Break-through innovation happens when you target non-consumers

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Break-through innovation tends to happen when industries focus on non-consumers, the judge for the inaugural Mega-Innovation Award told publishers during the closing session of the Key Executives Mega-Conference.

Contest judge Michael Maness, innovator-in-residence at Harvard Business School, said: "If you focus on people who aren't using anything that you do and build a solution for them, that tends to be a solution that gets adopted by other people.  So, you want to be focused on segments in your communities where there's no heavy consumption."

Using the graphic shown above, Maness noted that everyone seems to be doing the type of incremental innovation shown in the lower left-hand corner.  "Then, there's evolutionary innovation," he said, "which are new users with current offerings and existing users with new offerings.  We hear a lot of that, which is vitally important to do."

"In the upper right-hand corner," he said, "which I have not seen in the industry very often, is revolutionary: new products with new consumers that you haven't had before.  This is the kind of system that we want to be seeing."

Among the Mega-Innovation Award entries, he cited the data-driven approaches taken by the four papers honored at the Mega-Conference. He mentioned the many different platforms being used by The Oklahoman Media Company, Proven Performance Media's metrics, the Forsyth County News' wholesale transformation and Calkins Digital's video content and the way the company is distributing it across different platforms.

He encouraged all newspapers to take these steps toward innovation:

  • Data-driven, modern approaches.
  • Maximize existing but fading operations.
  • Offer sophisticated solutions for existing advertisers.
  • Generate new revenue out of existing skills.
  • Re-capture lost or small business segments.

Innovation limitations that he often sees at newspapers include:

  • Traditional advertising-based models.
  • They are still push-based and publishing oriented.  Maness said powerful brands meet consumers where they are (social media) and they aren't worried about driving traffic back to the website.  In fact, he said a lot of people believe that by 2017 or 2018, websites will not be important; social media will control it.
  • They focus on destination sites, not destination brands.
  • There is a lack of effort or data on non-consumers.

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