With 80 million monthly unique users, Indonesia’s IDN Media has become the country’s most valuable news source for young audiences by embracing inclusiveness and maximising revenue opportunities, said IDN Media Founder and CEO Winston Utomo, during our World News Media Congress in Taipei.

IDN aims to include everyone, not just those who live near the capital

In Indonesia, 90 percent of media was previously focused on events around Jakarta, the country’s capital, despite the fact that only 10 percent of the country’s 270+ million people live there. Utomo and his brother, William, saw the enormous information gap and launched IDN Media with the aim of delivering a variety of content for all citizens.

“Our goal is to be a platform for everyone in Indonesia,” he said.

IDN’s products can be divided into the following four business pillars, said Utomo (pictured above in Taipei).

Content platform
Digital media

Becoming the go-to source for GenZ

“If you ask what is unique about IDN Media, first, since the beginning, 90 percent-plus of our audience is considered millennials and GenZ. So we have a fairly young audience on our platforms,” Utomo said.

The second unique point about IDN is the way the company creates content.

“Unlike many other media companies in Indonesia or in the region, we do not create everything in-house,” he said.

For example, 40 percent of the content of IDN Times is created by users, “so we created a platform that allows everyone to write on that, and it will go to a human editor before we publish,” he said.

“That is a way we can lower costs, and I think that is a very important part of the matrix for our newsroom. And also it’s the relevance of the content itself, so we can have a fairly specific content for GenZ because we decentralise the content creation part of the content,” Utomo said.

Additionally, IDN has already been using AI-related content creation for several years for certain topics.

For the past four years, they’ve had their own robo journalists for content such as sports, soccer results, the stock exchange, weather, earthquakes and so on, he said.

Own platform helps ensure control of both content and distribution

News publishing companies in the past were powerful largely because they controlled both the creation of content as well as its distribution, Utomo noted. This situation, particularly the distribution part, has changed drastically during the past couple of decades.

While IDN partners with the big platform media around the world, he said they have also created their own.

“For a media company to be sustainable, these two parts have to be controlled and managed well: the content creation part, and also the content distribution part,” Utomo said.

IDN Creative is a one-stop advertising solutions company IDN Media launched in 2015.

Taking control of advertising solutions

The next part of IDN’s business is IDN Creative, an advertising solutions company they launched in 2015. 

In recent years, Utomo said a problem has developed in that “there are too many agencies between the brand, who has the money, and the media company that will be used for the placement. So there is a large chance of miscommunication. Also, the margin will become lower and lower because there are so many middlemen in the value chain. What we did is we created our own agency in IDN Media.”

“Our goal is to become a one-stop shop advertising solution for print partners,” he continued. “By using this method, not only can we have a higher margin for every campaign, but also we can work with more clients for a longer term,” he said.

Connecting brands and influencers

Another company IDN has created is called ICE, which connects brands and influencers. Utomo described ICE as “one of the biggest businesses in IDN Media.”

In Indonesia, creators in the digital adverting space command higher revenue than a publisher can – “significantly higher,” he said. What’s more, creators are seeing between 25 and 30 percent growth year-on-year.

“We created a platform that allows creators to make money from this and for brands to tap in to creators and also advertise their products,” Utomo said. “We also work with the top e-commerce company in Indonesia where they can use our self-service platform to order creators. Think of it as Google or Facebook ads, but for influencers or creators.”

Adding movies and music businesses to its media mix

“When we think about IDN Media, or people talk about IDN Media, they usually talk about IDN Times, our hardcore news and media company, but for us, we try to create an ecosystem, a platform for the younger generation, which is beyond just a media company. We call ourself a platform for the young generation of Indonesia,” Utomo said.

As part of this, IDN has launched two major entertainment related companies: a movie business launched in April 2020 called IDN Pictures, and a music business called JKT48.

With IDN Pictures, Utomo said they are publishing movies to both cinemas and Netflix as well as other audited platforms. “We are right now one of the biggest movie companies in Indonesia,” he said.

Meanwhile, the music business, JKT48, has become the biggest IDN group in Indonesia with a lot of loyal fans, Utomo said.

Music is incredibly popular in Indonesia, and any major performer coming to the country will find their shows are “always sold out, always full. That is why we are entering the music industry because we know the marketplace is there,” he said.

Annual reports on millennials and GenZ

In yet another venture, each year, IDN Research publishes a millennial & GenZ report (downloadable and available also in English).

“Basically by reading this, you know everything about the young generation of Indonesia,” Utomo said.

For example, Indonesia has 63 million millennials and almost 75 million GenZ, those who were born up to 2012.

“In the report, we share everything they value from family, education, political views, financial behaviour and so on,” he said.

What’s more, young people are willing to pay more for goods and services that are seen to be good for the planet. “This is a good thing for all of us,” he added.

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