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Journalist Fellows' Papers

Reinventing the incumbents

Reuters Institute Fellow's Paper

Innovative newcomers and start-ups are challenging operational methods of traditional news organisations. 

The rivalry compels incumbent legacy media organisations to invent new ways to retain and engage their consumers.In a new research paper by Petri Jauhianen, ‘Reinventing the incumbents: how old media are creating new products’, Petri takes a closer look at three new experimental products and examines how they meet these expectations.

As Petri, a managing editor at YLE news in Finland, writes: “Lessons learned from BBC Trending, Reuters TV and BBC Taster show that big legacy media companies are not always clunky and bureaucratic by nature. In product development, the size can be turned into an advantage, if different stakeholders are agile enough and see the big picture. I realized during my research that the internet era has fundamentally changed product development also in the big, traditional media companies. The key words are speed and agility, which has a huge impact for management when innovating and making the new product. This means understanding the importance of technical/ journalistic insight, having a clear vision of product ownership and using the data for continuous iteration. At the core of all three products is leveraging data.  “The less one knows, the more one suspects.” 

This wisdom from Machiavelli is really true, even when it comes to product creation in the Internet era. Data rules. This is why it is not a big surprise that the best digital developing teams in companies like BBC and Reuters already live in the world of ongoing iteration. For them using data effectively is not just for software coding but building little-by-little better usage and understanding of the entire product vision. But still, some basic rules seem to work according to experienced professionals quoted for this paper.

Here are some key points for management to remember in developing new products:

  • Remember the importance of insight
  • Appreciate the grass–root ideas
  • Think how to define success
  • Own your product Build a small team - and save it
  • Give a licence to fail

As with all Fellows’ research papers, any opinions expressed are those of the author and not of the Institute.