What the Rest of Us Can Glean from the New York Times Innovation Report

What Can the Rest of Us Glean from the Report?

The Innovation Report weighs in at a hefty 96 pages, so there’s a lot to chew on—meat, as well as gristle—and much of it can apply to enterprises generally. A few of those items we cover here:

  • Question Everything: As with everything in life, nothing remains the same, whether that’s the wall built between editorial and advertising at journalistic outfits or job descriptions at any other business. We must constantly re-examine our roles and how we interact with coworkers and our customers.
  • Think Long Term: So many of us are focused on finishing our immediate to-do list that we forget to look past the leaves and trees to see the forest. Ask each person on your staff to think strategically, and if you have the capacity, set up strategy teams to consider challenges and opportunities just over that horizon.
  • Promote Thyself: Thanks to social media, connecting to our audience, our customers, is easier than ever before. We all need to participate in that connection and promote our teams’ work.
  • Personalize: Deliver to your customers the content, the products and services, they want and need.
  • Experiment More Often: Sure, limited resources require we prioritize what can be tested, but a cardinal sin is to discount proposals without at least a proper airing.
  • Scientific Method: From the report: “Real experimentation is about adopting a rigorous, scientific method for proving new concepts and constantly tweaking them to be as successful as possible.”
  • Fish or Cut Bait: After giving each experimental idea a thorough testing, decide which works and develop it. Kill what doesn’t work, so you can move on to the next experiment. The same maxim can apply to the way we’ve always done things—virtually every good idea runs its course, and when that time comes, don’t be afraid to change.
  • Use Legos, Not Bricks: From the next to last page of the Innovation Report comes this thought that applies to any enterprise: “Build the newsroom out of Legos, not bricks. The right structure for today won’t be the right structure for tomorrow. Our needs will change quickly and our skills will become out of date. More than anything we need to make ourselves adaptable. That means constantly assessing needs, recruiting talent and changing structures. And that means sometimes creating jobs with expiration dates to help us in transitional moments.”

Many of the ideas in the report apply more specifically to journalistic and publishing pursuits:

  • Collect Data: Understand your audience, their wants and needs, as well as how they want to consume content. Collect such info by asking them in surveys and focus groups, as well as asking them outright in the vehicles you produce to reach them.
  • Analyze Analytics: Never before have we been able to monitor in real time, or very near it, what our audiences are reading, as well as for how long.
  • Evergreen: Just because a story or other content package was published last month doesn’t mean it won’t still be of value next year. Understand how to reuse content to create a more complete and fulfilling experience for your audience.
  • User-Generated: When applicable, mine that deep source of content generated by your audience. Ask for story ideas, photos and videos, as well as ideas on how to deliver that content.

The Bottom Line

As it is for the Times, the Innovation Report is for the rest of us—a warning to keep changing or perish. To rethink processes and approaches in the face of challenges and opportunities.

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