Indonesians are familiar with Kompas Gramedia, a 48 year-old media brand that is trusted by many in the country thanks to the Kompas newspaper, which remains an important source of news.
Besides newspapers, Kompas Gramedia also runs other print media from magazines to tabloids. It owns Gramedia book stores as well as radio and TV channels. On top of that, the company is also venturing into hospitality and education sectors. Kompas Gramedia is touted as the leading media company in Indonesia through its variety of strong media channels.
Despite its huge media influence and success, Kompas hasn’t rested on its laurels. The company understands that it has to change with the times as more people are starting to consume news online. Its first attempt into the online space gave birth to the first online version of Kompas in 1997.
Edi Taslim, who is now the digital group director at Kompas Gramedia, said that while Kompas.com was set up as a separate company, it is nonetheless just a companion to the Kompas newspaper in 1997. Kompas.com will republish news that is found on its print version and doesn’t run any of its own stories. Prior to joining Kompas Gramedia’s digital division, Edi, who joined the group straight after he graduated from college, was an editor-in-Chief at CHIP Media (which is also under Kompas Gramedia) and helped Kompas Gramedia expand its business in Malaysia and Singapore.
In 2007, he was asked to lead Kompas.com as general manager with about seven to ten people in his team. In 2008, Kompas.com restructured and relaunched with its own editorial team and the site finally began to run its own stories. It also has its own business team. While freedom from Kompas (the printed newspaper) is great, it also means that Kompas.com is managing its own profit and loss statements. It is on its own to prove that an online media could generate revenue and stay afloat. Edi told me:
In 2008, the board of directors decided that Kompas.com has to be a real online news site instead of just a companion of Kompas daily. We don’t wait for print anymore. In the last ten years, it was just a companion of daily and that didn’t work because people want to read news real-time.
In a print company, I think the challenges is always the online culture. It’s totally different in terms of how we work and report. That’s the biggest challenge since [Kompas.com] started. So we really have to do an extreme approach. Coming from a traditional media company it is difficult to change the mentality and culture of online journalism.
At Kompas.com, Edi first had to ensure that the team had an online-first culture and mentality. He explained that writing for newspapers, you cover what’s important regardless of whether or not it’s interesting. Online, people click on interesting news that may not necessarily be important. For example, celebrities fighting on Twitter isn’t important but it is interesting for a lot of online readers. The way reporters write their headlines and stories online has to be different than writing for a newspaper. Courses were introduced to help the reporters learn and adapt to the online world better. Edi explained:
In print, you go to an event and come back to write for the 6:00 PM deadline. In online, before you go for an event, you have to create a teaser for the event. Once you arrive you create another piece of news. During the event you have another article submitted online and after the event you have a post-event article.
Another stark difference is that reporters who work at Kompas.com have to be a multi-media capable. Meaning, on top of just writing, they will have to know how to shoot videos and take photos. Writing for internet readers also means that speed is key and reporters usually have to break news as soon as they are at the scene. It is more doable nowadays with the help of smartphones. “If there is breaking news, we have to report it within two to three minutes,” said Edi.
While speed is important, Kompas.com ensures that the articles published on its site are well written. Editors are stationed within the office to help edit and polish the articles. Each day Kompas.com publishes more than 400 articles. It enjoys 19 million unique visitors and 210 million pageviews each month. Kompas.com has been profitable since its first year with 90 percent of its revenue coming from advertising. While that’s great, Edi laments that Kompas could have done even better if it had entered the internet earlier.
Going online and investing
Kompas.com isn’t the only online property Kompas Gramedia has. Other online properties it owns include Gramedia.com (mainly an e-commerce bookstore), Urbanesia.com (an online city directory), and Kompasiana.com (citizen journalism). Just recently Kompas Gramedia’s digital arm invested $2.4 million in Scoop, a magazine and e-book newsstand and reader. Scoop founder Willson Cuaca says that is the first time that the Indonesian media giant made an investment in a startup.
Edi pointed out that Kompas Gramedia is taking an extra interest in e-commerce and online advertising companies. But noted that there isn’t any pattern to the company’s investment. He said:
We see startups and investments that can strengthen our position as a media company. Not just Kompas.com but Kompas Gramedia as a group. It doesn’t have to be related [to media], we also want to see other businesses that we think can create something different within the group. We want to diversify and of course we look for potential partners in doing this new business.
Today, May 29, marks the five year anniversary of Kompas.com and the company has taken this opportunity to flesh out a newly designed and responsive site that fits onto any screen. All of Kompas.com mobile native apps will also have the same look and feel.
On top of the new web design, Kompas.com is now more social and shareable. Every reader can have their own page in which he or she can personalize their news to quench their different interests. It will also be accompanied by a loyalty program for readers who will get points for sharing and commenting on articles and these points can be exchanged for goodies each month. It is also allows readers to see what articles have their friends read, favorited, or commented on Kompas.com. Edi added:
Instead of news we are looking at bringing online videos, all the movies and TV program from Kompas TV to an online demand video. [There will be] full episodes [and] not just teasers.
Besides pulling video content from its TV arm, Kompas.com is also looking to create its own original video series for its web audience. Most importantly, this rebranding is to shape Kompas.com as a brand that is more like your friend and not to be associated with the seriousness and authoritative branding which readers usually have with the Kompas newspapers. Edi added:
We want to make the brand more appealing to the younger generation. We had lots of surveys to study the brand of Kompas.com. People still associate the brand with Kompas [and the] first thing that come to your mind, in terms of figure, is that Kompas is my father’s friend who wear a tie and is very respectable. We do not want that. We want Kompas.com to be a friend. This is our first step to make the brand more appealing and we will introduce new campaigns at the end of the year.