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Indonesia’s Media Startup Scene: What You Need to Know

4 July 2019

The way people enjoy content has changed drastically—in the past, we were dependent on television, radio, magazines, or newspapers for news and information. Today, internet-connected devices such as smartphones and tablets allow us access to content anytime, anywhere, without the constraints of broadcasting schedules or media bias.

This change is also taking place in Indonesia, the largest archipelago country in the world.

According to The Association for Internet Service Providers in Indonesia (APJII), internet penetration in the country as of 2019 is around 64.8% or approximately 171 million people, a growth of about 10.12% compared to the previous year. Most of these internet users spend nearly 30% of their time online on social media.

With long turnaround times, high costs, and growing competition from online media, it is no wonder that many Indonesians are choosing to switch to online platforms as their primary source of content. 

A survey by Nielsen in December 2017 found that roughly 6 million Indonesians only read news and content on the internet, compared to just 4.5 million people who do so only via printed media; approximately 1.1 million people consume content through both. Given the rapid yearly growth of internet penetration, it wouldn’t be surprising if this difference has grown more substantial.

The recent Indonesia Millennial Report from IDN Media shows that television and online media are currently the most popular platforms for content among millennials. The number of millennials who access television and the internet at least once a month hovers at 97% and 55% respectively. They’re more popular compared to the radio (16%), newspapers (13%), tabloids (4%), and magazines (3%).

Challenging times for printed media

A number of prominent newspapers and magazines have ceased operations in recent years; Bola, Hai, National Geographic Traveler, Chip, Jakarta Globe, Rolling Stone, FHM, Sinar Harapan, Indonesia Finance Today, and Koran Tempo Minggu are just some of the news outlets that have fallen victim to the digital revolution. The same goes for many lifestyle publications since it’s easier and faster to get your daily dose of food, fashion, and celebrity news online.

Data from the 2017 Nielsen Consumer & Media View (CMV) survey shows that the number of magazine titles in Indonesia has dropped from 162 in 2012 to 96 titles in 2017 while newspaper titles dropped from 102 to 99 in the same period. 

Naysayers may judge print media companies for not making the switch to digital fast enough, but it’s easier said than done. 

Riyadi Suparno, one of the board of directors for Jakarta Post, says that 75% of its revenue still comes from the newspaper, even with the launch of its online edition. The same goes for Tempo and Bisnis Indonesia, the latter of whom still generates 65% of its revenue from the printed newspaper. They’re proof that going online is not just about creating an online portal for the sake of it, but about building a holistic business model that can thrive in a new digital ecosystem.

The rise of online media

The digital media onslaught signals trying times ahead for print media companies, but it’s a prime opportunity for new, rising startups such as IDN Media, a multi-platform media company geared at Indonesian millennials and Gen Z. It operates a number of websites like IDN Times, Popbela, Popmama, as well as the content platform Yummy, and has catapulted to the top of the heap as one of the five most visited online media channels in Indonesia in a brief period.

So what’s the difference between startups like IDN Media and traditional printed media companies that are going online? Firstly, they tailor their content for their younger, more digitally-attuned audience. They have also developed other business models to complement their core media business. IDN Media, for example, has IDN Creative, an in-house creative agency that services clients; IDN Events, which organizes events like IDN CreativeFest, BeautyFest, Indonesia Millennial Summit, and IDN Soundscape; and IDN Creator network, a platform that connects more than 3,000 influencers with brands.

The company recently raised a Series C round of funding led by EV Growth, a joint venture between East Ventures, Sinar Mas, and Yahoo Japan.

IDN Media is not the only company taking this strategic route. Katadata provides a wealth of credible information and data about the economy, business, and financial sector through its digital publication. The company is supported by journalists and analysts with extensive experience in business and finance and capitalizes on the development of data technology to deliver well-crafted content to its readers, while also building complementary business models.

An alternative for the future: owned media

Paid and earned media are buzzwords you may have heard before; for most brands living in a traditional media world, the former includes paid advertorials and advertisements while the latter refers to products, campaigns, or stories that get featured because they’ve generated sufficient interest.

Most mainstream publications prefer to keep their paid and earned media services separate to preserve journalistic integrity. While it’s a noble distinction, it inevitably means that brands with lots of money can pay to get their messages out there while the rest can only hope that their product or campaign is buzzworthy enough to be picked up by the news. 

The solution? Owned media like blogs and social media accounts where brands are free to deliver any message they want because they run these channels. They can even create a mix of paid and earned media strategies on their owned platforms, leveraging on digital marketing tools and internal data analytics to increase exposure and make their content go viral. 

Red Bull is an excellent example of a company that has successfully built its owned media arm; its online channels are a hub of sports, outdoor activities, and entertainment and have even become one of Red Bull’s revenue generators.

This trend opens up opportunities for content marketing agencies like Content Collision, a platform that helps brands with content creation, strategy, and distribution, allowing them to share stories with their target audiences in a way that’s informative and engaging. 

The company recently rolled out a new platform called ContentGrow, through which media publishers (and even other content agencies) in Asia can scale up their operations by keeping out-of-house content teams on brief, ahead of deadline, in-the-know, and at your fingertips.