A couple of weeks ago at HNA we started a Web radio based on local news and a popular variety of music. We thought it made sense to add this component to our newspaper and Internet business.

Honestly, we aren’t totally sure where this cross-media venture will end up. All we know for sure at this point is that it seems to be prompting all of us to look at our business in a new way. It is a real nudge toward increased innovation, impacting our journalists and sales staff alike.

Our staffers love to tell the story that they are involved with something new, and they are keen to develop ideas on how we can make it profitable.

Unexpected result. So far, the most impressive result has been receiving calls from relevant and serious customers, asking if and when they would be able to advertise with our Web radio station. Such calls are unbelievable to me in my 30 years of media life. Having customers actually call US instead of pitching THEM because they want to be part of our new experience, and spend money for the opportunity, is as unique here as anywhere.

Here’s something just as unique: Our response is to thank them for their interest and ask them to wait a bit. That’s because we don't have a concept on advertising yet because there is no experience with a newspaper Web radio in Germany. So we are telling our customers we are striving to be “accident free” for a couple of weeks; we want to perfect our product before we approach them with advertising solutions.

Traditional “spots by seconds” not part of plan. We also tell them we will not be “just selling spots by seconds,” but instead taking a holistic approach to their advertising campaigns, working with them to develop integrated advertising

If that’s not shocking enough, we also make them aware that this package will be available only for those willing to invest serious money.

Our clients are not irritated by our response. They are really open-minded about the ideas we will ultimately bring back to them. Now our challenge is to develop packages and approach them with innovative solutions. We need to quickly train ourselves in the new discipline of combining more than the channels of print and online.

Lessons learned in early stages. I have already learned a lesson from this: We still have opportunities to be appealing as an industry.

Instead of newspapers being caught up in internal chatter about “broken business models” and a daily litany of bankruptcies, we need to kick ourselves out of depression. In our despair, we forgot how to make ourselves “sexy” again. We must remember now.

We need to brighten up our classified, dig deeper into unique local news, and develop new, attractive advertising solutions for small and medium businesses.

Finally, we need to look smart and innovative to our customers. We have to focus on serious quality, not just a fancy wrapper around the same old stuff.

This modest Web radio project shows me that this kind of change and activity is vital for our healthy future. It not only thrills our market because it is new and innovative, but it changes the spirit of our media company.