Why media companies are not able to be innovative

Why media companies are not able to be innovative.

As I read Kevin Rose’s “10 Tips for Entrepreneurs” I cant help but think about my many years in a large media company. Thinking about the times when we had true innovation and when we should had but failed. There are some great ideas here in Kevins list that traditional media could learn from.

  1. Just Build It – Media companies often put their people through some major process to get a project approved. Companies should figure out a way to fast track certain projects that are identified as innovative.
  2. Iterate – Know when it’s good enough and get it out there. Tweak as needed.
  3. Connect with the community – Improving your products by listening to your users in a town hall type setting.
  4. Analyze Your Traffic – Spend time to figure out what works and what doesn’t and consistently make tweaks until you tap the full potential.

If traditional media treated their online business with a startup mentality it may allow for true innovation. Not enough time is spent explaining the business to the to the people that write the code nor allowing for any internal or external input.  (The coders, you know the guys in I’m talking about. It’s the guys in basement with their Star Trek posters.)

Big media companies in the last decade have learned what project managers can do and why they are so important. However most project management protocols have way to many “Lets schedule a review meeting.” and “Let me look at my calendar.”  This will kill most innovative projects. Startups spend more time looking over each others shoulders. They have many short meetings throughout a single day. Often startups will show more progress in a week than most media companies show in 3 months. It’s where the slang “skunk works operation” came from. The stinky starthup guys who were codling all night, that slept under their desks and never showered.

In my years of experience I learned I am not the smartest guy in the room. I have found that if I spent the time to explain the objectives, the business drivers along with the project goals that it paid dividends. In most cases it enhanced the product, the moral as well as buy-in. These guys in the basement live and breath this stuff, they were using twitter before the NY Times wrote a single sentence about it. Get the tech guys excited and you will find things seem to get done a whole lot quicker.

I tried to never ask my developers to work on a weekend or after hours. However in most cases if I could get the team vested it would occur naturally. I loved coming into the office and having a developer say, “Can you take a look at what I did last” or “I had an idea that I think might improve the project.”

In addition to what Kevin Rose I would add:

  1. Fast track budget approvall and senior management buy in.
  2. Fast track functional requirements
  3. Allow for input from developers and designers
  4. Create an environment that allows for ideas to come from the bottom up
  5. Figure out how to have phased rollouts – Often companies wait till the project is at the final state with all the buzz and whistles.
  6. Understand the analytics – They are not just for the advertising departments. Editorial, Producers, Marketing and Technology should be spending just as much time with these reports. Some companies give bonus incentives if growth goal are met.
  7. Launch doesn’t mean the project is done – Check in often and know when to kill a project. Media companies never kill anything. It’s not uncommon to find some small little application from 1998 still running somewhere on the site.

– Justin Makler

Short Link: http://j.mp/No_inovation

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