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11 key components to revenue-generating innovation at Dallas Morning News

Editor’s note: This is one of 17 case studies featured in INMA’s strategic report “How Media Companies Embrace the Process of Innovation,” released in November, 2015.

Innovation is in the air at The Dallas Morning News. The media company has established an organic growth strategy, formalising a process and structure to discover, fund, and launch new products and concepts that have the potential to become new businesses or revenue streams. 

The process has a number of key components that involve people from throughout the company: 

  1. Establishing and institutionalising a culture centered around customer needs, fast prototyping/thin prototypes of new concepts often and early, and iterating throughout the process.

  2. Obtaining face-to-face feedback from real users up front to discover their stories and needs. 

  3. Establishing a charter to “discover new product and business concepts that can become sustainable businesses, generating incremental revenue and profits.” 

  4. Creating new internal Google Groups and Web forums to socialise best practices and ideas.

  5. Establishing partnerships within the start-up/entrepreneurial community, and joining a media industry accelerator. 

  6. Creating an executive leader position for the organic growth initiative.

  7. Creating a steering committee to evaluate and approve funding for each initiative and to eliminate barriers to execution. The committee also provides direction, removes barriers, and facilitates execution that affects members’ individual department. 

  8. Holding monthly steering committee reviews, consisting of senior management evaluating each opportunity. 

  9. Placing funding approval in the hands of the board of directors. 

  10. Creating cross-functional teams, comprised of leaders from each major department impacted by the initiative teams, which execute individual initiatives.

  11. Creating teams to collaborate on and prototype ideas. 

In one year, the news media company’s strategy led to the launch of six new growth initiatives, which brought in several million dollars in incremental revenue. And the ideas just kept coming, with many more ideas either in development, being prototyped, or tested with consumers. These included: 

  • PFP franchise.

  • Al Día briefing circulation expansion. 

  • Magazine subscriptions premium model.

  • New

  • E-commerce/storefront, content repurpose franchise. 

  • Programmatic advertising platform with six different concepts in various stages: 

    1. B2B start-up portal for Dallas. 
    2. Dallas delivery service. 
    3. Hispanic lifestyle digital.
    4. Personal finance hub. 
    5. High school sports expansion. 
    6. B2B vertical paid newsletters. 

The Quarterly Premium Magazines (like FD) were one of the most successful organic growth initiatives launched in 2015 and will be repeated in 2016. 

“Our organisation is beginning to think and operate more like a start-up and entrepreneur, which allows us to be more innovative and customer-centric in discovering the next generation media solutions, says Rich Alfano, general manager. We have also married this discovery process with our business acquisition strategy to better invest in growth opportunities we discover in the market.” 

About L. Carol Christopher

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