Digital Innovation Guest Columns
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2021 AOP Awards: What publishers can learn from the finalists (Part 2: Innovation)

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Despite the unprecedented disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the UK digital publishing industry has demonstrated enormous resilience. A key part of this has been a strong focus on innovation as publishers adapt to a rapidly changing situation and forge new paths ahead both in terms of audience engagement as well as revenue generation.

In the second installment of the UK AOP’s ‘Celebrate the Finalists’ series, the AOP has focused on innovation and the five steps that publishers can take to foster a culture that supports and encourages it. You can read the full, in-depth blog post here, but below are some highlights from our focus on innovation.

WEEK 2: A digital publisher’s roadmap to fostering innovation – five key steps

Step 1: Find the innovators in your organisation – and give them the tools for success.

We often think about it being a bottom-up process, because really innovation should come from the ground. That’s often where the best ideas come from.

Pete Wootton, Chief Product & Data Officer, Dennis Publishing

Take the time to understand what the barriers are to innovation, and then provide the tools and means to overcome these.

Step 2: Pro-actively support a diversity of thought.

Our leadership team is a third women, with growing racial diversity. And there’s also a wide variety of backgrounds – from the research industry, from hardcore tech development, and even some ad tech lifers like me.

Tom Jenen, Chief Revenue Officer, Brand Metrics

Having a group of people with a diverse range of experiences and backgrounds is critical to being able to view a challenge from multiple angles – and that means addressing the balance of ethnicities, genders, sexualities, economic backgrounds, and neurodiversity within your teams to ensure a broad range of outlooks and experiences are present at the table.

Step 3: Foster a culture where it’s okay to fail.

You have to be prepared for the fact that nine out of ten ideas may not go anywhere, and that’s completely fine. The learning that you get along the way makes it worthwhile.

Alex White, Managing Director – Food and Parenting, Immediate Media

The challenge is how to create an environment that encourages anyone and everyone to share their ideas. And key to that is giving people the permission to fail.

Step 4: Emphasise the value of innovation.

On the flip side of allowing people to fail, it’s also important to remind your team about the impact their work will be having – particularly given the monumental challenges that the sector is facing right now. 

Step 5: Test, test, and test again.

The key to innovation is to be constantly challenging your existing strategies or tools to understand if they can be made better. And that means being able to trial any number of different adaptations and amends until you find the solution that works best for you. 

Stay really, really close to customers, listening hard to their feedback and what they need.

Tom Jenen, Chief Revenue Officer, Brand Metrics

You can watch more on our discussions around DIGITAL PUBLISHER INNOVATION here:

The UK Association for Online Publishing (AOP) is an industry body representing digital publishing companies that create original, branded, quality content. AOP champions the interests of media owners from diverse backgrounds including newspaper and magazine publishing, TV and radio broadcasting, and pure online media.