Details emerge about how world’s best media companies innovate routinely


Logos for companies, Fairfax Media, Gannett, MittMedia, the Global International Awards.
Logos for companies, Fairfax Media, Gannett, MittMedia, the Global International Awards.

Innovation is a process more than it is a great idea. That was one of the great lessons from last month’s INMA World Congress in San Francisco

And it’s especially important for media companies aiming to reinvent themselves in the eyes of readers, advertisers, communities, shareholders, employees, and other stakeholders.

David Kelley, the founder of the global design and innovation firm IDEO, told INMA last month that companies should prioritise the art of “innovating routinely.” 

Merging that idea with what I see among media companies worldwide, I would say that it is the willingness to throw down seeds that will multiply that separates the companies that occasionally come up with great ideas using gut instincts akin to the mad scientist in his garage and those that are laying the foundation from which ideas grow systematically via culture and process. 

“Innovation” is an over-used word in the media industry these days. For companies to capitalize on innovation’s ramifications, we have to see innovation as a foundation and not an idea. That requires some vernacular gymnastics in the media business.

To this end, INMA this year launched the Global Innovation Awards. This was a contest designed to surface efforts by media companies to innovate routinely. 

In today’s blog post, I want to shine a light on the four regional winners and turn the light brighter on some examples that fit David Kelley’s view of innovation as culture and process. 

Regional winners of Global Innovation Awards

First, congratulations to regional winners of the INMA Global Innovation Awards. With their permissions, we provide you links below that give descriptions of their innovation programmes.  

Best in Asia/Pacific (and Global Winner)
Fairfax Media, Australia
“Real-Time Working”
Download PDF | View Video (password: fairfaxrtw)

The Real-Time Working project at Fairfax is a metrics-focused series of technological strategies aimed at enabling more efficient and flexible work by individuals and teams. In implementing real-time working, Fairfax aimed for more agile and responsive business operations and an inspiring and collaborative workplace that embodied its brand. You can see in the PDF and video the radical re-thinking of workspaces that are the face of the Fairfax culture changes.

Best in the Americas
Gannett, United States
“Gannett Innovation Grants Program”
Download PDF

In this initiative, Gannett employees were invited to propose new product ideas that could receive funding. Eight ideas were selected from 70 entries, ranging from digital and mobile projects to new potential revenue streams. The program included mentoring, subject matter experts, high-level pitches, and judging, and what was described by participants as a “mini-MBA.” 

Best in Europe
MittMedia, Sweden
“Future Works”
Download PDF | Video

FutureWorks is a change management program, an integration project, an individual training programme, and an innovation lab aimed at creating an ongoing process of product, audience, and revenue ideation and incubation. 

South Asia
South Asia
Best in South Asia
Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd. (BCCL), India
“Transforming Print Media Sales Culture Through Technology” Download PDF

The BCCL sales culture transformation program looked at ending silo selling, more efficient pricing, driving agility, creating a climate of accountability, and data-driven selling, The program included intense efforts at changing the internal culture to one that encourages efficiencies, agility, and accountability.

Fairfax, MittMedia, and state of innovation

What do these case studies tell us about the state of innovation in the media industry?

There is a movement afoot in the media industry to encourage the kind of seed-planting, human resources-facilitated, people-oriented innovation programmes for which Gannett, MittMedia, and Fairfax Media were rewarded.

MittMedia and Fairfax Media won Global Innovation Awards for the comprehensiveness of their programmes.

MittMedia deserves special praise because it isn’t a big media company. It is a publisher of 18 regional dailies in Sweden. MittMedia’s efforts prove that innovation and culture change are not the exclusive domains of billion dollar corporations. The company showed great courage and practicality to change their culture before it’s too late to adapt to the emerging digital world – a lesson for so many INMA members worldwide.

As for Fairfax Media, the campaign for which they won is just the tip of the iceberg. There is a bigger story at Fairfax. It’s about culture, how we get work done, what types of work have more and less value, how to create a work environment that is a magnet for young and digitally minded people, how to surface innovation. And, yes, it’s about (smart) cost savings. And it is not without critiques in Australia. 

As the worldwide winner of the Global Innovation Awards, Fairfax kindly shared with INMA a 10-minute video that I encourage you to share with your team. Click here to view the video (password: fairfaxrtw). 

More ideas on how to innovate routinely

Three seperate images of work spaces for Axel Springer, Toronto Star and VK.
Three seperate images of work spaces for Axel Springer, Toronto Star and VK.

Three other companies submitted entries that matched the spirit of David Kelley’s aspiration to “innovate routinely.” Below I share links to their stories (PDF and PPT downloads) as further evidence that media companies are starting to understand what it will take to change corporate culture that adapts to the emerging digital ethos: 

  • Axel Springer for “Plug and Play Accelerator”: Like Fairfax, this is just one piece of a bigger culture change story taking place at Axel Springer. They are accelerating digital innovation, and this case study shows the strategic thought process behind this acceleration. 
  • Toronto Star for “Ideas Factory”: In the universe of complex programmes, the Toronto Star’s Ideas Factory stands out for its simplicity and straightforwardness – and is something that any media company of any size can imagine implementing.
  • Västerbottens-Kuriren (VK) for “Newsroom Cultural Transformation.” Another Swedish media company going all-in on culture change, but this time with a narrower focus on the newsroom – a challenge for nearly every media company in the world.

INMA is an association of ideas. The case studies in this post are really big ideas rooted in the concept of innovation as a process that will yield consistent ideation over time.

I hope the case studies inspire you and your team to think bigger and faster in the transformative times ahead.

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