2018 LMA IN­NO­VA­TION MIS­SION TOUR AND RE­PORT

Newspapers & Technology Magazine - - Contents - BY KIRSTEN STA­PLES CON­TRIBUT­ING WRITER

The Lo­cal Me­dia As­so­ci­a­tion have wrapped up their ninth year of In­no­va­tion Mis­sion, which is geared to­wards bring­ing to light the world’s most bright and in­no­va­tive tech­nol­ogy and me­dia com­pa­nies. The mis­sion in­volves trav­el­ing and speak­ing with var­i­ous me­dia lead­ers at com­pa­nies such as Ama­zon, Face­book, Mercer and more. This year, their jour­ney be­gan in New York City and took them ul­ti­mately to Seat­tle.

“An in­tense five- day study tour, it is de­signed for se­nior-level lo­cal me­dia ex­ec­u­tives and R&D part­ners who want to be in­spired by in­no­va­tive cul­tures and cut­ting-edge prac­tices be­ing im­ple­mented by lead­ing tech­nol­ogy and me­dia com­pa­nies. This year, 27 ex­ec­u­tives par­tic­i­pated on the trip (a sell­out),” says a sum­mary in a re­port on the mis­sion.

Ac­cord­ing to Nancy Lane, LMA pres­i­dent and au­thor of the re­port, the IM had four ma­jor take­aways. • The Dirty Se­cret — Hu­man Cap­i­tal Prob­lems Are

Killing Us

• We Must Start Ev­ery Process with the Cus­tomer

and Work Back­ward

• Fail­ure Must Be Part of Our DNA and Cul­ture • In­no­va­tion Re­quires Struc­ture

The tour spent 10 hours in Seat­tle vis­it­ing Ama­zon and learn­ing ev­ery­thing from the com­pany’s views on cus­tomer ser­vice to Ama­zon’s AI tech­nol­ogy, Alexa. Vis­i­tors learned how the com­pany op­er­ates and how they run their meet­ings.

“In the me­dia in­dus­try, we fo­cus on rev­enue, not cus­tomers, on mar­gins, not ex­pe­ri­ence,” said Shan­non Kin­ney, founder of Dream Lo­cal Digital. “At Ama­zon, they fo­cus on the cus­tomer first, and work back­wards. This is more than just cus­tomer sur­veys and read­ing feed­back, it’s an en­tire point of view that drives prod­uct devel­op­ment, how they mea­sure suc­cess, and what they fo­cus their re­sources on. Cus­tomer Ob­ses­sion is their North Star met­ric and is the core of their cul­ture and came out in ev­ery pre­sen­ta­tion we heard from the Ama­zo­ni­ans,” she said.

Many tes­ti­mo­ni­als from IM at­ten­dees hailed the “cus­tomer first” dy­namic of Ama­zon. They were also rec­og­nized for un­com­mon prac­tices and ways of think­ing that al­lowed for more in­no­va­tion in the work­place. These prac­tices helped form some of the key take­aways of the re­port.

“At Ama­zon, meet­ings are for get­ting stuff done. In or­der to fa­cil­i­tate meet­ings where the fo­cus is on in­depth dis­cus­sion and col­lab­o­ra­tion, Ama­zon em­ploy­ees write six-page nar­ra­tives, which meet­ing at­ten­dees spend the first 20 min­utes of the meet­ing read­ing. After they’re all on the same page with the de­tails, they can have a pro­duc­tive, thor­ough and fo­cused meet­ing. While I don’t know that writ­ing nar­ra­tives is the right strat­egy for ev­ery com­pany or ev­ery sit­u­a­tion, I ap­plaud the no­tion of pro­duc­tive meet­ings,

with clear top­ics and fo­cus,” says Toby Col­lodora, vice pres­i­dent of con­tent strat­egy for Cordillera Digital.

As far as es­tab­lished names in me­dia, Ama­zon is not the only big player LMA had the chance to speak with. Ac­cord­ing to Lane, the New York City meet­ings in­cluded a look with the Face­book news team and In­sta­gram sto­ry­telling team.

One IM vis­i­tor, Erica Smith, on­line ed­i­tor and di­rec­tor of digital strat­egy at The Vir­ginian Pi­lot, ex­plained the re­la­tion­ship be­tween LMA and Face­book as “fren­e­mies” who have had sev­eral en­coun­ters be­fore, most of which were off the record.

Dur­ing the visit with the Lo­cal News Part­ner­ship team, “the two sides were still a bit leery, but there’s less skep­ti­cism and dis­trust over the other’s in­ter­ests.”

Dur­ing the stop, “Face­book lead­ers point­edly asked for and lis­tened to feed­back on sev­eral fea­tures. Face­book of­fi­cials also openly dis­cussed real-world prob­lems fac­ing pub­lish­ers, and pro­vided up­dates on In­stant Ar­ti­cles and projects now in beta test­ing with se­lect pub­lish­ers, in­clud­ing the break­ing news tag and To­day In,” says Smith.

Ac­cord­ing to Smith, the day was wrapped up with an in­ter­ac­tive tour of In­sta­gram, where IM at­ten­dees learned how to use dif­fer­ent fea­tures of the app. Smith de­scribed the in­ter­ac­tion as “in­sight­ful.”

“At the end of the five days, the path to in­no­va­tion be­came more clear. Real me­dia trans­for­ma­tion re­quires the right cul­ture, the right lead­ers and an ob­ses­sion with the cus­tomer,” said Lane.

The full re­port can be pur­chased at www.lo­cal­me­dia. org/prod­uct/2018-in­no­va­tion-mis­sion-re­port/.

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