Category Archives: Open Innovation

Sanoma’s Learning Lab hits the right note

learning-labI love the start of the new school year: it feels like a time of new beginnings and new opportunities. I’m especially excited about the coming semester because we will be running our Learning Lab in partnership with five great innovative schools!

Improving the impact of education on learning

We’re a key partner to schools and frontrunner in the digital transformation in some of the World’s best performing education systems, including Finland, The Netherlands, Belgium, Poland and also Sweden. We’re deeply committed to supporting excellence and equity in education. And we see that many stakeholders in education are looking for renewal: for improved learning outcomes, for better engagement and for new ways of working. Our goal with this Learning Lab is to co-create new concepts, together with our partners, that help to improve and evidence the impact of education on learning.

In time and in tune with teachers

Our target was to recruit 150 participants. However, the Lab has been heavily over-subscribed: we have received about 350 applications! We will increase capacity to take account of this. Interest has been especially strong from teachers. The subject and timing of this innovation lab seems to be very much in line with the needs of our customers. We really appreciate your trust in working together with us in developing new ways of teaching and learning.

Five innovative partners

Thanks to all the individuals and also to the five partner schools for showing their innovative colours and joining us on this journey of discovery. The partner schools are:

It’s great that you have taken on this challenge together with us.

Looking forward >>

I can’t wait for the kick-offs at the beginning of October. We’re going to learn new skills, broaden our networks and take a positive step to improving learning.  And we’ll have a lot of fun on the way!  I’m excited to be working with you on this initiative in the next few months!

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Sanoma’s digital transformation gains momentum

Sanoma House in Helsinki

Sanoma House in Helsinki

Last week Sanoma announced the FY2013 results. To be frank they were mixed, with online and mobile sales growing but print media in decline. The vocabulary turned classical: annus horribilis, Utopia, and per angusta ad augusta, could be heard in English, Finnish and Dutch conversations during the week. As is often the case with mixed signals, the good news has been somewhat drowned out by the more negative headlines throughout the year.  Yet Learning had a good 2013. And after a slow start to the year the overall digital platform has gained momentum and performed particularly strongly in the final quarter.

I always find it tricky blogging about financial results given that Sanoma is a listed company. But now that we have announced the results, I’d like to call out a handful of highlights on digital in Finland, The Netherlands, Learning and early stage innovation at Sanoma in 2013, drawing on the published materials.

As a reminder, the core strategy of Sanoma rests on three pillars: i) connecting consumers with content and brands, anywhere, anytime; ii) delivering powerful marketing opportunities to advertisers through our reach and consumer insight; and iii) providing personalized digital learning solutions to pupils and teachers.  Digital is clearly an integral part of that strategy.

Finland

Our share of the online media market grew by 5%-points to almost 40%.  Our online advertising revenues grew by 18% over the previous year and digital consumer sales grew by almost 30%. Digital subscriptions at Sanoma’s single biggest brand, the newspaper Helsingin Sanomat, grew by almost 40% to 160,000 (on a total of about 355,000). Furthermore, digital sales at our second biggest brand Ilta-Sanomat grew by about 40%, whereby digital revenue gains now appear to be exceeding print losses; this terrific performance also secured a lead for Ilta-Sanomat over Iltalehti in terms of visitors. We also saw early success at magazines with the Donald Duck library reaching 12,000 subscribers.

Our market-leading position in recruitment got even stronger and we regained leadership in terms of visitors in real estate.  Finally, we made a great start with e-commerce service MSO.fi with more than 120 retailers already on board.

We have seen strong growth in usage via mobile devices and of online video and this is where we have registered our fastest growth.  By the end of 2013, over 50% of all pageviews on our Finnish network came from mobile devices, with mobile visitors growing by over 100% and pageviews by close to 150%.  Correspondingly, mobile advertising sales grew by around 180%Online video advertising sales grew by over 30% and the weekly reach of video platform ruutu.fi by 25%.

The Netherlands

comScore ranks Sanoma #4 of the big 5 in The Netherlands with 8.1 M unique visitors (MUV) in December 2013  – behind Google, Microsoft and Facebook (12.7, 10.7 and 9.9 MUV, respectively), but ahead of eBay (6.6 MUV). Other Dutch media groups are also 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 6.2, 5.3, 4.7 and 4.4 MUV respectively in December.

NU.nl, the leading news site by visitors and strongest media brand in The Netherlands and a cornerstone of Sanoma’s digital network, further strengthened this position in 2013 delighting readers with more than 10.000.000.000 pageviews, almost exactly 50 per inhabitant per month! Pageviews have more than doubled in the last three years and in the meantime more than 75% of views are made from mobile devices.  NU-apps have been downloaded more than 5 M times so far.

In common with Finland, video also grew strongly (about 40%) totalling 152 M at video platform zie.nl.

