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DCN Members React to the API’s Innovation Report

June 1, 2015 | By Michelle Manafy, Editorial Director – DCN @michellemanafy

The American Press Institute recently published a “best practices for innovation within news organizations report.” As Craig Silverman notes in his analysis of the findings: innovation is a word bandied about a great deal these days. Yet given the reality of perpetual media/technology disruption, the American Press Institute thought it wise to examine how news organizations foster innovation. And because many of the participating news organizations are those with strong brands and legacy print businesses, the need to innovate—and the challenges that entrenched business models and structures pose—are many.

We reached out to a handful of our member companies to gauge their reaction to the best practices and see if they had any other insights to add.

For the purpose of the American Press Institute study, innovation is defined as

“The process of bringing new practices, culture and products alive within an organization,
to preserve core values but serve them in radically new ways.”

Across the board, the members we heard from agreed that this was a good definition.

Below are a few takeaways from the report, which is well worth a read in its entirety. Mixed in are comments from some DCN member companies on how they reacted to the API’s suggestions for how to implement these best practices:

Best practice: Leaders must set, enforce but also nurture priorities.

Our members agreed that setting priorities, in terms of what to do and what not to do was important. Among the many points of advice given, having leaders model innovative behaviors and embrace transformational leadership were the most effective.

“Leaders also need to set tone and momentum, creating a unified march toward a specific goal.”
–Andrea Spiegel, Senior Vice President, Product Development and Video, Forbes

Best practice: How to create a culture and structure for innovation.

Among those we asked, giving people ownership over their own products was something they also found effective as is creating more job and workplace flexibility. The API advice they selected as most effective was to break down silos and foster collaboration.

“While organizations can embrace a top down approach to innovation, the best ideas are those
that come from the bottom up.  Companies need cultures of curiosity yet at the same time
must provide means for ideas to coming from anywhere at any time.”
–Douglas Rozen, Chief Innovation Officer, Meredith Xcelerated Marketing

“Everyone is a leader, whether you run an entire team or a particular function. People make a huge difference:
the type of leaders, their team members and individual leadership styles. You can have all the right plans in
place but if you don’t have the right people to execute on them, you’ll never move forward.”
–Andrea Spiegel, Senior Vice President, Product Development and Video, Forbes

Best practice: How to generate and pursue ideas.

Of the many interesting suggestions in this area of the API report, those we asked believe that creating cross-departmental teams and/or embedding those from different departments into others is among the most effective tips. They also believe that holding regular cross-departmental meetings to increase awareness and foster collaboration are extremely effective.

“It’s vital to behave like both an incumbent and an insurgent, to resist two of the biggest threats an established media company can face: complacency in culture and stagnancy in content. This means serving fans in the moment with live content windows and social alerts; with surprising, engaging and delightful enterprise efforts; with being both RIGHT and FIRST with breaking news and perspective; and with tools and insight that make fans smarter and help them win a wager, win their fantasy league or win the conversation with their friends around the water cooler.”
–Patrick Stiegman, VP / Editorial Director, Digital & Print Media, ESPN

Best practice: How to gather feedback, measure and iterate.

Feedback, measurement and the ability to pivot are certainly all important to the process of innovation. As with the API’s respondents, DCN members interviewed used email, analytics dashboards and regular meetings.

“At Forbes, we believe it’s critical to understand and learn from the data. Data helps inform – not rule – what we do. We share data internally across all of our teams (edit, product, tech and sales),
but also with our contributors through their own personal data dashboards. ”
–Andrea Spiegel, Senior Vice President, Product Development and Video, Forbes

“Beyond innovation, you need ambition, the desire to do something that’s never been done before.
To quote Wayne Gretzky, ‘You miss one hundred percent of the shots you don’t take.'”
You have to take your shots, course correct and drive ahead.
–Patrick Stiegman, VP / Editorial Director, Digital & Print Media, ESPN

“Show by example that innovation is not just a buzz word. Demonstrate your commitment
to innovation by following through on an idea, from initial concept to build to launch.
Actions really do speak louder than words, and your team will see what’s possible. ”
–Andrea Spiegel, Senior Vice President, Product Development and Video, Forbes

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