Culture change is the media industry’s biggest challenge

Kreisky pointed out how magazines audiences are still growing, powered by both digital and mobile with the latter now delivering 25 per cent of its audience.

“Publishing is no longer a declining industry,” he proclaimed. “It is one that is vibrant and alive.”

He then explored in more detail how the shift to digital has impacted on both the business model of media companies, but also crucially the changes in their culture.

He ran through a series of ways that publishing has changed, starting with the way that monetisation has moved from being focused on newsstand fees and subscriptions, to one that encompasses a wide range of models which are in a constant state of flux. He mentioned paid content, paywalls, memberships and subscriptions. 

Kreisky also said that advertising has fundamentally changed with a whole host of solutions, from native through to programmatic, emerging in tandem with opportunities for publishers in exploiting data.

“Magazine brands have delivered trusted, dynamic communities capable of delivering high levels of engagement for audience and advertisers,” argued Peter. “The new businesses are powerful and positive and have unrivalled access to content at the source, as well as unmatched skills in storytelling and creativity.”

“Companies have moved from magazine publishers to magazine media, all without a silver bullet,” he added. “There are new models, new platforms, new content models, new marketing skills, new ad formats and new content formats. Most of which did not exist five years ago.”

He then described that the key way that media companies are engineering this digital transformation is to embrace cultural transformation – from top to bottom. In other words, changing the way that people work, and the very nature of the command and control structure into one that has shared responsibility.

“Culture change is the big challenge,” Kreisky said – “but how is it changing?” He then described how he interviewed 16 CEOs of media companies in seven countries and what he learned from those conversations.

He argued that the key point was that companies had learned to bring the audience inside. He then explained the centrality of smartphones showing research that highlighted how 80 per cent of millennials reach for their smartphone when they wake up. Also how Facebookers spend 50 minutes a day on the platform as opposed to just 19 minutes reading. 

According to Kreisky, this then created an imperative to find new digital creators who are raised with digital.

He then showed a video which highlighted how Time Inc. has created the Media Upstarts programme which has enabled 700 people in its organisation (mainly millennials) to engage in a conversation with senior execs.

He also spoke about how Axel Springer engineered cultural change in its company by taking its key execs to Silicon Valley to meet incubators investors and new companies. It however made the execs take economy flights, stay in a three star hotel and even share rooms and beds in order to experience life as their millennial readers live it. 

To illustrate how the cultural change was impacting on the structure of companies Kreisky displayed an organisation chart from Wired magazine which showed the publisher/editor at the very centre – a world away from the siloed approach of yesteryear. 

Cultural change can also be effected by upgrading office structure too. Kreisky described how Time Inc. has torn down the division between church and state and moved into a wall-free working environment. He believes that this has helped in driving change from bottom as well as bottom down.

Finally, Kreisky talked about the importance of talent. He quoted Natasha Christie Miller, CEO of Plexus, who said that key attributes for her company’s new staff are that they are curious, ambitious, great communicators and have personal integrity.

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