How to innovate without risking long-term strategy - Reuters News Agency

How to innovate without risking long-term strategy

Newsrooms around the world are innovating to keep up with the fast-paced evolution of technology.

 Jan 8, 2018

Two decades after the emergence of the internet, newsrooms are innovating in new technology and products to keep up with the fast-paced evolution of consumer demand.

However, media players that rush in too quickly to experiment with ‘shiny new things’ may find their long-term strategies thrown off course. In turn, publishers that experiment too little, too late may slow future progress.

Reuters Institute research on organizational transformation involved over 60 interviews in a wide range of media organizations to explore how different publishers approach innovation.

The report found that publishers that rigorously screen emerging technology against core strategic goals and their business model were found to remain in-line with their long-term strategy.

Let’s take a look at how different publishers approach innovation…

It’s quite a disciplined approach to say ‘nice to have’ rather than ‘have to have’.”

— Tom Standage, deputy editor, The Economist

1. The long game

The Economist launched on Snapchat Discover in October 2016. A year on, the channel is visited by an average of 7.1m users per month. Approaching the move to Snapchat, The Economist focused on three key aims: to change the perception of their brand, to reach younger audiences and to test new revenue streams for advertizers.

Tom Standage, the deputy editor described the move as “the biggest step-change in the audience of The Economist since 1843”.

Striking the right tone posed the most difficult challenge for the five-person Snapchat team. As well as being able to succinctly breakdown large, complex stories into concise, interactive pieces.

In Lucy Keung’s ‘Going Digital’ report, The Economist described Snapchat as a “long game to change perception of our brand”.

They added: “Last summer it was deep learning, and we built a machine learning system and we put lots of articles into it. We concluded that there was nothing useful we could do with that. So, it didn’t cost us very much … It’s quite a disciplined approach to say ‘nice to have’ rather than ‘have to have’.”


2. Speculative experimentation

In contrast The Financial Times have approached Snapchat with a longer set of questions. Currently, Snapchat does not offer a wide variety of audience metrics and the ability to monetize on the platform is unclear.

Consequently the FT are yet to experiment with Snapchat. When considering the platform they asked three key questions:

  1. Is it immediately apparent that this is a place we need to be?
  2. How does this help subscriptions?
  3. Is this platform going to be so important that we’re going to have to be there?

In the ‘Going Digital’ report the FT said:

“At some point we’ll want to have a dabble, but in the order of priorities and resources that you need to do it properly it doesn’t rack up the numbers. Can we get useful data out of this? If we’re not going to get the data on usage we’re probably not interested. Is it going to generate advertising revenue? And if it’s not going to do that is it brand marketing? Are we happy with this degree of brand marketing? How much money are we prepared to put behind it?”


3. Getting others to pay for it

Turning to third-parties to underwrite experimentation can be a cash positive move for publishers.

In November 2015 The New York Times partnered with Google to publish the VR documentary “The Displaced”.  The documentary investigated how young children are impacted by war. As part of the project over one million Google Cardboard headsets were distributed to subscribers.

Similarly, The Economist has turned to sponsorships to fund its work in VR. In the ‘Going Digital’ report, The Economist said, “Ideally, the cost is not negative… We will not make VR unless a sponsor is paying us to make it… We’re not just gonna speculatively make VR because it’s just gonna cost us a fortune, and it just doesn’t make sense.”


Optimize your approach to organizational transformation with Lucy Keung’s insights on Going Digital: A Roadmap for Organizational Transformation

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