Newsmakers / November 2018
Winston Utomo and his brother William have successfully captured a target audience among a younger demographic, which has resulted in their IDN Media Group seeing exponential growth over the past few years.
While many online media companies are struggling to maintain a steady revenue stream, the IDN Media Group did it in only four years by responding to the specific needs for news and information among millennials and those in Gen-Z, which together represent people born between the early 1980s and early 2000s. "We strongly believe that millennials are a big chunk of the market we must provide with valuable information," Winston said.
While IDN Media provides general media content, it presents it in a different writing style and visually more interesting. This recipe appears to work, as the company's websites attract 13 million monthly visitors and 60 million monthly page views.
"We launched a multi-platform media company covering issues related to politics, sports, entertainment and more to fulfill the needs of millennials. But the news is delivered in a concise and easy-to-digest format with an exciting design to make it visually appealing. So the strength is in the visual aspect," says Winston, who is the group's founder and chief executive.
The two brothers also launched other brands, Popbela.com (a lifestyle offering for young women), Popmama.com (aimed at young mothers) and IDNtv Yummy (presenting food recipe videos). They also have an event organizing company aimed at millennials.
Amid rising religious and political intolerance in Indonesia, the IDN Media Group plans to make it its mission to promote tolerance, democracy and gender equality. When it comes to editorial content, Winston always urges journalists to steer clear from anything contentious or of a sensitive nature, and to remain as independent as possible. "So we try to be a media platform for everyone," he said.
Having worked for Google in Singapore for two years has opened Winston's eyes to huge possibilities for a media company in Indonesia, with millions of millennials connected to the internet. With limited experience and insufficient media industry knowledge, Winston poured his money into the media startup four years ago with no clear vision of where the company should go. Then, a year later, people started to pay attention to his product. This prompted him to make a serious attempt at developing his business. This is when he asked his brother William to join. "It was a gamble in the beginning, but then we saw the business opportunities," he recalled.
His experience in Google's advertising department also helped him understand how to make money in a media business. William now takes care of business affairs and the company has slowly acquired more than 200 clients – mostly companies involved in sales of fast-moving consumer goods – who have become regular advertisers.
Winston monitors readership statistics daily to gauge the response to news articles and to see which are the most-read topics and what subjects readers discuss online. "We have a solid team to monitor the data every day and this is important for us, to continually adjust our strategies to grow our business," he said.
IDN Media engages closely with its readers in many ways. While content is still king, media for millennials is produced in a more attractive way by adding lots of visual elements. Winston keeps an eye on data from various sources, which allow him to keep track of the latest trends, which are analyzed before producing more content. The report also helps them identify new business opportunities to attract more advertisers.
Information technology has helped him formulate business decisions and discern what information is relevant to the business strategy. "We have to focus on a clarity matrix and keep an eye on the right things. For example, we must see how many people read the news per day and per month, and then analyze the relation between the two data sets," he said.
In contrast, he said the company should not focus on a vanity matrix, which is irrelevant. He added that some businesses focus on views per page, or numbers of Instagram followers. But this data will be meaningless if it does not bring visitors to a company's websites. "It is a business leader's job to focus on the clarity matrix," he said.
Winston has established a team to monitor data, comments and behavior of readers regularly. For example, they have clear information on customer behavior and what drives people to buy specific smartphones. This information can be given to smartphone producers to help them create more effective marketing and branding strategies.
Winston believes it is of the utmost importance to be hands-on when recruiting new staff. "The first criteria is that they must have a strong passion to work in the media industry and understand the nature of the work as a 24-hour job. They also must have a strong work ethic, be able to work in a relaxed atmosphere yet still be disciplined, and most importantly, have a positive attitude and integrity," he said.
Winston spends much of his time with the head of the company's human resources department to find good people who will help the company grow. He is also involved in interviewing most of the new candidates, asking open-ended questions to get the complete picture on prospective talent. "I love to deal and interact with people, and I have a strong passion for leadership. With this, I leave the commercial aspects of the company to my brother and it seems to work," he said.
Although the market is clearly defined, Winston still sees plenty of room for growth. Instead of content focused on Jakarta and other large cities, he plans to provide more space for local news. The group recently launched IDN Media in Bali, Surabaya and other smaller cities.
With huge opportunities ahead, the need for investment is urgent. Last year, the company received a Series B financing lead from East Ventures, along with Hong Kong-based venture capital firm Central Exchange. The undisclosed amount in funding has helped the company expand and grow its business portfolio.
With a strong grip on the millennial market, Winston plans to organize several events next year, including comprehensive reports and analyses, in cooperation with a market research company, on millennial's customer behavior.
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