Review: The 2016 Innovation Mission Report Focuses on ‘Culture’

The local media companies have been shrinking and becoming increasingly irrelevant. Yet, they drive on as business entities, raising their circulation prices and reducing their days of operation to cover ad shortfalls. (I mostly stopped writing about traditional local media companies several years ago.)

Can they work towards becoming relevant again? Outside of companies that have major investments being poured into them (i.e. Jeff Bezos’ wonderfully regenerated Washington Post), it is hard to see that they’ll have a lot of money for re-dos.

But money hasn’t been everything. While the Ubers of the world raise billions of dollars to carve out and defend a niche, money wasn’t really much of a factor in the launch phase of many of the most “relevant” companies (Snapchat, Facebook, YouTube et al).

A ‘can do’ culture and clearly stated value proposition and mission is actually the biggest driver of initial success. A newspaper might, for instance, launch a video studio, new ad products, form partnerships in the new “distributed economy,” and even add a Virtual Reality component. But first, it must abandon the old mentalities. As one participant noted, it isn’t just about free food and ping pong anymore.

That’s the fairly obvious but worth repeating conclusion of this year’s Innovation Mission Report, which summarizes the Local Media Association’s seventh annual tour around New York and Silicon Valley. This year, the tour went to Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Apple News, NYC Media Lab, xAd, E.W. Scripps Company, Cxense, Calkins Media, Newsy, Thumbtack, San Francisco Chronicle, Next¬door, and Tout.

The tour is a lot of fun and the report presents a lot of useful ideas for building an ideal culture, and refocusing on some cutting edge channels. “Local media companies need to act now,” notes the introduction. “They need to think bigger and bolder. They need to dramatically change their culture and continue to diversify their revenue.”

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