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How G+J’s Greenhouse Innovation Lab works in pursuit of digital success

Jens G+J ()

Since Europe's largest printing and publishing firm, the German publisher Gruner + Jahr launched its Greenhouse Innovation Lab, 22 innovator projects have been tested and validated, with five receiving the green light for development. We look at the project and its early successes.

Sponsored by Julia Jäkel, CEO of Gruner + Jahr, the Greenhouse Innovation Lab was launched in May 2015 under the leadership of managing director Jens Uehlecke

The strategic rationale was rather bold: Gruner + Jahr wanted to cover the entire innovation process of digital products and digital business models.

To meet this ambitious remit it not only set up Greenhouse in Hamburg’s hip Schanzenviertel district but also founded the G+J Digital Ventures fund, with a mix of €50 million in cash and media exposure available to invest in early-stage startups.

G+J Greenhouse ()

While Greenhouse relies on only four to five full time employees, numbers surge when a project is evaluated. G+J employees, freelancers such as developers, graphic designers and authors flood the lab to boost the project’s potential. At any given time five projects can be simultaneously tested and validated. Thus far all ideas and projects came from operational divisions within G+J or from individual journalists.  

According to Uehlecke, Greenhouse is a crucial component in G+J’s digital transformation. “The success of an innovation lab must not only be measured in financial numbers… The cultural impact is as important as additional revenue.”

He says because G+J has creativity at its core, employees constantly develop new ideas for products and business models. These are the people who are encouraged to bring ideas to Greenhouse. “We offer them the opportunity to test and validate their ideas and, if successful, get further funding. After almost two years, we have successfully implemented five projects – but the learnings from the (17) projects we did not further pursue are just as valuable.”

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He continues: “The way we designed Greenhouse is the best approach for G+J, however, it’s not necessarily a blueprint for all other companies. Every corporate has its specific requirements and challenges that their lab has to reflect and address. However, the core concept should be: Do not believe. Test.”

At the moment Greenhouse is working on several projects, of which the latest are testing products in mindfulness, DIY and dating. It will keep them busy well towards the middle of 2017.

During each three-month validation phase, Greenhouse teams get everything they need from a laptop to a €50,000 budget, as well as support from internal and external mentors. All teams are allowed access to G+J’s brands such as Brigitte, Stern, Gala, Geo and their media reach.

The five projects that have already been implemented are:

1) Club of Cooks

This FoodTuber network bundles 30 of the best and largest food channels on YouTube under one roof at clubofcooks.de. It is marketed and brought to the attention of foodies on YouTube, Chefkoch.de and Facebook. On Facebook, Club of Cooks has more than 1 million fans, more than 34 million video views and on average 3,000 likes per posting as well as 1,250 shared posts, offering marketers multi-platform concepts and connects content production with traffic seeding.

2) InCircles

Since its launch in September 2016, over 1,000 influencers joined InCircle, an influencer marketing platform that connects advertisers with food, living, parenting, travel, lifestyle, beauty and fashion influencers at incircles.de.

InCircles G+J ()

InCircles enables cross-media influencer campaigns from a single source - including a transparent success control. It combines communication technology with Gruner + Jahr's marketing unit. Advertisers get access to a range of influencers whom they can individually select from the continuously growing network according to criteria such as reach, interaction rate, target group and topic as well as content quality. This enables advertisers to realise strong reach and content-driven campaigns in all relevant social media environments and also combine them with G+J brands.

G+J Greenhouse 4 ()

3) AppLike

Launched in January 2016, AppLike is the fastest growing business at G+J Digital. This data-driven app is a discovery platform that offers personalised app recommendations for Android users by targeting their app usage behavior and social data. At applike.info, AppLike analyses the behaviour of Android users. 

Based on the analysis the platform recommends matching apps - making it easier to search the 2.4 million Apps in the Google Play Store. In addition, AppLike acts as a mobile customer loyalty program by rewarding users with a virtual currency for using apps. This currency can be converted into vouchers. App Publishers such as Playtika, Machinezone and Funplus use the platform to expand their audience reach.  

4) Swaply

Swaply is an in-house social media tool used by G+J’s staff in digital departments.

5) Barbara Digital

Barbara Digital is the digital pendant to G+J’s “no ordinary women‘s magazine” Barbara.

More about Jens Uehlecke:

Uehlecke first studied political science and journalism in Hamburg and attended the Henri-Nannen-Journalistenschule. 

He worked as an editor at the Financial Times Deutschland and Der Zeit in Hamburg. After an MBA degree in Berkeley and start-up at Flipboard and Klout, he became an intrapreneur at Bertelsmann, Penguin Random House and Gruner + Jahr’s various innovation projects. In 2015 he founded Greenhouse, the innovation lab of Gruner + Jahr, and since then has been the managing director. See more at greenhouse.media.

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