Wrap Up: SNA Foundation’s North American Innovation Mission

Innovation Mission: Attendee Feedback/Key Take-Aways

Innovation Mission attendees watched the Toronto Blue Jays take on the Detroit Tigers at the Toronto Sky Dome on Friday.
Innovation Mission attendees watched the Toronto Blue Jays take on the Detroit Tigers at the Toronto Sky Dome on Friday.

At 4 PM on Friday afternoon, Innovation Mission attendees debriefed in a conference room at Torstar’s offices, hosted by Metroland, on the key take-aways of the past six days. There was no shortage of enthusiasm despite the exhausting travel schedule that took the group to four states and two countries in a short, compact period of time.

Emotions ranged from aha moments to outright confusion on next steps. Everyone walked away with new ideas and new friends. Many are going to make dramatic changes upon their return as a result of this experience.

Some of the feedback included:

“Use your own media as cash – big aha moment. This means taking your trusted products and using them to create new opportunities. We saw this happening at Deseret, JRC and Metroland. On the content side, we will look at ways to lower costs by using things like web round-ups and evergreen content. We will also work to establish a distinct editorial voice like Clark is doing at Deseret.” – Jon Rust, Co-President, Rust Communications, Inc.

“I will certainly make some digital-only hires when I get back and will also shift some responsibilities to the digital side. This will also include changes in compensation plans to put more emphasis on digital.” – Dan Easton, Co-Publisher/Vice President, Victoria Advocate

“Having products that work and that the reps can sell really resonated with me. ShopTalk was also one of my top take-aways from the entire trip.” – Brandon Erlacher, Publisher, The Elkhart Truth (Note: click here for details on ShopTalk, covered in the Friday Morning Report)

“This trip hammered home the importance of training community contributors for me. I will also look at ways to take our content and create other verticals, such as pets.”

– Peter Haggert, Editor-in-Chief, Toronto Community News/Metroland Media Group

“Training in all areas is essential. We do a great job but it is not enough and it is not consistent across all departments. The commitment to training that we witnessed this week is amazing and reinforces the need to make it a top priority when we get back.” – Edwin Rothrock, Director of Digital Advertising, The World Company

“Big aha moment came on the user-generated content side. We are the Wild West right now when it comes to community comments and bloggers. I now realize that this needs to be high quality/good content; the Wild West approach hurts our brand long-term.” – Steve McHaney, Co-Publisher/Vice President, Victoria Advocate

“This experience has taught me how easy it can be for us to disrupt the disruptors and extend our reach. I also like the digital agency approach presented by Kurt Lozier from Dow Jones Local Media Group and going after the 67% that is being spent on promotion and infrastructure.” – Terry Kukle, Vice President of Business Development, Metroland Media Group Ltd. (Note: click here for details on the Dow Jones digital agency, covered in the Tuesday Report)

“Clark made me realize that there is a big pot of online revenue that we are not going after. His diagrams on the whiteboard made it clear for me. I was also extremely inspired by the entire day at Metroland.” – Suzanne Schlicht, COO, The World Company

“Being in these environments of great innovation made me realize that my company is not innovative enough. All of us think that we are innovative; we are not. We will look to make some changes when I get back including: on the sales structure and compensation side, there is not enough incentive to sell online; the family media center from Deseret would work well in our market; ShopTalk at Metroland was terrific; would like to look at licensing opportunities for UofCheap.” – John Derr, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Lancaster Newspapers, Inc.(Note: click here for details on UofCheap.com, covered in the Friday Afternoon Report)

“This trip reinforced a lot of things for me and will give me the courage to implement some things upon my return. I realize now that I only have my toe in the water when it comes to digital innovation; I have not fully committed. We need to measure everything that we do. We must commit to more training – not just on the sales side but in all areas of our business. We also need to create great digital products for our reps to sell.” – Robert Brown, President, COO, Swift Communications

“I really like the idea of measuring the cost of editorial content. The ShopTalk product is amazing. I also like the idea (at Torrington) of live streaming the daily news meeting and opening it up to the public.” – Doug McAvoy, Audience Development Director, The Elkhart Truth

SNA President Nancy Lane is in the process of writing a comprehensive industry report about the week-long Innovation Mission. The report will include extensive notes from each visit and key lessons learned. Lane will first present the findings of this report at the upcoming SNA/The Blinder Group Revenue Leadership Summit, May 18-20, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Chicago, Illinois. The Summit is only $495 for SNA Members and $595 for non-members. To register, click here. For more information, click here.

For those that can’t make the Summit in person, the session will be broadcast live via webinar on Thursday, May 19, at 2:45 PM ET. The webinar is only $49 for SNA Members and $79 for non-members. To register, click here.

The Lessons Learned Report detailing the entire Innovation Mission will also be available for purchase on May 24, and SNA will feature lessons learned and key take-aways throughout the year via webinars and conference sessions.

“I can’t thank the Innovation Mission hosts, speakers and attendees enough for an amazing week”, said Lane. “The hosts were so gracious with their time and shared tons of internal information with us. The attendees were just a fabulous group of community media executives that were eager to learn as much as possible even though all of them run very innovative and successful companies already. We can’t wait to share all of the information and lessons learned with the entire industry.”