Lindanieuws.nl – an extension of the highly successful magazine brand Linda. – came with a new version that resulted in a tripling of the number of visitors to 1.2 M and a doubling of advertising sales.

Digital sales via automated trading increased by almost 25% – a serious money-maker for our digital network.  Our performance-based business had a solid year. In particular, sales at the recently acquired FashionChick doubled, partly driven by international expansion. The introduction of curated search at directory Startpagina.nl has been a runaway success and one of the most rapidly growing digital product innovations we have made in recent years. Net sales of e-commerce service SBC grew by 25%, with sales of home deco performing particularly well with a growth of nearly 50%, And soft launches of new brands leef.nl (health) and yixx.nl (jewellery) and of the international launch of price comparison site kieskeurig.nl in France and Poland have helped to ensure a healthy pipeline of new business lines that we expect will support the growth of the performance-based assets in the coming years.

Learning

At Learning, there are also good data to evidence our progress to a more digital future. Much of this relates to bringing content to life by making it more functional through digital. For example, in The Netherlands, more than 1,000,000 pupils in primary education work with Malmberg’s software, reaching 60% of all schools.  In a single week in November, more than 1,000,000 exercises were made on homework platform Bingel.be in Belgium. And in Finland, teachers and pupils logged into Sanoma Pro’s new learning environment 1,900,000 times, with 768,000 hours of active use. In the meantime 800 e-books have been published in Sanoma’s five Learning countries on the BookShelf platform provided by Young Digital Planet.

In addition to transforming its core business, Sanoma Learning is working on providing learning services to the home market with a new online tutoring proposition for mathematics: StudySteps. This has been soft launched in Belgium and The Netherlands, tested in Poland and Russia, and the first results are promising, with 110,000 exercises made in the test period.

Furthermore, Sanoma Learning is exploring the possibilities to build a position in emerging markets and has amongst others made an agreement with the People’s Education Press to provide digital services to support the provision of e-learning in China. It’s early days, but there is clear demand for Sanoma’s high quality Learning capabilities abroad.

Innovation

SanomaVentures had an exciting year, receiving over 400 requests from external startups, which ultimately resulted in 9 investments, bringing the total to 15 to date.  In aggregate the business/financial performance of this portfolio has been promising and these ventures currently employ over 161 people. We expect to make a similar number of new investments this year.

Building on the success of the series of in-house innovation accelerators, we have now launched an Innovation Lab to foster the ventures that are borne out of the accelerators and as a test ground for new ideas from the core business.  We currently have a full pipeline of concepts, prototypes and early stage ventures and have set ourselves the goal to have established five ventures in the next 3-5 years that have an annual revenue potential of € 10 M+. In 2013 we ran four accelerators (Content, Commerce, Talent and NU-lab), two of which were open to external participation. Through these accelerators we trained about 500 Sanoma employees on the lean development methodology and created 15 functional prototypes, about half of which have been given seed funding for further customer validation.

Finally, we have significantly increased our investments and human resourcing on data science including hiring a team of 20 data scientists last year to boost our analytics and insights capabilities across Sanoma. We are currently working on developing the common “big data” enablers, as well as specific cases on consumer sales, online advertising and new business models. We expect to make a quantum leap in our insights capabilities in the coming years.

Good progress on the journey

Overall, reflecting on the three pillars of Sanoma’s strategy i) connecting consumers with content and brands, anywhere, anytime, and ii) delivering powerful marketing opportunities to advertisers through our reach and consumer insight and iii) providing personalized digital learning solutions to pupils and teachers, I believe the highlights above show that digital has made a big contribution in 2013 to progressing this strategy. Respect to the teams who have made this happen and thanks for your hard work!

Making it happen at the CommerceAccelerator bootcamp!

Participants at the closing session. Blinded by the light ...

Participants at the closing session. Blinded by the light …

We’re working hard on transforming Sanoma for a more digital future. Boosting innovation is key and includes developing new digital business lines and learning new skills that we can use across the company. For this purpose we have created the Innovation Accelerators and the CommerceAccelerator is the third in the series so far.

We see three domains of opportunity for the future Sanoma. Firstly, we want to provide information and entertainment to consumers across multiple channels. Secondly we want to help advertisers with powerful marketing solutions based on our reach to consumers and insights into them.  And thirdly, we want to help to help pupils and teachers to achieve great learning outcomes using new learning solutions.

Winners go to bootcamp

Team leaders at the closing session

Team leaders at closing session

In Amsterdam last week we ran the bootcamp for the CommerceAccelerator – focusing on the advertising domain mentioned above. The top 5 ideas and their owners were selected in a live webinar to build prototypes of their concepts. This followed an inspiring program of ideation and training, of building and testing ideas, which started out with about 220 participants from across Sanoma and included about 70 university students.

