Lessons learnt from chasing innovation

From shiny new toys like AI and podcasts to the decade old katzenjammer of navigating new platforms, dealing successfully with innovation seems to be a matter of trial and error for most media companies. Congress delegates had lots to learn from insights and warning shots fired by top media executives.


On innovation in general


Zielina ()


“Innovation should be closely tied to strategic goals. Goals are not strategic if they are vague. They need to be precise enough that at the end of a quarter or a year you need to be able to see if you were successful in achieving it. If it’s too vague to measure success, it was simply not a strategy. This is the only way to measure the impact of product innovation.” 

– Anita Zielina, Director of News Innovation and Leadership, Craig Newman Graduate School of Journalism at City University New York


Paymani ()


“Innovation is an outcome of what you do every day. And experimentation, measured experimentation, even if you fail, is in reality the only way to find your way.”

– Keyvan Peymani, 5G expert and Managing director of Salem Partners, USA


On publishing to platforms


Guillin ()


“Publishers need to stop thinking about scale. I think at the end of the day, scale is fantastic, but scale gets very expensive for your business because you have to support it with all kinds of people and things in equipment and servers… remember that scale is never free.”

– Eric Gillin, Chief Business Officer at Condé Nast’s Culture Division


Bonnie Kintzer ()


“Regardless of the medium, we know how to create compelling content that brings people together,” she said. “If you have the right content, it doesn’t matter if it’s on the pages of a magazine, the pages of a book, a website, a Facebook post, you can reach and engage with consumers.”

– Bonnie Kintzer, CEO of Trusted Media Brands, USA




Lindsay Silver ()


“We’ve made the mistake to think that when we have a problem it’s an AI problem. Many times it’s not. At times you can solve problems with a simple piece of logic. So, when you have a problem, be sure it is an AI problem if you want to solve it with AI.”

– Lindsay Silver, VP of Product at Conde Nast, USA


Be fully user centric in implementing AI. It is important not to merely run after the next shiny thing. To be user centric your best start is to identify where the opportunities for value creation and product innovations are to fulfil in users’ needs and not just in the need of an Editor-in-Chief.”

– Anita Zielina, Director of News Innovation and Leadership, Craig Newman Graduate School of Journalism at City University New York


“AI is best at tasks you, your customers and readers do 100 times a day. Finding and isolating those tasks is the first thing you need to do. AI needs to solve a problem that’s constantly being repeated.”

– Lindsay Silver, VP of Product at Conde Nast, USA. (The example he shared with Congress delegates was solving SEO requirements, a cumbersome task that was done by reporters and editors following an exhaustive checklist and can now be automated by AI.)


On podcasts


Tyler Brule ()


“After experimenting with podcasts for nine years, we are seeing a significant growth in podcast income with growth in the last year being probably around 150 per cent. This is really the engine for growth right now.”

– Tyler Brûlé, Editor-in-Chief at Monocle, UK


On bookazines


Yulia Boyle ()


“The future is actually very bright for bookazines specifically. We doubled the production of our bookazines from 14 per year to 28 this year…we find that the more niche you go, the more specific you go to a subject area, you find passionate communities of people who want to buy that particular niche interest magazine.”

– Yulia Boyle, SVP” Global Media and Experiences, NatGeo (left, in the photo above)


Hackett ()


“You shouldn’t (produce a bookazine) that’s too close to what you deliver on a weekly or monthly basis. If it’s really just kind of a half step away, the reader’s going to go: ‘Why am I getting this? And it costs six or seven bucks more?’ So I think it’s an extension and at the same time a recognition of the brand.”

– Larry Hackett, Managing Partner, 10Ten Media, USA


On encouraging subscriptions


Jonathan Wright Dow Jones ()


“Changes to consumer behaviour shows that video, music and computer software dominate the paid subscriptions market. These facts challenge publishers to adapt their content offering to these realities, such as responding to the renewed popularity of podcasts.”

– Jonathan Wright, Global Managing Director at Dow Jones, Hong Kong


On innovating to attract younger audiences


James Hewes Congress 2019 ()


“Rather than being disinterested in news, younger audiences find the format, approach, and tone of news products cumbersome to consume. The disconnect with mainstream publications could be driven by a lack of a user experience that is tailored to them (millennials) and their content needs. The main question publishers now need to ask themselves is how to innovate and improve their user experience to win over younger audiences?”

– James Hewes, President and CEO of FIPP


On lack of newsstand innovation

“If we look at the major places where we sell magazines, it is at international airports and major train stations…these days the outlets where you need to buy a magazine or book has nothing to do with magazines or books. You have to fight your way through neck pillows and sippy cups… We (as publishers) don’t have an offering that is as compelling as some of the other (retail) sectors.”

– Tyler Brûlé, Editor-in-Chief at Monocle, UK


*** SAVE THE DATE: The FIPP World Congress 2020 takes place on 15 and 16 September 2020 — with opening night on 14 September — in beautiful Estoril, Portugal (watch this Estoril Tourism video for a sense of place), only a 20-minute drive from Lisbon international airport. Don’t miss out. Save the dates now.***


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