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Some Themes from Digital Innovator’s Summit in Berlin

Philippe van Mastrigt and I recently attended Digital Innovator’s Summit, the 2-day event run by FIPP and VDZ in Berlin each March. AdvantageCS exhibited at and sponsored this event.

The audience at this conference is strongly German and Nordic, with a number of AdvantageCS clients attending and speaking (A-Lehdet, Aller Media, Bonnier, and Egmont).

Trends that were mentioned in 2017, such as a shift from social network and ad models to subscription and reader revenue, were confirmed by a number of the speakers. “We are at the end of the beginning of a new age” was mentioned in the introductory remarks.

Facebook was dragged through the mud a number of times in the wake of their data scandal with Cambridge Analytica. It is clear that Facebook will not save media companies, but work in their own interest. The relationship between publishers and Google, Instagram, and YouTube appears to be more positive.

A number of publishers are shifting to better understanding of their readers and taking the focus off advertisers. This lines up with a significant reported trend from ad revenue to reader revenue. Differentiation should be aimed at the readers who are looking for experts, or a voice they can relate to, rather than the advertisers. Mass clicks isn’t the goal. “Only journalism will save you,” commented one of the speakers.

Another trend mentioned was that of embedding eCommerce into content. It appears to be a promising direction, and a number of our clients have brought this up with us. Membership was mentioned, but not discussed in depth, as it is evolving in different ways at different publishing houses.

One of the top presentations was by Gary Liu, CEO of South China Morning Post, who talked about how he has navigated the company through a significant transformation from local to global, with regional expertise. The change affected the culture, processes, and technology and has been hugely successful.

Paywalls received plenty of air time, as the technology and intelligence have been developed to enable dynamic paywalls which are driven by customer data. Sometimes paywalls can be paid with data rather than dollars.

This year, the organizers were especially creative with the exhibition area, creating themed quadrants of the room for the four seasons, placing the stands around season-appropriate games---air hockey, mind ball, foosball, and mini golf for winter, spring, summer, and fall, respectively.

The conference sessions were somewhat reduced from the number held last year, which may be a sign that this conference has matured and perhaps starting to wane. This is similar to what happened to other conferences which sprang up when new technology emerged. Digital publishing is more core to the daily business of the audience than it was when this conference began 11 years ago and so perhaps a separate conference is no longer needed.

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