As Kelly E. Christensen, senior director of marketing at DMNmedia (the Dallas Morning News’s marketing solutions provider) explains in a blog post for the International News Media Association (INMA), the newspaper’s employees are encouraged to share their innovative entrepreneurial ideas with management council members at the council’s quarterly meetings. If their ideas are approved, provided they then generate revenue for the company, the employee responsible for the idea is given a financial reward proportional to the amount of revenue that their idea has produced, the maximum reward set at $25,000.
According to Christensen, the program “has been very popular internally at the Dallas Morning News and gives employees a voice and a platform to share ideas with the executive branch of the company.” Innovative ideas can be put forward by employees at every level of the organisation – it is a democratic way of ensuring that the direction of the company can be influenced by anyone within the organisation. By drawing on the professional expertise of employees from a host of different departments, for example, marketing, sales editorial etc., the program ensures that the ideas put forward are of a considerable breadth and variety.
The marketing director cites two of the most successful ideas born out of the project so far as a collectible sports poster series and an e-book option for special sections and custom publishing customers.
The idea for a collectible sports poster series came from three employees – Roland Crago (project manager/advertising), Chris Ball, and Kevin Noble (both sales and marketing consultants) – who calculated that it had the potential to generate $340,000 this year. Their idea was simple: every Sunday, the centre spread of the SportsDay section would include posters for three to five players from each local sport (hockey, baseball, soccer and auto racing). Each poster would feature that week’s sponsor, meaning that the idea would generate revenue from advertising as well as from attracting a wave of new customers with this piece of must-have sports memorabilia. By February this year, the idea had generated $80,000, the INMA blog post said.
Nicole Young, special projects manager in the marketing department at The Dallas Morning News, came up with the idea of using existing content to create e-books for special sections and for the news media company’s custom publishing customers. “Advertisers should be given access to a free, digital version of the publication that they advertise in print, but the current location on our site is less than desirable and difficult to monetise,” she explained. This employee-born idea was successfully implemented. The Dallas Morning News moved its special sections and custom publications to a more trafficked area on dallasnews.com, as well as on its iPhone and iPad apps, and advertisers appreciated this value-added option.
The “Innovative Idea Share” program, then, is a promising example of how development and innovation can stem from within a news organisation itself, by the employees who are, after all, those who understand best how their newspaper operates. At a time when the majority of newspapers are losing revenue from print sales and print advertising, it is becoming increasingly important to think outside the box and look to alternative money-making schemes.