The last panel on Thursday was titled “Innovation: A State of Mind.” Eighteen news executives participated in Suburban News Association Foundation’s North American Innovation Mission, a week-long study tour last spring. The goal of the mission was to learn about new and emerging business models. Representing each dimension of the mission, the panelists included Steve Batten, Advertising Director of the The Mercury (Pottstown), John Derr, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Lancaster Newspapers, Inc., and Tanya Henderson, Advertising and Membership Relations Director, Suburban Newspapers of America and Training Manager of zip2save.com.
The program featured a high-level summary of the top takeaways from the Innovation Mission, including:
- “An Intense Commitment to Ongoing Training in All Areas.” The panelists discussed how specialized training is required, no matter how small or large the organization. It is important for a business to recognize what could be outsourced and what can be done inside the organization.
- “Legacy Reps Can and Should Sell Digital Products (with some exceptions).” Generally speaking, all sales reps should be well versed in print and digital advertising. In some cases, a digital specialist should assist with client presentations and sales.
- “Digital-Only Staff is Required for Certain Products.” All participants emphasized that digital experts were necessary for certain products.
- “Community Contributor Networks Add Value and More.” While it is important to have community contributors – such as bloggers and citizen journalists – it is also important that they add valuable content.
- “New Content Strategies are Critical.” The key to this takeaway is user-generated content. Citizen journalists are unique tools because they are generating content that they, as readers, want to hear. Enterprise reporting, evergreen content, and automated deep linking are also important.
- “Creative Combination/Leveraging Assets.” Print and digital must be used in combination selling, creating a unique market for newspapers by offering bundle packages for both content and advertising purposes.
- “Create a New Business Unit, Don’t Try to Innovate Existing Ones.” While innovating current business strategies could provide some benefit, creating new business models and strategies is critical to future success.
- “Compensation and Bonus Plans are Critical to Digital Success.” Likewise, compensation must be tied to digital success.
SNA’s week-long mission was a great success, and the organization plans to put together another one for 2012. The bottom line, according to the panelists, is that innovation is a state of mind, and each company visited committed time, people and other resources to innovation. View the full Innovation - A State of Mind presentation.