By Trinna Leong

The story of IDN Times is a unique one. Conceived 10 years ago from an apartment in Singapore, what started as a part-time blog grew into a media empire tapping into 80 million of Indonesia’s 279 million population. That’s more than a quarter of the country’s residents. 

Its premise is to reach beyond the Greater Jakarta market (population: 31 million) and target the millennials and GenZ. 

“Our vision is to always address the information gap… More than 90 percent of the content in media and the internet is about Jakarta and Java,” said Diba Saleh, IDN Times’ Senior Head of Business Operations. 

The company quickly grew from a news portal that delivers short news content in less than 100 words to a media group that has its own ecosystem with multiple subsidiaries. 

“We believe that with this end-to-end ecosystem we can be a more sustainable company and support our digital media and publisher as our core business,” said Diba, during her presentation at WAN-IFRA’s recent Digital Media Asia during a panel on “Alternative Business Models for Young Audiences.”

Given the large scale of network within the group, not surprisingly the company built its own “superapp” that houses its news aggregator, movies and series, quizzes and livestream platform.

By building its own ecosystem, and having subsidiaries that can play a role within that ecosystem, the company is able to provide for itself without having to rely on external clients to provide services it needs.

An example of that is its events arm would build and run signature events for each of its core brands, drawing more audiences through such direct engagements. Another example is its entertainment stream established a successful idol group called JKT48 which then leverages its own livestream platform to communicate with fans. 

With everything online happening on its app, it also maintains users within the app without losing eyeballs to other platforms.

‘A platform for the young generation’

“IDN Media is not just a media company but a platform for the young generation of Indonesia,” Diba added.

Interestingly as the company seeks to generate higher revenue, it is leveraging on consumers from its digital media arm – which includes its news division. Its own market research found that its digital media arm has a high number of users, however clickthrough revenue gain is low per user while its entertainment business has low number of users but can provide higher revenue per user. 

Diba gave the example of its campaign to symbiotically use its publishers and IDN Pictures – its movie production arm – to be able to increase income.

Revenue through clicks per user is only 32 rupiah, but revenue per user from movie ticket sales is 35,000 rupiah. The group’s strategy is to direct its digital media users to consume its entertainment products as a way to grow profits. 

This conversion strategy is similarly used across various subsidiaries, including its music festival through tickets sale, and livestream portal with consumers spending money to send online gifts to idols. 

All app users land on the homepage

In the process, IDN Media is also getting its GenZ crowd who got on the platform through its entertainment stream to also consume news by having all app users land on the homepage with news content. 

“Previously it was hard for us as publishers to get more readers on our app. When we collaborate with JKT48, they have a huge fanbase and they used to do livestreams on other platforms,” said Diba.

But by having JKT48 livestream on IDN’s app, the company saw more users perusing news content, with Diba adding, “We attracted a new audience from JKT48 fans… they actually read it.”

“Now we are no longer a startup. The main challenge now is to stay relevant for the audience, said Diba, emphasising that, “From the beginning we sought to tap millennials and GenZ but the audience will keep getting younger. Although we are a young company, we need to stay relevant for our audience.”

About the author, Trinna Leong is a former journalist, having reported on politics, economics and general news from the MH370 & MH17 air disasters, Rohingya refugee crises, 1MDB financial scandal, Kim Jong Nam’s assassination, to Malaysia’s 14th general election. She joined Google News Initiative during the pandemic and helped lead its annual Trusted Media Summit from 2020-2023. She also designed the Youth Verification Challenge, which gamified fact-checking for Gen-Z and ran in 8 languages in 2021 & 2022. Most recently, she is part of the founding team called JomCheck, Malaysia’s first fact-checking alliance promoting collaborative fact-checking between newsrooms, academics and non-profit organisations. She now dabbles in building a more sustainable media ecosystem through consulting work in partnerships, fundraising, grant-making and business development.

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