Against the context of the A$500 million the world’s two largest tech companies are reported to be committing to media companies in Australia, Facebook’s US$60,000 in grants for six Asian publishers may look a trifle modest.
Under the guidance of digital strategy consultant Gregor Waller and former managing editor of The Times in the UK, George Brock, it does however stand to make a huge difference.
The US$60k (A$80,240) is in addition to participation in the second round of Newsroom and Business Transformation Asia, which starts this week.
Taking part are BeritaSatu.com (Indonesia), Kompas.com (Indonesia), Maeil Business Newspaper (South Korea), Fiji’s Sun News, the Philippines’ SunStar Publishing and Dong-a Ilbo in South Korea.
The programme is designed for Asia-Pacific news companies planning to launch a first paid-content product or activity soon, bringing together a senior editorial and a senior commercial executive from each publisher for four months of training and coaching.
Through a partnership between Facebook and WAN-Ifra, the programme is designed to equip participants with insights, know-how and tools to help execute a transformation and reader revenue strategy.
It covers strategic thinking, planning and implementation, rebalancing print advertising and reader revenue, creating new audiences and retaining existing ones with new products, content, features and services, pricing, marketing and building data capabilities.
Sessions include case studies from around the world, guest speaker sessions and hands-on project work, framed to produce an actionable plan to deal with a go-live challenge at participants' companies.
Participants can use their US$10,000 from Facebook for purposes including technology, IT or software purchases, content experimentation and prototype development.
Facebook Asia Pacific’s director of news partnerships Anjali Kapoor says the partnership is “an important part of our commitment to support the region’s news industry build sustainable business growth and engaging content that serves and informs our region”.
WAN-Ifra chief operating officer Thomas Jacob describes reader revenue as “a cornerstone of sustainable digital news models”, and hopes the NBTA programme will help accelerate the transformation process and equip media companies with the skills needed to survive the disruption to the traditional media business.
One of last year’s participants, Maria Benyamin – editor-in-chief of Bisnis Indonesia – said getting advice from the programme led to development of a holistic reader-engagement strategy to drive her publication's subscriptions, making it an invaluable learning experience.
Her publication executed a content audit, adjusted its prices, improved its payment systems to minimise friction, started a marketing campaign, re-evaluated its social media engagement tactics and launched a daily email newsletter for readers.
"In the eight months following… we saw our subscriptions rates increase more than sixfold… and found email newsletters very effective for incentivising reader registration and driving traffic to our website,” she said.