Take these four innovation pills and call me in the morning!

I don’t know about you, but I’m suffering from a touch of innovation fatigue.

I mean, how many years of being hammered by the latest new widget and hottest new platform can anyone take?

Every time you look at an industry newsletter (like this one), you’re being made to feel hopelessly behind and like, well, a Luddite.

As I gave innovation presentations around the world last year, I could almost see the audiences’ heads spinning, eyes crossing, and brains freezing.

I think many of them felt like boxer Roberto Duran who decided in the eighth round of a 1980 championship bout with Sugar Ray Leonard that he’d had enough: “No mas, no mas,” [“No more, no more”] he was quoted as saying when he refused to come out of his corner.

But unlike Duran, whose career went downhill from there, I suggest we head back to the gym to bulk up, toughen up, and come back bigger and badder than ever.

So here’s my 2015 innovation prescription for magazine executives: Instead of trying to do all the latest innovations right away and driving your staff crazy and ending up doing nothing really well, choose four innovations that you will actually execute really, really well… and just let the rest go. Step away from that latest bright new shiny thing.

You probably already know which areas of innovation would most benefit your company. Now just go do them.

And, even though I don’t know you personally, I’m going to give you a list of the most important areas of innovation you should choose from to pick as your four priorities (check off no more than four; please resist the urge to look like an innovation hero by checking them all).

  • Digital ad fraud
  • Native advertising
  • Video
  • E-newsletters
  • Events
  • Mobile
  • Social media
  • Programmatic advertising
  • Data

Choose your four? Good! That’s a big step.

Now, here are five key actions you can commit to taking in each of the categories you chose. Do these by the end of the year and you will have far fewer innovation fatigue headaches. Doctor John guarantees it. And you will have taken a huge step in securing and enhancing your future:

Digital ad fraud

  1. Evaluate, authorise, approve, monitor and report on third-party traffic
  2. Demand transparency for all sourced traffic
  3. Control for ad injection
  4. Budget for security; retain an outside firm such as: White Ops, Forensiq, Integral Ad Science, Casale Media, Iponweb, Spider.io, DoubleVerify, Telemetry, Solve Media, Pixalate, Improvely, AreYouAHuman
  5. Join the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s Anti-Fraud Working Group

Native advertising

  1. Create a separate advertising-editorial native ad team; promote an editor or hire a great one; hire great writers; put them outside editorial
  2. Train advertising staff in the benefits of native advertising; create incentives for selling native campaigns
  3. Develop native advertising guidelines for content and labelling; research best practices; codify them
  4. Identify advertisers best suited for native ads; create sample packages; pitch them
  5. Determine in advance the measures for assessing native advertising success (e.g., engagement, social shares, conversions, traffic, etc.)


  1. Determine which of your niches most lends itself to video and commit to creating X number of videos/week in that niche
  2. Create a “team” of at least one person whose sole responsibility is video but revise the job descriptions of everyone in editorial to include video contributions of some sort (on camera, behind camera, writing scripts, etc.)
  3. Spend as little as US$15,000 on cameras, lights, microphones, and editing software; set up a green room
  4. Create an editorial (and native advertising?) video topics outline and calendar with a commitment to creating videos that are short (10 one-minutes videos instead of one 10-minute video) and useful (“explainer” videos are among the most popular; the “Vox Explains” series got 4 million views in just six months)
  5. Use audience analytics data and social media trends to determine what kinds of videos readers might want. Data drivers would include which parts of your site are getting the most traffic, and what’s trending on social media.


  1. Determine the niche(s) within your brand where a regular e-newsletter would offer enough additional value to your readers that they will give you their emails to receive it
  2. Establish frequency, scope, organisation, voice/tone, topics, platform, length, author(s), and editorial calendar
  3. Create a super-simple sign-up process
  4. Design a format that emphasises simplicity and speed, a call to action (at the top), is mobile-friendly, and that prominently but not obnoxiously displays sponsor messages (see Atlantic Media’s Quartz)
  5. Work out the measures of success prior to launch (engagement measures, growth rate, loyalty, action taken, etc.); collect data; revise if necessary


  1. Choose your event niche(s) by analysing your audience and your competition
  2. Involve all editorial and advertising staff in brainstorming creative ideas for best events to meet audience needs and involve them in planning and execution
  3. Create a schedule, budget, promotional plan, related content channel, etc.
  4. Hire or promote a proven leader and create an internal team around him/her
  5. Predetermine success measures (revenue, new subscriptions, new advertisers, etc.)


