Does your organisation have what it takes to make the digital leap?


OK, let’s start this new blog on with a provocative question: Are we, senior media executives from all over the world, too old or too established to help transform our companies to cover the digital challenges? Or does our experience make us best-suited to lead the charge?

Before you answer, let me tell you a short story about something we experienced in our company two years ago.

Jeff Jarvis, ambassador of entrepreneurial journalism for City University of New York, visited our academy students to talk with them about digital projects they had started some days before.

He was thrilled by the products presented to him, including a social media Web site that provided user-generated news from South Africa and outperformed traditional news sites in both quality and speed.

Jeff Jarvis really loved the idea behind this site, but then asked an important question: “How will you earn money to refinance this project?” He heard answers we already know very well:

  • “Earning money isn’t the job of journalists.”

  • “Some other guys are in charge of this.”

  • “See the quality of the product, not the money.”

  • “The content is king.”

  • “People must like this.”

The students were between 20 and 30 years old. Among these digital natives, none had an entrepreneurial kind of approach to what the group was working on.

To be clear: All of them will become great journalists and already can explain any sentence in any story worth reading. But none could show how much his work was worth to the customer or audience.

How will these young folks rise to the challenges they will face in the digital future? Efficient workflows, CPX deals on editorial content, yield content management on keywords, link economy — so many issues await these ill-equipped juniors.

How should we — seniors, but no digital natives — prepare them? How can we judge whether we have the right employees in our organisation to do this?

Is your organisation, which worked well in the past, fit now for the age of digitisation? Is it ready for the integration of employees we need?

At Axel Springer, we understand this HR issue as another big challenge and put it in a funny viral video in which our real board members appeared.

Mike Smith, former head of the Media Management Center at the Kellogg Institute of Northwestern University in Chicago, took a closer and more serious look at what kind of competencies are needed in news organisations of the next generation.

His academic research found six focus areas:

  • Entrepreneur.

  • Platform strategist.

  • Complete storyteller.

  • Marketer.

  • Community builder.

  • Data miner.

Before getting down to details in my next post, I circle back to the beginning of this installment with another question: Are all these competencies already available in your own organisation? Do they allow you to adapt to a role we call disruptor, game changer, or even media entrepreneur? Or are we too old or too established?

Just a question we have to talk about on this blog when introducing new business models soon.

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