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Where you go wrong with interactivity — and 4 ways of getting back on track

07 April 2014 · by Anette Novak

It is soon 21 years since the first Web page was created.

Sure, a lot of things have happened since this early how-to-do-the-Internet-manual, but more on design side than on the user experience. Why are we still offering mass communicating, static tools to our interactive hungry audiences?

If you want to impact, change things, create – or simply interact with others – browsing around international news sites is one of the most disappointing experiences you can find:

  • You are allowed to comment – but you cannot alter the content (even when you pertinently know that it is wrong).
  • You are allowed to choose between free or premium material. Under the same brand. But rarely blend your own cocktail. Nor create your own design.
  • You are allowed to – at best –add a smiley (but you cannot say if you opt for the angry one because you dislike a certain opinion, the writer, or someone quoted in the article/clip). 

Ladies and gentlemen of the news media, why is interactivity so bleeding difficult?

You can call it “digital first” or “online first” as much as you want. You are still losing the battle against the disruptives if you do not open up your operations towards the crowd (and unleash the power within it).

Now, enough with the bickering. Voilà! Here’s the constructive, pepping coach talk on what you already should be doing: 


5 reasons you suck at innovation

11 March 2014 · by Anette Novak

We have been on about it for more than five years: We have to start innovating. Experimenting. Testing.

But, sincerely, how many inventions have you actually developed, tested, and launched during this period of time?

The truth, of course: too few.

As I said in frustration to the WAN-IFRA World Newspaper Congress in Bangkok last year: “If you were innovating enough, we would have heard about it!”

Last week, during a panel I moderated at the #Meg14 conference – one of Sweden’ s most important conferences for trademark media (digital, broadcast, and print) – I realised we need to dissect this limp industry body and find out what’s wrong.

So, the question is: Why do you suck at innovation? Here are five possible answers.


In hunt for revenues, don’t lose sight of journalistic integrity

12 February 2014 · by Anette Novak

Still believe you are delivering “objective” journalism? That your reporters tell neutral stories, balancing different opinions and staying impartial?

Welcome to reality: They try, but they fail. And sometimes they don’t even try.

The Internet of Things is already here and soon will merge with the Quantified Self evolution into the future Smart World, where transparency becomes the default and facts will be revealed.

For those media companies who haven’t shaped up by then, digital doomsday is here. 

While this industry is struggling to monetise quality journalism, there is an obvious risk that strategy discussions will become finance-focused, that we’ll forget the deeper values that are the true success factors when it comes to attracting future customers.

If your organisation’s long-term purpose is not clearly defined, you risk not only stagnation (in a time when rapid ability to adapt to change is business critical), but also you might end up with individual staff members creating their own purposes. And few of them will put the interest of the audience – or your company – first.

Some of this behaviour derives from personal agendas.


Why your ex-staffers could be your worst competitors

12 January 2014 · by Anette Novak

If you are a news media executive, chances are you have been, are in the process of, or soon will be laying off newsroom staff. Or maybe all of the above.

With all eyes on the downward spiraling print curves, you feel obliged, muffling your guilty conscience with the “requirements of the owners” speech.

And, yes, staff costs. Yet, the costs are no longer your problem. And this respresents the one New Year’s resolution you need to make in order to make 2014 the turn-around year.

The downsizing of newsrooms has been a contagious disease all across the Western Hemisphere for the last two decades. In the early ’90s, it was a way of keeping profit margins high. Today, it’s the last resort to keep afloat.


One simple element you’re missing could double your impact

09 December 2013 · by Anette Novak

What if I said you were missing half of your target group? Would you listen?

What if I could show you they are the most positive, the most active, and the most influential? Would you believe me?

What if I said you can start attending to the needs of this crowd with some simple measures? Would you act?

While news media business fights for survival, there are other industries thriving on our quest for answers, making money on the thirst for a sustainable business model for quality journalism. I have not been able to find a global number representing the turnover on media conferences. But my gut feeling – and the fact that ad sales companies and management consultants are turning into conference organisers as we speak – is that this segment of the meeting industry is exploding.

  • “We bring together leaders of global media groups.”

  • “Hear the latest research.”

  • “Connect, network, explore…”

Amid this constantly increasing flood of invitations, I received one the other day that managed to catch my eye. It was from “Digital Media Strategies 2014,” sent from what seemed to be a private e-mail account.

The list of keynotes was impressive:

The way the organisers managed to simply exclude half of humanity’s input provoked me so much that I invested my time in writing them an answer: “Dear Tim, Thank you for the invitation. I hope that I must not deduce from the speakers list that this is an all-male conference.”


Want happy customers? Be bold about creating a satisfying experience for them

18 November 2013 · by Anette Novak

At the Noi Bai international airport in Hanoi, trying to buy a small packet of peanuts recently proved extremely revealing.

At the first counter, there were three attendants: One was on her smartphone, while the second was braiding the third’s hair. None even looked up at the client, ready to make a purchase. 

Second try: two men discussing with each other. Neither seemed interested if there were clients or not, let alone if they scored any sales.

My first guess is these non-devoted employees in the state-run airport shops earn monthly salaries for “looking after the store,” and no incentives such as sales commissions and no feedback such as client satisfaction surveys.

My second, not so wild guess: The turnover is far from dazzling.

