Media Groep Limburg explores innovation by creating community around Carnival

By Charles Lansu

When newspapers start thinking about innovation, one of the first questions raised is whether the new business model should be subscription- or advertisment-driven.

The following case study from our experience shows that it is fine to leave the question open at first. Just start and explore the numerous opportunities passing by that you didn’t think of from the beginning.

How to make money: B2B or B2C? 

The question was raised at the headquarters of Media Groep Limburg (MGL), publisher of The Netherlands’ biggest regional daily, Dagblad De Limburger, and fifth in size nationally. Instead of making a decision early in the process, it was decided that monetisation would follow the concept.

And the subject of the concept couldn’t be better for Dagblad De Limburger: Carnival! Our ambition was to claim a dominant position for this most important cultural festival in the province that disrupts daily life completely for a week with months of anticipation on the frontend.

The audience, however, did not regard the newspaper as a primary source for relevant news and information on this subject.

Knowing that many celebrators are non-active readers, an interesting new product/market combination was born when MGL teamed up with a dedicated theme Web site run by blogging enthusiasts about Carnival.

From the beginning, bloggers reported all kinds of news related to Carnival: What was happening, which artists were performing where, local activities held by local organisations, and festivities on the agenda. 

The cooperation had instant synergy: The bloggers gained access to loads of content and access to events. As the publisher, we extended our portfolio with an appealing platform to promote. The audience got a much better up-to-date community. We attracted advertisers. And, overall, site visits boomed. 

Of course, we didn’t ignore the challenge of how to make a profit.

During the campaign, we had a strategic review session with one of our key accounts (a brewery with identical local roots), and it turned out that we shared the same ambition around Carnival. Instead of the brewery using a traditional campaign message that they wanted the audience to believe, we suggested they actually could connect with the target group by participating in the community, thus proving to the audience that they truly embody the idea of Carnival.

With the whole editorial philosophy based on response, sharing, and social interaction (and marketing campaigns based on response such as sweepstakes and photo contests), the brewery has very much become a part of the Carnival community.

This was an exciting approach for both parties. Instead of the annual budget negotiations, we started exploring this unpaved path. The opportunities of this mutual ambition grew exponentially, concluding in a long-term partnership. From that point we were no longer a publisher and an advertiser for each other. We became partners in business.    

Almost by accident, this network of bloggers, editors, marketers, and audience members resulted in a mash-up of expertise, insights, and enthusiasm exclusively about Carnival that created a new logic in which everybody spun the wheel of possibilities.

This project ended up being about the co-creation of content, activation of the audience, expansion of a multi-channel approach, and synergy with an existing portfolio and business.

While concepting became easier, business potential expanded more rapidly as well. 

The format and approach of this project proved an appealing blueprint for alternative innovation and business development projects in other areas. This project, which started as an opportunity, turned out to be an important business driver and accelerator of internal innovation power.

About Charles Lansu

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