Media organisations today have to constantly reinvent parts of their business to make the most of new technologies and adapt to the changing habits and needs of their readers.
To help along the way, some have set up innovation teams or hired innovation leads to supervise the process. At Time Inc., the media innovation lab is set up with audience and business insight at the heart of its activities.
"It's about creating [entirely] new products, it's about creating new products for existing media brands, it's about looking at ways that we reach new audiences and existing audiences in different forms, commercially and editorially," explained Andrew Sanders, commercial director for new product development, Time Inc. UK.
"The key point is that we're about testing ideas in the real world – testing them quickly, failing fast and moving on," he added, speaking at the Digital Innovators' Summit in Berlin yesterday (22 March).
The ambition of the lab is to build new products and hand them back to the business, said Richard Giddings, head of new product development, Time Inc. UK.
In the last 18 months, with a team of three, the lab tested over 60 products, of which six got through to the incubation phase, where they receive more funding and support from the company.
Sanders and Giddings told the story of three successful projects created by the lab.
List For Life, a platform chronicling the what, how and why of millennials' work-life balance, was born after gathering insights from the target audience, asking "very simple, direct questions", explained Sanders. "That leads us into the data-driven editorial that we have".
A second project, Live Smart, is a site that aims to put a human voice to the smart technology industry, where experts are predicting that consumer and advertising spend will grow exponentially.
"The consumer need for this product is really simple: the internet of things is riddled with jargon," explained Giddings.
Live Smart, designed from the business rather than audience insights collated by the team, aims to accompany people on their journey of discovering new technologies and incorporating them into their lives.
The final project highlighted at the Summit was a new product for an existing brand: the NME Daily app.
The music magazine went free last year, and in that process the team has found a "great opportunity" for audience engagement. "NME has gone through a massive change in the last six months," said Giddings.
NME Daily is an app that offers its users short-form content, consisting of videos, text, photo galleries, and SoundCloud embeds.
The work of the lab is about testing quickly, failing fast, and pivoting if the need arises. "Everything we do is driven by testing and data," said Sanders.