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Study sheds light on what world’s most profitable media companies are investing in

Study sheds light on what world’s most profitable media companies are investing in Banner Image

Dr Francois Nel, Director of the Journalism Leaders Programme at UCLan

UCLan works with University of Oxford on World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers report

The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) has teamed up with the University of Oxford on a report published by The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) examining what top media executives around the world consider to be their greatest priorities, threats and opportunities. 

It is based on the results of the most recent annual survey of news media decision-makers worldwide by Dr François Nel, who also wrote the report, and Dr Coral Milburn-Curtis of the Innovation Research Group, a partnership between researchers at UCLan and the University of Oxford.

“It’s a fact that executives at profitable news media companies have different concerns and make different choices from their counterparts at firms that report losses” said Dr Nel, Director of the Journalism Leaders Programme at UCLan.  “This report [World News Publishers Outlook 2017] provides the proof. Importantly, the study shows that decision makers at unprofitable companies worldwide see their own firm’s incapacity to innovative as the biggest risk to their future success - and it also reveals what the leaders at profitable companies are doing to build the cultures of innovation that are key to their performance.

“Our study provides hard proof that leaders at the most profitable news companies prioritise those things that foster a culture of innovation in their firms - and, perhaps most importantly,  they are innovation role models themselves.”

Our study provides hard proof that leaders at the most profitable news companies prioritise those things that foster a culture of innovation in their firms - and, perhaps most importantly, they are innovation role models themselves.

WAN-IFRA CEO Vincent Peyrègne said: “They see the greatest obstacles to future development in the reluctance to innovate.  What questions should we be asking ourselves if the single biggest risk to our future success, a reluctance to innovate, is not from the outside, but lurking inside our organisations.

“Many heritage news brands face this dilemma when it comes to completely rethinking their core business. The idea of pivoting is often paralyzing. In that process, collaboration is essential for unlocking their innovation potential. Setting up and maintaining partnerships are processes that take skills that many organisations lack or overlook. WAN-IFRA provides the right environment for publishers to embark that journey, and I hope this report will be a wake up call and will foster more collaboration among industry players, as well as across industries.”

The survey’s 22 questions looked at four areas:

  1. the profile of respondents, including the nature and activities of their firm;
  2. current revenue streams, financial performance during the past book year, and the anticipation of future revenue sources;
  3. specific priorities for change and investment in the next year and in the medium term (3-5 years); and
  4. how leaders experience change and risk.

The perspective of the report is truly global: it was available in 11 languages and received 235 responses from 68 countries across six continents: Africa, Asia, Australia/Oceania, Europe, North America, and South America.

Among the report’s key findings:

  • The biggest risk to future success is not seen to be challenges to business models, technology disruption, advertising declines, or political instability – but firms’ own reluctance to innovate.
  • When asked  what is the single most important change that has to be implemented in their news organisations over the next year, the top response (21%) was Organisational Culture.
  • Although trading conditions  are tough worldwide, 30 percent of nearly 250 decision-makers surveyed reported overall financial growth during the past financial year, while about 35 percent said there had been no change. This is the highest proportion of positive responses since the study began in 2009/10 in the wake of the global economic recession.

Our study provides hard evidence that, all things considered, the quality of the company’s leadership is the single most important factor that distinguishes profitable news media firms from unprofitable ones.

Also included in the report are five essays from guest analysts to provide additional insights and suggest further practical action points for consideration.

Dr Nel added: “The role that news media executives play in shaping the industry is often written about by journalists, market analysts, policy makers, and academics. Underlying many of these articles is the assumption, or “underpinning theory” if you will, that behaviour of media leaders affect the success of their firms. Our study provides hard evidence that, all things considered, the quality of the company’s leadership is the single most important factor that distinguishes profitable news media firms from unprofitable ones.”

The report can be downloaded http://www.wan-ifra.org/outlook_2017 by WAN-IFRA Members for free (charge for non-members).

Lyndsey Boardman | 20 September 2017