10 tips for product innovation in media and publishing

Growth is the best way to build value in media businesses, and, in a fast-moving market, without innovation, few media organisations can grow.  So developing new products and services is essential to publishing and media businesses.  And these days, all new product development involves technology projects. At the Digital Media Innovation Conference in April, which I programmed, a group of smart media innovators shared their tips on successful product innovation:  here’s the highlights:

1. Increase your range of price points: have a product for each price level.

Try a $20 book as well as the $200pa subscription and the $1000 research report, said David Foster, CEO of fast growing US publisher BV Resources.

2. Be nimble and well-informed

Have excellent CRM so that you can quickly track which products are working, stop the failures and invest in the successes. (David Foster)

3. Organise your data and archive

Royal Society of Chemistry have digitised 1.1 million items of content and have used this to launch new websites, and publish five times as many articles per year.  They can respond quickly to new opportunities and launch faster.

4. Experiment with mobile business models

Smartphone-only titles with tailored content work with higher frequency & lower price points, says Marc Hartog of Apptitude Media; Immediate Media’s metered model allows readers to sample and has grown subs acquisitions 40%.  Some craft publishers are having success with in-app sales of patterns.

5. Stay close to clients to understand needs and new product opportunities

Involve clients in advisory boards and testing prototypes, said Jim Casella, CEO of Asset International.

6. Look for new ways to monetise traditional publishing brands

B2B publisher Asset International has developed metered access models, contributory databases and benchmarking surveys, awards & events, marketing solutions.

7. CEOs must give the teams permission to fail

Senior managers have to recognise the value of experimentation – plus share experiences across teams and borders. (Jim Casella)

8. Get the right team on side for large scale tech projects

Ben Jones, CTO of Euromoney shared his experiences with Project Delphi, enabling rapid new launches based on a single content database. Have a programme of testing with clients, get CEO backing and ensure key editorial and commercial people are on-side.  Tech salaries are inflating in London, but it’s crucial to get the right people on the project.

9. Spend as much time on pricing and marketing as product development

Juliet Bauer, CCO of DC Thomson Family History advises a focus on the business strategy, not just product features.  Test with customers which features are most valued – and hire great product people, who have tech, commercial and customer skills.

10. Speed up the product cycle

David Foster suggested aiming for 8-12 weeks to learn what is working – and kill the rest. Smaller publishers can consider partnering to share the risk.

It’s clear that rapid digital innovation is the only route to growth and value creation for media businesses – and maybe essential for survival at all.  Senior managers must support innovation and invest in tech talent and good product managers.  But the rewards of aggregating content in smart ways are significant: launching quickly into new sectors and learning rapidly from clients.

About the author:  Carolyn Morgan has launched, grown, acquired and sold media businesses across print, digital and events.  She has programmed conferences on digital publishing and advises publishers on their digital strategy.

If you’d like a chat about how you can reinvent your publishing or media business for the digital age, please get in touch.