We all know the background we’re working in: The media industry is being disrupted. Readers move from print to digital channels. Our advertisement revenues are threatened by global giants like Facebook and Google. In short, the media industry needs to change and come up with sustainable business models for the future.
How do we go about designing the best innovation process to achieve this?
At Schibsted Media Group, we follow several paths. Naturally, much of the innovation happens within our existing news brands like VG, Aftonbladet, SvD, Aftenposten, and others that have been forerunners in reinventing themselves. In addition to innovation within our brands, we have also created the “future hub” Next Media. Its task is simple, yet very tough: Innovate, grow, and operate new initiatives that can become independent media businesses.
Inside Next Media, we view ourselves as an incubator — a kind of start-up for internal innovation. Our job is to look for ideas outside the scope of Schibsted’s established news brands, with the goal to eventually scale these to independent future media businesses.
To achieve this, we try to create an innovative and informal culture, with an agile way of working. Even though we are part of a big corporation, we want Next Media to have the vibe of a start-up.
We follow the lean methodology and test ideas early. That also means we fail early. For us, failing is part of a necessary learning process in order to achieve success in ways we can later scale. In fact, we expect most of the initiatives will fail, and that is OK as long as it contributes to moving us forward.
An innovation process in four steps
The innovation process starts with what we call “bets.” A bet is basically a problem area we think Schibsted should look into. A bet can be very narrow, like investigating whether Schibsted should start a platform for dog owners. It can also be broad, like looking at the future of content altogether.
The innovation process follows four steps after the bet is defined.
- Phase 1: Frame the challenge. In this phase, which typically lasts for a couple of weeks, the team tries to define the bet further.
- Phase 2: Problem solution fit. The team makes sure the problem actually exists and that it has a solution for it.
- Phase 3: Product market fit. The team launches a minimum viable product to test the market’s reaction.
- Phase 4: Scale! If successful, the product will be scaled.
The process may be stopped in each of the phases if the results are unsatisfactory. We have established small and lean teams to develop the bets. These consist of product managers, business developers, user experience representatives, and software engineers. We believe the best value is created within cross-functional teams with different competencies.
Initiatives in operation
Our unit also runs a couple of initiatives that are already in operation. One of them is Omni Next, which is a platform for simple and smart curation of content. We already have four news brands in Norway and Sweden running on this platform:
- Omni, a popular news app and Web site for the Swedish market.
- Omni Ekonomi, a business news app for the Swedish market.
- MinE24, a news app connected to Schibsted’s business news site E24.no in Norway.
- fPlus, a service run by the Confederation of Swedish Enterprises. Both the technological platform, end products, and parts of the content are provided by Schibsted.
Another team is UpNext, which makes tailor-made newsletters for innovative corporations.
Every day several thousand employees receive The Schibsted Daily, with short and relevant news from the media business, targeted and curated for employees in Schibsted. The purpose is to share knowledge while helping build an innovative and forward-leaning company culture.
The next step for UpNext is to offer similar tailor-made newsletters for corporations in other business areas. We are currently rolling out the product on a global scale to Adevinta.
So where will this initiative lead us? And what type of businesses will come out of it?
We do not know that, of course. It is my hope that we, in a year or two, can point to new media businesses that have grown out of Next Media. What we do know is that the media industry is still full of opportunities, and we must dare to explore ideas in new ways.