By Lee Kah Whye
During WAN-IFRA’s recent Asian Media Leaders eSummit, Hugo Diba, founder and CEO of kumparan.com discussed his plans and strategies for controlling costs, managing staff and ensuring the business is sustainable after COVID-19.
In a very short time, the platform has grown to over 65 million active monthly users and 2 million Facebook followers.
The company has 200 certified journalists, 10,000 community partners, 5,000 verified content creators and 400 brand advertising partners. It publishes 1,000 stories a day from Indonesia’s 34 provinces. Its investors include GDP Venture, an Indonesian venture capital firm, and Gojek, one of the largest ride-hailing companies in Southeast Asia.
Diba said some observers had doubts that a new website could succeed in an already saturated market. But the founders believed kumparan could offer something new in a sector that had not changed much since the first news website was launched 20 years ago.
“We went about building a strong team on par with the big media companies in Indonesia and after three years, we are now where we projected to be when we started,” – Hugo Diba, Founder and CEO, kumparan.com
Credibility and resources were critical to the website’s success and its ability to survive the fallout from COVID-19, he added.
Learning to pace itself
The coronavirus pushed kumparan to recalibrate and realign its business. After sprinting in its first three years to displace competitors, Diba now likens the company to a marathon runner. It has to pace itself, be leaner, conserve energy, read the situation well and know when to move fast and when to go slow. Normal business assumptions don’t apply, he said.
The company’s top priority is the health and safety of its staff, Diba said, while other actions are prioritised between “must haves” and “good to haves.” Managers need to be agile and adapt to a new way of working, he said.
“COVID disrupted the way we work, but we have to use it as an opportunity to relook at how we do things. It has accelerated trends,” Diba said, adding the virus had made his team look more carefully at the way they do things.
Making the most of social media
Since its launch, kumparan has used social media such as Facebook, Instagram and Google to promote its brand and content. The website’s social media team re-produces content to suit social media audiences and formats. Their journalists also use social media to engage readers as they are drawn to kumparan’s platform.
The company tracks various metrics to gauge audience engagement – including time spent on the website, the number of downloads and visits.
Diba said they now “mix and match,” keeping a balance between what content is promoted on social media and what is kept on their platforms. On average about 50 per cent of its content is pushed through social media.
Plans for diversifying revenue
kumparan relies on advertising for 90 percent of its revenue, but it is exploring other ways to generate cash. Diba said kumparan is considering tie-ups with micro e-payment platforms that would enable readers to pay for products and services on the website.
The company is also looking at machine learning software to improve productivity and deliver more content from the vast Indonesian archipelago.
About the author: Lee Kah Whye is Director at Project Mercury, a media business consultancy. Before this, he spent nearly 20 years at Reuters and was head of the news agency business for Asia.