Better user experience and culture are top takeaways from this year’s Innovation Missions

By David Arkin, Local Media Association

Local Media Association President Nancy Lane and Chief Innovation Officer Jed Williams kicked off Media Transformation with a dive into key takeaways from innovation missions the association has conducted this year.

LMA offered a two-day regional Innovation Mission in Boston earlier this summer and visited media companies like the Boston Globe and GateHouse Media and technology disruptors like HubSpot. LMA conducted a national Innovation Mission in May with visits in Washington, DC and Silicon Valley and visited both media companies and technology companies.

Here are some of the top takeaways from Lane and Williams:

Culture change and innovation: At Google, everything starts with the hiring process, Lane said. Four people interview every candidate and they look for very specific traits that represent the company’s standard and culture.

“For our attendees, culture was the second biggest takeaway with user experience being No. 1,” Lane said.

Don’t punch the user in the face: Jim Brady, CEO of Spirited Media told us this about user experience at media companies today: “It’s like inviting someone to dinner to your house and punching them in the face and wondering why they won’t come back.” Lane said everyone on the tour said they all know they can’t continue to treat their digital readers in such a poor way in terms of the experience. “Many vowed to go back and make changes with pop up ads and slow load times. It really resonated with them.”

Williams did note the importance of a strong user experience but did recognize that it’s hard work to fix it. “Executing it day to day is extremely difficult and it takes commitment and resolve but is worth it,” he said.

“If it was easy, we all would have done it (improved user experience),” Lane said.

Geek out but don’t break the bank: Williams told the audience they will hear 25 or 50 good ideas during the Media Transformation conference. “You couldn’t go back and implement all of these ideas but you can test a few and understand what has promise,” he said.

Williams said at Gannet they experienced with 360 video and learned a lot and then made an investment to do more.

Leverage content partnerships: “It’s not one size fits all,” Lane said, when it comes to partnerships. Lane noted two examples. One, the Virginian Pilot who implemented Facebook’s Call to Action tool on their Instant Articles pages. They are promoting their food newsletter through the Calls to Action and are getting 175-200 subscribers a week. “That’s more than they were getting on their website,” Lane said. “They see great value in getting these sign ups.”

The second example was Community Impact Newspaper which developed a partnership with NextDoor. Community Impact, monthly publications in Texas, promote their content in local NextDoor pages across the state. “Their referral traffic from NextDoor went from zero to 4 percent very fast,” Lane said. “And the Washington Post just announced they have partnered with them (NextDoor) as well.”