World Congress takeaway: Innovation is a process, not an idea

By Western iMedia



Earl Wilkinson, executive director/CEO at INMA, gave the final speech at the 84th INMA World Congress on Tuesday afternoon. Reflecting on the conference and his travels to different media organisations around the world, Wilkinson discussed one of the major themes that struck him.

“Innovation is a process, not necessarily the next idea,” he said.

Wilkinson touched on “emerging digital value propositions,” with the focus of moving toward a mobile platform with content, which has been a topic of the conference this week. 

“There are new strategic frameworks I heard this week meeting these digital needs,” he said. 

As mobile becomes larger, companies are working on apps that follow that concept. A news aggregation system has been created by Schibsted Sweden, to go along with the “Omni” process companies are investigating.   

Some congress members saw media company innovations first-hand at INMA’s Silicon Valley Study Tour, which took place before the conference. The tour included stops at Google, Twitter, Yahoo, and Facebook.

Each company had a special mission statement. Wilkinson had special appreciation for the Yahoo statement as it reminded him of the media industry: “Yahoo makes the world’s daily habits inspiring and entertaining.”  

He explained how companies such as Yahoo are expanding in the areas of advertising, content, and technology. This is key as the draw to mobile platforms has become exponentially stronger: “The addiction to a mobile device is equivalent to a jolt of dopamine.” 

The idea of mobile and Millennials are frequently discussed together. A Yahoo study showed the correlation between Millennials and news presented a surprising fact about how much the generation feels about news. 

“They care a great deal,” he said. 

From his experiences in Silicon Valley, Wilkinson learned something about innovation itself: “The key lesson that I took was innovation as a process, not an idea.” 

Companies including Twitter and Google have taken a campus approach and have become a spot to draw in young employees. This affects how they present themselves to the public and even how they treat visitors.

“It was easier to crash the White House than to get through security at Facebook,” Wilkinson said.

Some news media companies have adopted similar campus approaches and other traits that make these budding media companies different.

Fairfax’s Mobile Disrupt and Gannett Innovation Grants Program were similar in that employees were asked to come up ideas involving the mobile platform; the companies have put several ideas into motion. 

The News Corp. Hackathon and the Toronto Star Idea Factory were also places to push ideas forward and harness thoughts about new products. These type of initiatives are making a way for themselves, Wilkinson said.

“I’m stressing the idea that this is becoming common at media companies,” he said. “Is it common at yours?”

The Chicago Tribune Blue Sky Innovation programme was pushed toward multi-platform innovation, where events were held to help people express their ideas to others. This programme also brought traffic to the company’s Web page.

“What I thought was interesting was they went from zero page views to over 2 million in 5 months,” he said. 

MittMedia’s Future Works Program was designed from the need for a change. With the company’s print circulation being down and competitors on the rise, the change has paid off: “Best bang for your buck programme that I’ve seen in the world today,” Wilkinson said.

In managing change, Fairfax set out to position itself for the upcoming years in a digital world, focusing on transitioning to new storage, the cloud, and even working on the way the office functioned together.

“They wanted to attack productivity,” Wilkinson said.

A set of frameworks show us how companies have expanded in content and other sections of news media — and with companies leaping into the new age of digital environments and mobile platforms, people will have to become adaptable to change. 

With ideas coming around such as Google’s driverless car, Wilkinson wondered why we can accomplish feats like these now but not in the past, as in five years ago. The answer is in Moore’s Law, said Wilkinson, and in a book he highly recommends, The Second Machine Age.

As media companies continue to move forward with new technology, they need to discuss how news will be projected in this new generation.  

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