Rich talent

Student team Weggle from Tampere

Student team Weggle from Tampere

We had an interesting and varied mix of talent amongst the team leaders, including people from business development, sales, product management, television and a student team from Tampere.  I like it a lot when we have such a diversity of experience and skills at the bootcamp: it makes for a rich and exciting experience!

Fast pace, strong delivery

I love the bootcamps. They are practical and fast paced. They’re very demanding but also a lot of fun. It’s great to have teams of talented and driven people working on building prototypes and testing them with real customers.  Making it happen!  I believe in learning by doing and this is a very concrete proof of that!

Leadership

Listening to CEO Harri-Pekka Kaukonen kicking off the pitch session (for the sake of good order, I am tweeting that picture in this photo, I am not checking my mail during the speech :))

Listening to CEO Harri-Pekka Kaukonen kicking off the pitch session. (For the sake of good order, I am tweeting that picture in this photo, I am not checking my mail during the speech!)

We were joined by Sanoma’s CEO Harri-Pekka Kaukonen, CHRO Jackie Cuthbert and the CEO of Sanoma Learning Jacques Eijkens. They are all strong supporters of the accelerators. We appreciated that they joined us; they are all super-busy driving the transformation of Sanoma, but it is brilliant that they make the time to support the accelerators.  A great show of leadership!

Five prototypes

Listening with intent to the pitches. Amongst others, Harri-Pekka Kaukonen on the front row, and Jackie Cuthbert on the back row.

Listening with intent to the pitches. Amongst others, Harri-Pekka Kaukonen on the front row, and Jackie Cuthbert on the back row.

At the end of the day on Thursday each of the teams demonstrated their prototypes. They included i) a contextual and sentimental targeting service; ii) a pre-targeting service; iii) a mobile advertising service iv) a gamified service to engage viewers during TV commercial breaks and v) a shopping service bridging the real and virtual worlds. Some of the testing with customers has been quite brilliant and helped to underpin the commercial promise of the ideas. Great validation!  (I would like to show the promo video’s here, but feel it’s a bit premature at this stage).

Top teams

I really like and respect the passion and enthusiasm of the teams and am proud of how they have performed and behaved! This counts for the idea owners and the talented professionals from MakerLab.  And also for Lassi Kurkijärvi (@lassi, Director at Sanoma) and Joris van Heukelom (@jorisheuk, Partner at Makerstreet) who once again showed inspiring leadership throughout the program.  Great job everyone!

Next steps

We have promised the teams that we will inform them how we would like to proceed by the end of next week. There are three alternatives: i) create a new venture ii) develop within the business or iii) not pursue the opportunity. I am confident we will pursue some of these concepts and will engage with the key stakeholders to ensure that we will be able to bring them to market quickly!

The world turns of course, and we are working on developing the next accelerator which will focus on 4G and video and we aim to start in Q1 next year.  With the launch of our Innovation Lab in January (as part of the new unit Sanoma Digital), which will be led by our mobile superhero Lassi Kurkijärvi, the Innovation Accelerators have become a core element of our transformation program. I see the establishment of the Innovation Lab as a great validation of the success of the accelerators we have run so far.

I’ve been happy about the high level of support that we have won from top management and young talent. What I would like to develop further in upcoming accelerators is to secure more engagement from middle managers. I believe this would help us in transforming the core business.  If anyone has good ideas about how to achieve this, please drop me a line!

CommerceAccelerator goes to bootcamp

commerce-accelerator-bootcamp-selectionLast week in a live broadcast, we selected the five winning concepts and idea owners who will join us this week at the bootcamp of the CommerceAccelerator in Amsterdam. We will build prototypes of these ideas and test them with customers, as a pre-cursor to deciding which concepts to sponsor as new ventures at Sanoma.

Two big goals

We have two main objectives for the accelerator programs.

Firstly, we want to develop new digital business lines – to plant the seeds of the next generation of Sanoma products and services. We have set ourselves the target of establishing five new ventures (the “fabulous five”) within the next five years that have clearly demonstrated the potential to become as successful as NU.nl is today. From the first two accelerators we have created six new ventures and we will soon reach the critical moment when we decide which of them to boost further and which to discontinue.

Secondly, we want to develop lean development skills across Sanoma to support the overall digital transformation. We want 20% of all employees to join an accelerator program in the next five years. By the end of 2014, we expect that more than 1.000 Sanoma employees will have participated in an accelerator and learned the lean development methodology.

So far, so good :-).

Why the CommerceAccelerator?

This is the third accelerator in the series so far and focuses on enabling commerce. We see three domains of opportunity where Sanoma has the ability and ambition to succeed: i) creating, curating and distributing content for consumers ii) providing powerful marketing solutions to advertisers and iii) supporting learning and education. This accelerator clearly supports our ambitions in the second domain.

