IRG takes on the oldest, largest study into the news industry – WAN-IFRA’s World Press Trends

In February,  the IRG team took up the invitation from the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA)  to tackle one of the most thrilling – and challenging – tasks in news media research: World Press Trends.

From 2018, World Press Trends will be produced by IRG

Published by WAN-IFRA since 1989, WPT is the leading source of newspaper data and trends globally.  The data are drawn from WAN-IFRA’s members associations in 66 countries and  from  industry data partners, Chartbeat, PwC, Ipsos and Zenith. To that, IRG will be adding data from the World Bank,  the International Telecommunications Union and more.

“Of course, we’re thrilled by the challenge,” says Dr  François Nel,  who will be editing the WPT and working alongside his  IRG research partner Dr  Coral Milburn-Curtis. “With the analytical expertise of  Coral, we are able to do  some advanced statistically analysis to drawing insights from this huge data, which has traditionally only been presented as in descriptive charts . This will allow us to better understand relationship between various key indicators,  such as press freedom and internet penetration on the news consumption.

This is just one of the changes the team intend to make to WPT. “We need to take a loot not just at what the data says, but what data we need to get to help up not only observe but also understand the huge changes in the world news media industry. Of course, all the changes we envision will take time to implement.  But, for now, we’re excited to present our first report at 9:30am on Friday, June 8th at 70th World News Media Congress in Portugal. ”

Full details can be found at

#POLIStrust Q. Why is data of strategic importance to newsrooms? A. The 3Ps – Production, Performance, Permission

Thought leaders who work inside, alongside and outside news media firms were invited to workshop hosted by Prof Charlie Beckett of POLIS, the London School of Economic’s Journalism think-thank. The discussion was sparked by concerns about fake news and focused on three themes: data for better journalism; engagement tools and systems that deliver value for user and publisher; and, public context and audiences.

Charlie asked me to facilitate the discussion on data and to make a few opening remarks on the strategic importance of data to news firms. I was happy to oblige, not least because findings from IRG’s latest study into the decision making of newsmedia executives shows that leaders at financially-successful firms have data top of mind.

I also got to point out that data is a strategic priority for news media companies for a variety of reasons, but that I like to organise them into three areas conceptually, though the boundaries are rather blurred and there are overlaps practically. That said then, here are the 3Ps:

There is the data we need for (1) PRODUCTION of the stuff we make – data that helps us identify news, data that helps us assess and evaluate sources, and data that underpins decisions we make about the shapes and timing of the news.

Then there’s data we need to understand our (2) PERFORMANCE strategies – data about the performance of the content, the performance of the content makers, performance and creation of the cash.

Finally, there’s also the data we need for (3) PERMISSION. That is, the data about our activities that is of relevance to policy makers, regulators, pressure groups, and the public at large (whether or not they are our customers).

Consider those data categories through the lens of trust invite a number of questions.

While my remarks were open, we followed The Chatham House Rule during the (very frank and fascinating) workshops. For a flavour of the discussions, search the Twitter hashtag #POLIStrust.

Charlie will be writing up insights from the event more formally, but in the meantime I wanted to share my slides and notes here.

And, of course, I welcome any feedback – and look forward to continuing the important conversation at the next Digital Editors Network meeting to hosted by Rob Owers of Twitter London.

World News Publishers Outlook 2017 Previewed

While publishing the World News Publishers Outlook 2017 report is still some months off, industry insiders are already discussing the study’s interim results previewed recently at the 14th International Newsroom Summit in London.

Executives from 68 countries on six continents responded to the 22-question survey of the decision-making strategies of newsmedia managers across editorial, commercial, technology and senior management roles. “Our results show significant differences between the strategic choices made by profitable and unprofitable companies,” said IRG’s Dr François Nel, co-author of the study conducted in collaboration with the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA).

“However, one of the most surprising findings was that when respondents were asked what the biggest risk to their organisation’s future was, they did not see the greatest risk coming from the decline in advertising revenue, or from Google and Facebook, or from other digital disruptions. The biggest single threat to their future success, was not from outside the organisation but from the inside: the reluctance to innovate.”

Organisations that prioritise innovation efforts are almost three times as likely to be reporting significant increases in revenues, compared with organisations which do not. (Odds ratio = 2.9)

This threat is also directly linked to organisational performance, the study results show organisations whose leaders model the right innovation behaviours for others to follow are more than 4 times as likely to be reporting significant increases in revenues over the last 12 months, compared with organisations which do not. (Odds ratio = 4.3)

Nel challenged conference participants to consider what these finding means for them: “Building an organisational culture that promotes innovation is the responsibility of a firm’s leadership. So, is the biggest threat to your organisation’s success your leadership team. Is it you?”