El Colombiano’s innovation lab reinvents company from Web site to culture

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.   

El Colombiano’s ECOlab represents an innovative and entirely new new business model. The justification for creating such a model is that businesses are conceived, developed, and measured in a world that is constantly in motion and in an environment that demands an attitude of permanent renovation — whether it’s inspired by demand, research, or the emergence of opportunities. 

ECOlab’s purpose is to promote innovation and company growth.

El Colombiano believes that creativity is a strategic tool to increase income and audience. So for its 100th anniversary, the company developed significant changes in its format, design, and the layout of its content.

It created a Strategy and Innovation Laboratory (ECOLab for its Spanish acronym) with contributors from several of the company’s departments, led by Martha Ortiz Gómez, chief editor at El Colombiano. 

The lab’s members focused on transforming the observation, ideas, and concepts in proposals related to graphics and journalistic style. These were later tested in focus groups that validated accomplishments and brought up concerns that were later resolved for the final product.

Once the project that motivated the lab’s creation was completed, the company viewed it as an opportunity to boost innovation and chose to keep it functioning under the same concept, with “design thinking” as its basis, enriched by the company’s own experiences.

 The objectives were to:

  • Create and maintain business units, products, and services to increase market shares. 

  • Research and implement new business models.

  • Develop new activities, products, and services that can strategically grow the business.

  • Diversify the company’s portfolio.

  • Establish strategies to face new competitors in the industry.

  • Promote the business’ long-term sustainability.

  • Transform creativity and strategic thinking into corporate culture.

  • Be systematic agents of change.

And what were the results?

1. Expansion of creative culture in the organisation. The goals for this result are to:

  • Inject a creative attitude into the entire organisation.

  • Create agents of change capable of expanding their knowledge and comprehending and thinking about all the elements of the business. 

  • Transmit joy, curiosity, and an adventurous spirit to co-workers.

2. A Web site re-design. The goals here were to: 

  • Build digital surroundings that respond to audience needs. 

  • Deliver innovative and opportune content. 

  • Extend participation in digital markets.

  • Improve technological infrastructure. 

  • Make the interface more user friendly.

  • Increase advertising income. 

3. Magazines became a new business unit, with the goals of: 

  • Creating new income for the organisation. 

  • Improving internal products. 

  • Taking advantage of the brand’s credibility and know-how to open markets. 

  • Expanding the advertising business by doing this type of work for third parties.

  • Increasing circulation income. 

The company has a set of “indicators” that help it know when it has achieved success. Client satisfaction is, of course, key. But so are developing new knowledge and skills within each team, receiving an acceptable level of return on investment, making the brand relevant, seeing circulation increase alongside increases in advertising sales. It also believes that portfolio diversification, increased sustainability, and other, “intangible” benefits are crucial markers of success. 

Some of the concrete markers it achieved were increases in print circulation, a 20% growth in its digital audience, the creation of a creative culture that makes people want to work in this organisation, and the creation of a multi-media culture where every day brings more multi-media thinking and more team work.

About L. Carol Christopher

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