Monthly Archives: November 2013

NU-lab: open innovation in the news

NU nl InfographicOne of the absolute success stories of Sanoma in recent years has been the illustrious growth of NU.nl, the leading news site by visitors and strongest media brand in The Netherlands. NU.nl prides itself on speed (“the latest news first”), neutrality and user-friendliness and I pride myself on being one of its heaviest users :-).

Usage of NU.nl has grown rapidly from about 500 M page views per month in the summer of 2011 to almost 1.000 M by the summer of this year. That’s massive engagement, especially if you consider there are less than 17 M inhabitants in the country!  This spectacular growth has been driven by mobile consumption – more than 2/3 of page views now come from mobile, with Android devices leading the charge recently.  NU-apps have been downloaded almost 5 M times so far.

Strong  Sanoma Digital Network

NU.nl is a cornerstone of Sanoma’s digital networkcomScore ranks Sanoma #4 of the big 5 in The Netherlands with 8.5 M unique visitors (MUV) in October 2013  – behind Google, Microsoft and Facebook (12.7, 11.1 and 9.8 MUV, respectively), but ahead of eBay (7.1 MUV).  Other Dutch media groups are also performing well and are represented in the top 20, but lack the reach of Sanoma.  The state-subsidised NPO, and privately run TMG, De Persgroep and RTL Groep, registered a reach of 6.3, 6.2, 5.3 and 5.2 MUV respectively in October.

NU.nl is also a cornerstone of the newly formed business unit Sanoma Digital that will boost digital growth, innovation and capabilities at Sanoma.  Sander Stallinga, the superstar publisher of NU.nl will lead the domain of Digital Content in the new Management Team.

Winning team at NU.nl

The success of NU.nl has been created by the NU.nl team and I am really proud of that team. One of the things I respect about them is that they are looking ahead. This is a sign of a winning team! It can be easy to sit back and relax when you achieve success.  But this team is working hard on further developing the brand to make it even more relevant for our customers in the future.  Part of this relates to extending NU.nl into new verticals, such as nutech.nl (great launch recently!) and new media (especially mobile and video).  But we want to bring an additional richness to innovation at NU.nl, using not only the talents of our own people but engaging with outside talent too.  For that reason, and building on the early success that we have had with our series of innovation accelerators, we decided to run an open innovation accelerator on news called NU LAB, sponsored by Sander Stallinga and in cooperation with the excellent Joris van Heukelom at MakerLab.

NU LAB

NU-LAB-blogWe have accepted more than 150 participants into the program. It’s a highly diverse group that includes not only journalists and Sanoma enthusiasts, but also professionals from advertising agencies and government ministries and students (about a quarter of the total).  We even have a 16 year old school pupil on board.  It’s really great to see this rich diversity of talent and enthusiasm!

The program started with a kick-off, and is followed by a series of webinars for inspiration, training, and guidance on the assignments. Through a competitive process we expect to select the top three ideas that we will send to bootcamp at the end of January – the winning idea owners will form a team with an interaction designer, designer and developer to build a working prototype of their concept.   The winner will receive a prize of € 10.000 and the chance that their idea will become part of the superbrand that is NU.nl.

Quick pitch and value proposition

In the first webinar, Gert-Jaap Hoekman (Editor-in-Chief of NU.nl) explained the three domains that form the scope of this open accelerator: the distribution, production and bundling of content.  Brechtje de Leij (Senior Product Manager Mobile), explained how we work.  Our American guest Mark Briggs (author of Entrepreneurial Journalism and Journalism 2.0) gave an inspiring session on innovation in journalism.  And Joris van Heukelom (Partner at MakerStreet) talked about design thinking.  Participants also got their first assignment: develop the quick pitch and describe the value proposition for your idea.

Customer validation

In the second webinar Mark Vos (Editor Social and UGC at NU.nl) talked about the role of the user in the creation, aggregation and selection of news, and Jerry Vermanen (data journalist at NU.nl) about data journalism.  Joris van Heukelom went further with lean product development.  Participants got their second assignment: customer validation.  This is so important on the journey of discovery!  This is the assignment that the participants are currently working on.

Inspiration

I’ve been browsing the content of the platform this afternoon and always find this insightful and inspiring.  I love to see the ideas and am curious about the person behind the idea. I always wonder: why is this important to them?  And I cannot deny my competitive streak which generally guides me to the leader boards for ideas and engagement – they are quite powerful in steering perception.

Respect!

So, we still have a couple of months to go, but I would like to express my heartfelt support for open innovation at NU.nl and for the participants who have joined us on this journey.  Respect to you for looking ahead and making something new!

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Spirited start at Sanoma Digital

sanomaxAt the end of October, Sanoma announced the planned launch of Sanoma Digital to boost our pure-play digital business in consumer media. Sanoma Digital will have three main goals: i) to grow ii) to boost innovation and iii) to advance our capabilities on analytics and lean development.

