How to keep innovating effectively as a publisher

Effective innovation
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US-based journalism professor Damian Radcliffe recently wrote a three-part series exploring effective innovation and journalism for the Centre for Media Data and Society. He considered the pace of change in digital publishing and the pressures faced by even the biggest and most successful publishers in trying to ‘refresh and reinvent’ what they do continuously.

What is innovation?
  • The pace of change in the media business means that companies must keep pace with developments in the industry or risk being overtaken by startups with better ideas or established competitors with bigger budgets. Effective innovation in publishing must tackle workflows and processes, formats, distribution and monetisation.

Federica Cherubini, Head of Leadership Development at RISJ, told Damian:

Innovation could be a new solution to an old problem or a new approach to a new problem. It could be about technology of course, but more broadly it’s about process and ways of doing things.

  • When we think of innovation we think about big and bold changes, but Damian points out that the reality is often more mundane. Effective innovation can just as easilly be seen as ‘making existing things a bit better’ through iteration and improvements, often driven by data analysis.
Barriers to innovation

When it comes to overcoming common obstacles to innovation, Damian says the correct processes, metrics and people are key to the implementation of fresh ideas and digital transformation. He recommends a series of strategic actions that companies trying to innovate effectively should be considering.

Define the problem – What do you want to improve and why?

Focus on your audience – How will you solve the problems they face?

Measure the right things – What metrics will tell you if change is working?

Lead effectively – Are you communicating a clear vision for change?

Look beyond the C-Suite – How will you include a range of viewpoints?

Commit for the long-term – Are you a fairweather innovator or in it for the long haul?

Get the process right –  Do you want learnings or real-world deliverables?

Acknowledge uncertainty – Have you addressed the fear of change in your teams?

Bring people with you – How will you get staff to buy-in to plans for change?

 Cut detractors loose – Can you remove naysayers and empower positive staff?

Let go of the past – Are you ready for your products to look and feel different?

Damian’s final piece of advice for achieving effective innovation is to accept that change is the only constant and however uncomfortable or uncertain it is, innovation remains necessary.

Accelerated change

He says the impact of the COVID pandemic has only accelerated the issues of structural transformation that already defined digital media. The crisis catapulted the industry into an even more uncertain future and forced change much more quickly than previously anticipated.

Noting that there are lessons to be learned from the innovation practices of leading news and media organizations around the world, he said: 

To survive, nevermind flourish, in this environment, strategic innovation — rather than innovation for the sake of it — is more important than ever.

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