies. Toner analyzes the innovative spirit of the companies profiled with his insight that to get truly innovative and bring in significant levels of revenue, “additional competencies in new areas of business must also be developed.” He presents these as (1) understanding the skill sets needed, (2) thinking about markets in new ways, (3) prioritizing diversification, (4) understanding the importance of scale, and (5) identifying unexpected challenges.

Across the case studies the report highlights, a diverse set of new business ideas ranging somewhat surprisingly from a publisher branded line of “beef jerky for men” to a newspaper company that leverages its distribution infrastructure to deliver the mail. Others explored the events business and monetizing their internal investments in content management and marketing technology systems as commercial products.

The thing about clever ideas, of which there are quite a few in this report, is that ideas alone don’t amount to much without successful execution. In this collection of case studies, we see helpful summaries of both the ideas and the executions.


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