Engaging with colleagues

In the weeks since the announcement I’ve been meeting my colleagues in the new digital organisation to talk about the plans for digital and to listen to and discuss the feedback. This has been a truly positive experience and I’ve also been really been proud to see how my new team is stepping up to the challenge.  I especially like it when there is a lot of interaction and direct and open questions in the sessions; the more lively the discussion, the more fun it is!

Reflecting on the past weeks, there are three themes that I have heard frequently in the feedback and discussions at new Sanoma Digital, and I want to call them out here:

Optimism and positive energy

Although we are facing challenging times, the over-riding spirit at new Sanoma Digital is optimistic and positive.  The announcement of the new unit has been welcomed. This is widely seen as a good step to take in boosting digital at Sanoma and in bringing new opportunities for our people.  It brings a new and promising perspective.

Support for the clarity and focus

There has been strong support amongst the employees and in the new management team of Sanoma Digital for establishing this new business unit. This support comes from the clear and distinct mandate: to grow, to innovate and to advance our capabilities in digital consumer media. Each part of the business has a role to play in navigating Sanoma to the future. This is where Sanoma Digital can make a difference.  And organising to make that happen is seen as making good sense.

Ambition to win

I sense a strong ambition to win amongst the teams at Sanoma Digital.  I feel it in the teams of our successful brands such as NU.nl, oikotie.fi and kieskeurig.nl. I feel it at the Innovation Lab and at SanomaVentures.  And I feel it in the analytics and professional support teams.  It’s an ambition and determination to take this opportunity and to make a difference by winning in the market.  It feels good and I respect it a lot.

So, these are my reflections on the last couple of weeks.  I’m looking forward to becoming CEO of Sanoma Learning during the course of next year, but know very well that I will be leaving behind a fantastic opportunity at Sanoma Digital!

 

Sanoma Digital to boost transformation on three fronts: growth, innovation and capabilities

nu-labSanoma recently announced the planned launch of Sanoma Digital as part of an overall accelerated transformation program.

We see many opportunities in digital and have in the meantime built a substantial and growing digital business.  We intend to boost digital by creating this new business unit which will focus on pure-play digital assets in consumer media in Finland and The Netherlands, and will include brands such as oikotie.fi, NU.nl and kieskeurig.nl.  Digital brand extensions such as hs.fi and libelle.nl will be run directly by Sanoma Media Finland and The Netherlands. Sanoma Learning will drive all Learning activities.

Focus

A core element of the overall transformation program is to bring more focus to the business and to ensure that each part has a clear mandate and objectives.  This also holds true for Sanoma Digital.  Growing and innovating pure-play digital businesses in consumer media is a different assignment than transforming a portfolio of magazines, winning viewers for television, taking newspapers to their next level or building digital workflow solutions for learning.  Each of these assignments needs dedicated management attention to focus on making it happen.

Digital enjoys a unique role within the portfolio and will for that reason also work very closely with the other platforms to enable cross-media solutions for consumers and advertisers – shared sales, insights & analytics and ICT teams will help us to achieve that.

Goals

Sanoma Digital will have three main goals:

  1. The first goal is to growgrowthWe intend to significantly grow the digital consumer media business in the next 5 years. Part of that growth will come from working closely with the local business in Finland and the Netherlands, including adding new verticals, new media (mobile and video) and new services to our performance-based (lead-generation, e-commerce, online classifieds) and pure-play digital content businesses. Another part of the growth will come from scaling successful concepts created in The Netherlands and Finland to new markets.  We have been investing in the early part the product pipeline recently with quite some new launches in the final quarter this year.  We expect this to bear fruits during the course of the coming years.
  2. The second goal is to boost innovation and to strengthen skills across the organisation on lean development methods. Commerce-Accelerator-logo To achieve this we will establish a new innovation lab which will nurture the winning concepts borne out of our ongoing series of innovation accelerators.  Furthermore, we will continue to invest in external digital enterprises via Sanoma Ventures. We want to fill the pipeline with new business lines – to plant the seeds of the next generation Sanoma.
  3. The third goal is to strengthen our capabilities on data insights & analytics. We will bundle our resources on insights and analytics, boost them, and deploy them across Sanoma, to help the whole company to succeed in the digital transformation.

Positive outcomes

From the perspective of digital, we hope this will position us to better serve our customers. If we are successful, we will grow digital and this should help us to provide attractive new opportunities for employees and improved returns for shareholders.

Two passions

From a personal perspective, my next assignment is to establish Sanoma Digital. I’m excited about this and believe setting up Sanoma digital is a good step to boost the digital transformation. We’re now in the process of setting up a new team to drive this agenda.  I’m really proud of the talented people who are joining this team and who will work at Sanoma Digital!  During Q1 next year I will succeed Jacques Eijkens as CEO of Sanoma Learning.  My two passions are digital and learning.  Sanoma has a strong and successful international Learning business that is also going through a digital transformation.  I hope and believe that I will be able to contribute to the further success of Sanoma Learning by boosting the leadership of digital and innovation there.