  1. Use Google’s free tools to ascertain if all your pages are mobile-friendly and, if not, fix them
  2. Make a commitment to creating a corporate mobile-focused mindset with goals, benchmarks, KPIs, and performance bonuses for mobile success
  3. Start editorial, advertising, and corporate planning meetings with a focus on mobile
  4. Rewrite everyone’s job descriptions to include mobile responsibilities, including getting training and launching mobile projects
  5. Revamp your CMS to display mobile page rendering, add mobile metrics to the dashboard, and display those metrics publicly on screens in the editorial and advertising departments

Social media

  1. Determine which two or three social media platforms are most used by your audience; do not try to be on all of them… except Facebook (that’s your absolute sine qua non). Use Facebook’s new tools, especially their “Interest Targeting” and “Smart Publishing” tools
  2. Set clear, measurable goals for your social media campaign before you start (e.g., increased social enhancements like retweets and likes, increased inbound traffic, increased conversions against a subscription or ecommerce goal, etc.)
  3. Create a real-time dashboard to display progress toward those goals and make it visible on screens throughout the editorial department
  4. Revise everyone’s job description to require some forms of measurable social media activity; create bonuses for successful performances with regular high-profile award “ceremonies” in the editorial department
  5. Promote your own content but also piggyback on what people are talking about: Monitor social media trending topics and jump on them with your unique take on the subject. 

Programmatic advertising

  1. Commit to using programmatic not just for unsold inventory but as a key piece of your advertising strategy, including creating your own Private Marketplace (PMP) or joining one made up of publications serving similar or complementary audiences
  2. Identify two or three internal advertising people as your programmatic leadership team and get them trained ASAP in how to set up a programmatic operation within your company
  3. Begin assembling internal and third-party data about your customers to be able to offer clearly identifiable consumer profiles to programmatic buyers
  4. Establish clear, measurable goals for your programmatic team before you start
  5. Be completely transparent about what advertisers are buying through your programmatic plan and demand complete transparency if you buy third-party traffic


  1. Make a commitment to using data to help drive editorial decisions and advertising campaigns by naming a data head for each department
  2. Work with internal or external tech experts to facilitate the gathering, organisation, and analysis of data about your readers’ demographics and online behaviours for the editorial team and advertising sales people and their clients 
  3. Establish regular meetings for the reporting, discussion, and analysis of data and the subsequent creation or alteration of action plans around that data
  4. Use the data to: improve reader loyalty and engagement time; place highly targeted high CPM advertising; identify and report stories; understand and build audience; identify opportunities to launch new products to meet data-proven needs or interests
  5. Create a set of measurable goals and objectives for not only the data team but also for every member of the editorial and advertising departments

So, there you have it! An approved list of Dr. John’s power pills. 

Take four of those pills, give them to your troops with a large dose of enthusiasm and empowerment, and watch your innovation fatigued organization morph into team of energized magazine superheroes yelling out: “dame más, mucho más, por favor!!” [“give me more, much more, please!!”]

And call me in the morning!

Telephone: +1 (0) 617 688 0137 Email: wilpers@innovation-mediaconsulting.com

John Wilpers is currently editing the 2015 edition of FIPP’s Innovation in Magazine Media World Report which will be launched at the FIPP/VDZ/eMediaSf Digital Innovators Summit in Berlin, 21-24 March 2015 . This will be the 6th edition of the Innovation Report which he has co-authored as consultant with Innovation International Media Consulting. John consults with media companies around the world focusing on multi-platform innovation, organizational integration, and customer-driven editorial management to deliver multimedia content 24-7 across all platforms. A man of many talents, John has created a self-esteem soccer (football for some!) programme for girls ages 2-10 that has graduated 4,200 girls since 1996. He is a long-board surfer and has performed as “Mother Ginger” in a Boston ballet company’s production of the “Nutcracker” for 18 years (where he has astounded audiences with the innovation he brought to the role – reportedly).

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