Positive and optimistic

I’m enthusiastic about how this accelerator has been going so far. I love the positive energy and can-do attitude of the people. This time we have made the accelerator “open” to university students and that’s brought it an extra edge, a new freshness. I like it when we innovate the innovation programs :-). It’s also been great to see such a good mix of people: Sanoma and Students; Finland and The Netherlands; Print, Digital and TV. Lassi and Joris have done a wonderful job again: every time we do it, it grows and gets better.

Voting criteria

The ten concepts and their owners were all strong and had put forward excellent pitches. Prior to the selection I advised the voters to consider five criteria when making their decision: i) does it fit our strategy? ii) are we capable of doing it? iii) can we earn money from it? iv) can this person make it happen and v) is the lean development method being well used? I don’t know if anyone listened to the advice, but I am happy with the results of the voting :-).

High Five

Voting was tense and the public rounds went to the wire a couple of times. The three concepts selected from the public voting included propositions for mobile advertising, engaging tv ads and marrying offline and online commerce. Two additional concepts won “wildcards” from the expert jury based on the expectation that they would be well position to “make it happen”: a reverse retargeting proposition and a relevant and engaging online advertising service.

Excited about bootcamp

I’m truly excited to see what the idea owners will create at bootcamp this week! What can we make of these concepts? Might one of them eventually become one of the fabulous five? I’m sure that most of the participants will experience this as one of the best weeks in their professional lives so far: hard work, fast pace, rapid learning, focus on delivery and a lot of fun too! Tomorrow morning is the kick-off and by the end of Thursday afternoon we will see what the teams are capable of.

So, good luck to the teams and do your best! Looking forward >>

Wise crowds and wildcards: the moment of truth for the CommerceAccelerator

Commerce-Accelerator-logoMid-September we kicked off the #CommerceAccelerator. This is the third in the series of Innovation Accelerators at Sanoma. We have two big goals for the program: i) to build new business lines and ii) to learn new skills.  As a direct result of the first two accelerators we have established six new start-ups and by the end of this accelerator almost 450 of our most talented employees will have learned new skills about Lean Innovation.  We believe this will boost our capability to succeed in the overall digital transformation of the company.

This accelerator has two new angles. Firstly, we are focusing on “enabling commerce” rather than creating and distributing content: how can we use our ability to inspire, engage and reach consumers to enable commerce? And secondly we have opened up the process to include about 70 students from 6 European universities, to bring an extra richness of talent and ideas. This has given a great new twist to the proceedings.

Vote yes to make it happen

Previously we have selected the top ten ideas and their owners to build pro-MVPs. vote-yesTomorrow evening is the moment of truth!  In a live webinar we will select the top five that will be given the opportunity to go to bootcamp. At the bootcamp we will be build working prototypes and evaluate the potential of both the concept and idea owner to take the next step in our intrapreneurship program and establish a new venture at Sanoma.  Places at bootcamp are highly coveted and are a ticket to build your idea and show your talent at our company.

Wisdom of the crowd and expert opinions

Three of the five winners will be chosen by the public vote with the final two positions awarded by a team of experts (the “wildcards”). We took a first view on the ten competitors in the expert team last week and made a preliminary ranking for the wildcards. The experts tend to use the wildcards to strengthen alignment with the overall strategic goals of Sanoma. It was really great to see the pitches and concepts – it’s going to be a hard fight for the places tomorrow! In previous accelerators it’s been remarkable to notice how similar the voting of the wisdom of the crowd and the experts has been.  In some ways that gives a certain level of confidence that we are making the best choices. (In others, I wonder if I could save some money on the experts :-)).

Three criteria

There are three key criteria that will be considered when voting. 1. Strategic fit with Sanoma.  2. Ability to operate.  3. Financial attractiveness.  Most of the ideas tend to score highly on the first two points, partly due to the guidance we give during the process and partly because of the experience of the participants.  My biggest question usually relates to the financial attractiveness of the idea – particularly with regard to scale. What are the ideas that could really succeed at scale?

Intrapreneurs

Last week we reviewed the first quarter performance of the new ventures Hubly and SpotandShop that we created from the #ContentAccelerator.  I was truly impressed by the progress Birgit and Nikky have made, including first sales already!  It’s really brilliant how they have taken the opportunity and brought it to life. Respect!  I hope this is a sign of what is to come from the #CommerceAccelerator.

Good luck

So, I’m excited about the outcome of tomorrow’s voting.  Good luck to the ten teams competing and thanks to everyone who joined the program. It will be great to see the winners at bootcamp in Amsterdam during the week of 9 December! Looking forward >>. 

I’m interested to hear how other corporations boost innovation, or any feedback or comments you have on our program – feel free to drop me a line!

 

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!