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group of 26 senior-level local media executives
banded together for last month’s Innovation Mis-
sion, the signature event of the Local Media Foun-
dation. This 5th annual six-day intensive study tour offers
an educational and often game-changing experience to
participants via close up visits with some of the world’s
leading technology and media companies.
Led and developed by LMA President Nancy Lane, the
2014 tour included visits to LinkedIn, eBay, PayPal, Google+,
Automattic/ WordPress, BuzzFeed, The New York Times, CBS
Local, The Wall Street Journal, Russmedia Digital (from Austria),
GateHouse Media, Simulmedia, San Francisco Examiner and
Top goals for the 2014 tour included: discovering new rev-
enue streams, understanding how to create a culture of innova-
tion, finding sustainable business models on the digital side,
exploring new content strategies, learning how to better work
with the “big guys” (Google+, LinkedIn, etc.) and identifying
top vendors/R&D partners to help fuel growth.
2014 Study Mission
The Innovation Mission trip was
an incredible experience. The topics
were super relevant and everyone
left with ideas that they could go
back and implement.
A few things that I left with:
■ Native is here: Numerous
companies talked about their ap-
proach with native advertising. All
were approaching it differently but
all believe the opportunity is real.
It's time for all companies — big
and small — to start exploring in
this space. The good new is that na-
tive advertising is very much in our
■ Get on the data: Every
company had become masters at getting data, analyzing it and
making it actionable. Maybe no one was doing it as effective as
BuzzFeed. They really understand what their data is saying and
have found really great ways to use it to form their content ap-
proach. It's one of the reasons they are so successful.
■ Content has to be fun: While there is definitely a seri-
ousness to much of the content we produce — investigative,
watchdog — we do need to be open — maybe more open — to
producing content that is fun. That was really apparent at CBS
Local, a company that has taken a very social view to news. They
are creating videos at tailgates, creating entertainment documen-
taries and are producing list-type stories that are hugely popular
(think best burgers in town). And it seems to be engaging their
The trip was great and we're already talking at my company
about the learnings and how they can apply to our operations.
The Innovation Mission
was the trip of my career! I
gained so much by visiting
some of the leading organi-
zations in print, broadcast
and digital, and couldn't
have asked for a better group
of people to be doing it with
25 or so media execs who
were just as eager to learn
and grow as I was. It was
a unique opportunity to
collaborate, share ideas and
Some recurring themes
exemplified in organizations
like Buzzfeed, eBay/Paypal,
LinkedIn and others were the
need to focus on audience
needs and using data to discover and meet those needs.
Also the importance of organizing for success and foster-
ing an innovative, collaborative and inspiring culture.
The Mission was humbling to identify areas where my
organization and I can improve, but rewarding to rec-
ognize some things that we're doing well that others are
finding success with also.
Above all, the Mission gave me a renewed sense of
hope for our industry. Organizations and people who are
willing to adapt, brave enough to disrupt themselves and
willing to collaborate with others will find ways to con-
tinue being relevant and making a difference in the world
through the lives of their readers.
Director of Innovation
Wire and Publisher So-
lutions, Deseret Digital
Participation in the IM is
a very personal experience.
What I mean by that is we all
see and hear the same things,
but it means something dif-
ferent to each of us based on
where we are in our own digi-
tal and cultural evolution.
This is my third IM and cul-
ture has always been of keen
interest to me and I have been
working hard on changing our
culture ever since I started on
these journeys. As a result, it
is now a little easier for me to
take ideas about openness,
collaboration, transparency and fun and more readily
implement them. There is definitely a cumulative benefit
to participating in these experiences.
Native advertising was clearly a theme we heard at
many visits. It’s still a difficult concept in that so many or-
ganizations define their native strategies so differently. We
need to work on a plan that fits our organization, resourc-
es and market. And that may well include partnerships.
One of the most profound comments of the week
(and that’s saying a lot) came from Kirk Davis at Gate-
house /NewMediaGroup. He talked about the difference
between “selling digital stuff ” and “building a digital
business”. That really got me thinking hard about the long
view of our business.
CEO, Red Wing
Vice President of
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