Friday, May 30, 2014

Talk to Your Competitors. They’ll Make You Smarter

Another business lesson from the New York Times innovation report (my emphasis):

Staying on top of these trends, particularly in today’s faster-moving media world, requires finding sources, often in leadership roles at other companies, and cultivating ongoing conversations. Alexis Madrigal, the tech writer and digital strategist at the Atlantic, told us how the company was succeeding on mobile through a focus on Facebook and direct emails. Kevin Delaney, the head of Quartz, provided his insights on how to integrate and use developers in the newsroom, and Laura Evans, the former head of analytics at the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal, helped us understand how those publications are changing—which shifts we should mirror and which we should ignore. These relationships also helped us identify promising digital talent.

“I talk to [Nick] Denton all the time. We both talk to Jacob [Weisberg]. We’re constantly telling each other what’s working, what we’ve experimented with,” said Adam Moss, the editor of New York magazine, referring to the heads of Gawker and Slate. “About half the choices I make come about because someone from another site tells me something worked, and so we adopt it.”

It’s important to capture these conversations as well, so insights can be widely shared. The business-side strategy group shared with us an 80-page transcript of interviews about social strategy that they conducted with the leaders at various competitors. They provided us with detailed assessments of the mobile functions offered by our competitors, which quickly clarified where we need to catch up.

A newsroom strategy group should capture, distill and explain the most important developments and insights to emerge from articles and interviews, perhaps in weekly emails to the masthead.