Winston Utomo, Founder & CEO of IDN Media
East Ventures


1 September, 2022


From news platform to a complete media ecosystem, IDN Media’s dream of democratizing information

As a one-stop media platform, IDN Media targets the Millennials and Gen Z generation in Indonesia

When Winston Utomo started his writing on a site called IDN Times, the article gained much attention from social media just a day after it was published. He realized that there was a fundamental shift in the young generation, which made him began his journey in building a media company. Together with his brother, William Utomo, the Surabaya-born brothers started the journey of IDN Media on 8 June 2014.

They had two hypotheses in mind. First, there was no media focused on Millenials and Gen Z at that time. Second, there was a significant information gap between Jakarta and other regions. Only 4% of the population lived in Jakarta, and 11% in the Greater Jakarta area, but social media and mainstream media mainly concentrated on Jakarta-related content. Only 10% of content was aimed at 90% of the population. Based on these hypotheses, they established IDN Media to democratize the information for all Indonesians from Aceh to Papua, especially for Millennials and Gen Zs. 

Believing in the market’s growth potential and the strong characters of the founders, East Ventures became the early investor invested in IDN Media in 2015 at the seed stage and continue to support every IDN Media’s fundraising stage, with the latest support in Series D funding in June 2022. 

Willson Cuaca, Co-Founder and Managing Partner East Ventures, said that IDN Media’s strategy focusing on millennials and Gen Z has been well-proven. Not only did they manage to attract a large and loyal readership, but they also built a business with a solid foundation. This is indicated by significant revenue growth and sustainable profitability (IDN Media has achieved profitability from 2018 until today).

Starting as a digital media company, IDN Media has evolved into a one-stop media platform, building the media ecosystem and end-to-end businesses, from technology, content creation, distribution, and digital media to derivative products such as movies, music, and others. It now serves over 90% of the Millennials and Gen Z population, with almost 80 million website readers per December 2021. 

“Our goal is for all Millennials and Gen Z to consume news and entertainment content on IDN Media platforms,” said Winston.

The company has developed several innovations to build and increase readers’ engagement. It established community building as part of the mission of democratizing information. Through IDN Times, community members can write articles, and earn points that can be exchanged for money. Before being published, the article would be curated through their engine and editors. Currently, curated user-generated content contributes about 40% of IDN Media’s content.  

Community building has opened opportunities for many people, such as Rizna, a writer with a disability who developed her skills through IDN Media’s training and channeled her thoughts into writing. Rizna overcame her self-doubt, gained confidence, and increased her income. Another community writer is a 20-years old writer from Garut, West Java, Fitriani. She has actively written for IDN Times since graduating high school and earned income. She could support her family and started a business solely with the income from IDN Times. 

These stories are a testament to IDN Media’s mission to democratize access to content creation and information for people outside Jakarta through its business channels; IDN Times with articles, Yummy with recipes, IDN App with live streaming content, and ICE with creators.

“Anyone from all over Indonesia can write content relevant to their city of residence through our platform. Our logic is simple. For example, content about Lombok doesn’t have to be written by someone from Jakarta. Through our platform, articles about Lombok can be written by local residents and curated by us,” Winston explained. 

Another innovation is live streaming. Winston believes that live streaming is the next primary content format after short-length videos in vertical formats, as seen in Gen Z’s preference for more real-time, immersive, original, and authentic interactions. He estimates the boom of live streaming will happen in the next 2-3 years, as the format has been a Gen Z favorite in several other countries.

IDN Media is also riding the prospect of the rising content economy with its latest innovation, a creator platform named Indonesia Creators Economy (ICE) that helps to connect brands and creators so that small-micro influencers can grow.

WInston Utomo & William Utomo, Founders of IDN Media

WInston Utomo & William Utomo, Founders of IDN Media

ICT infrastructure becomes the challenge to penetrate users beyond Java 

Media is critical in supporting Indonesia’s economy to reach a GDP of US$ 12,000 to US$ 15,000 per capita, the threshold for developed countries. The young generation, which accounts for more than half of Indonesia’s total population, is the key to achieving multi-sector development. Therefore, it is essential to generate a well-informed population to bring Indonesia into the fourth largest economy by 2045. 

However, like other media platforms, IDN Media is challenged in boosting user penetration outside Java. Winston found no one strategy fits all because every city and region requires a different approach. 

Despite an internet penetration rate of 70%, internet speed is still a problem in less dense areas of the country. IDN Media’s user distribution is still mainly concentrated in the major cities of Indonesia.

“We are building a live streaming video-based content that takes up a lot of internet data. So this becomes a challenge, and therefore we believe that live streaming will not be popular in the next 1-2 years. It will be popular, it just takes time.” stated Winston. 

This waiting period can be attributed to the unique challenge of being an archipelago; closing the infrastructure development gap. According to East Ventures-Digital Competitiveness Index (EV-DCI) 2022, Indonesia still lags behind neighboring countries in 2021—spending around 0.2% of its GDP on ICT infrastructure, compared to Malaysia with 0.6% and Singapore with 0.7%. Cost overruns and delays are also often found in ICT infrastructure projects, resulting in a slower improvement of internet quality.

Moreover, the EV-DCI 2022 survey stated, that almost 80% of Indonesian digital companies have addressed investments in ICT as high priority. Although more companies are shifting towards digitalization, significant and ongoing issues are still hindering others from further integration of ICT in their operations, including the slow growth of ICT infrastructure. 

Therefore, private investment is one of the ways to accelerate the development of ICT infrastructure. Private investments have helped in the development of data centers and fiber optic networks, and VSAT which is far more reliable for remote regions with no or limited access to the internet and telecommunication connectivity. However, attracting investment opportunities requires Indonesia to solidify ICT-related blueprints and regulations to support Indonesia’s aim in developing its digital economy.

Nevertheless, Winston said that Indonesia could be considered privileged in terms of localization because there are no language barriers, and IDN Media can focus on localizing relevant content. He believes that the improvement of income level and internet infrastructure are the key areas for more efficient internet speed and cost and ultimately accelerate adoption in provincial regions. 

To get more insights about EV-DCI 2022, you can download here.