This experience, made last week in Vietnam, where I was facilitating a workshop on the future challenges of journalism training, pulled my attention to a similar pattern in our own industry: The clients storm into our “stores,” but we don’t greet them, we don’t smile at them – and, most importantly, we don’t sell them much.

Even though they, in many cases, are eagerly looking for a product or a service.

One pretty remarkable assumption we base many of our managerial decisions on is that media consumers cannot be guided or steered. They are irrational, disloyal, and all we can do is follow what they do and try our best to adapt.


9 ways news media can still serve their communities, earn future revenue

15 October 2013 · by Anette Novak

To grasp a confusing present and a complex future, taking a thorough look in the rearview mirror can prove helpful. So let’s do just that. Let’s do some print-historical archaeology work.

In the good old days, the news media offer was not simply the delivery of news updates (as many tend to remember). If we dig through the top layers, we will unearth a rather complex offer, attending to a multitude of customer needs.

Sure — local, national, and international news represented one dimension. But there were more. So many more.

Here is an attempt to create a list – and to investigate the hidden opportunities up for grabs for anyone who manages to translate them to a connected, interactive, and collaborative present.

  1. Op-eds: It was never just news with views. It was value-based leadership, giving a sense of purpose and direction to the community. In the digital era – paradoxically enough — analogue events are more important than ever before.

    Instead of writing about what must change, you can act it out, co-creating a better future for everyone. The editorial maxim that “racism is not acceptable” translates into integration projects in real life, bringing people closer together, growing minds — and relationships.

  2. Statistical data: Property prices, company transfers, vehicles, salaries, or crime rates — public data is a goldmine for anyone who wishes to offer live, geo-located utility.

    Pinpoint the needs of different audiences, within different contexts. Offer simple and easy-to-use personalisation options, add interactive and collaborative layers, and — voilà — you have moved the boring, mostly non-relevant listings of the print version into day-to-day mobile necessities.

  3. Weather reports: We never get tired of discussing the amount of rain or sunshine, winds, and waves — what’s normal and what’s not. But where are the interactive maps, the crowd collaboration, the sensors collecting community-specific local data like snow depths or water levels?


Stop feeding dead content to phantom news consumers

10 September 2013 · by Anette Novak

Linda, 19, is dyslexic and, therefore, prefers communicating via Snapchat. She also likes graffiti and cooking.

Dieter, 28, owns all the latest tech gadgets. He is obsessed with electric guitars, spending time on communities where the positioning of a specific screw on a specific instrument can generate long discussion threads.

Sandra, 85, has a non-smart cell phone and never texts with her friends and family, because her eyesight is poor. She has no computer, loves crossword puzzles and watching TV.

This is how unique every single person in your audience is.

There are no longer masses in media.

The days when you could “send” average messages to passive receivers are gone.

So why does it take you so long to personalise your offer?


In face of NSA scandal, news audiences need reassurance

11 August 2013 · by Anette Novak

The news industry loves to market itself self as a “watchdog.”

But with the ongoing revelations from the National Security Administration surveillance scandal, there are few media houses who live up to this branding. A disturbing fact, since personal integrity is one of the great concerns of the community.

You wish to build a solid relationship with your audience? Well, the NSA scandal might just be your chance. The question is: Will you take it?

Three years ago, the cloud was “it” for sharp CTOs (chief technology officers) within legacy media. Why invest in expensive in-house hardware when Google and the like would take on the burden for “free”?

One of the evangelist companies was the UK Telegraph Media Group. However, Toby Wright was far from alone. He soon was joined by an impressive string of publishers, happily adopting cloud strategies, outsourcing vital information and communication technology (ICT) functions, to deliver better services for less cost.

But what about the security? Could we really trust the cloud with sensitive information in general and safeguard the confidentiality of sources in particular?

I remember voicing my concerns at the time within a management group. I also remember being silenced, both by colleagues with higher technological competence and by external consultants, all swearing that Google was the good guy, “doing good shit.”


Why media executives must stop playing Simon Says and make up your own game

14 July 2013 · by Anette Novak

Legacy media all around the world are desperately chasing new business models. This should logically result in the greatest experimenting the industry has seen in history.

But, strangely enough, this is not the case.

Instead, the executives are playing a multi-billion dollar version of Simon Says. The metered digital subscription model is attracting numerous new adepts every quarter.

Ladies and gentlemen, you lead companies ranging from tiny, local solitaries to gigantic multi-nationals. Some of you target a national minority, others publish in one of the great world languages, serving a global audience. 

Some of you represent great brands, loaded with tradition and credibility. Others get bad appreciation scores – or are hardly even known at all in the target market.

The differences are humongous. So why on earth do you all seem to share the belief that there is a one-size-fits-all solution?

As a media consultant, I sometimes startle clients by asking what they actually know about their customers/users/readers. A basic question, you might think. But more often than not, the answer is: extremely little (except perhaps their snail-mail addresses and if their bill payment histories).


About this blog

I am Anette Novak, CEO of Interactive Institute Swedish ICT, which conducts world-class applied research and innovation, creating groundbreaking user experiences. Also, I am an international media consultant, World Editors Forum board member, gourmet, long distance runner and Francophile – mainly because the Parisians walk and talk as fast as I do. I am former editor-in-chief of the Swedish regional media house Norran. I believe in digital opportunities for publishers, open innovation. The future belongs to media companies that are able to maintain the trust of the audience, who define themselves as active community players, and who are able to create amazing experiences.


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