3 “think big” news innovation ideas to inspire you in tough times

We don’t know what the future holds for news media, but we know we won’t be going back to normal. The publishers that will succeed are not the ones who are waiting for this current crisis to pass, instead successful publishers are using this time to fully innovate in reaction to the new circumstances.

With that in mind, we have three truly out of the box ideas publishers have found success with. We are not saying these are the ideas to follow, but hopefully they can inspire some new ideas for your team as well!

Engage your super users – Dagens Nyheter Journalism on Rail

Recently we heard something we never expected to hear at a news media conference. Martin Jönsson of Dagens Nyheter casually said “And yeah, we just bought our own train“.

Last year the team at Dagens Nyheter in Sweden was wondering if there was still interest for traveling Europe by long-distance train. With a resounding yes from readers, the team got to work on making it a reality so they first partnered with a train company and then they bought their own. The first such ‘Journalism on Rail’ experiment launched in August 2019, with nearly 700 passengers traveling from Sweden to Italy, with a stop in Berlin.

In the first train journey, passengers were greeted in Berlin by the German correspondent for Dagens Nyheter. Other planned journeys include lectures from relevant journalists, such as a climate expert for a trip to explore the natural beauty of Sweden, or a cultural expert who will share the history of Franz Kafka during a trip to Prague. Just like how The New Yorker has seen success with their infamous canvas tote bag, this train trip serves as a way for the most loyal readers of Dagens Nyheter to signal their cultural affinity to peers. However it goes even further, giving readers the ability to ‘live journalism’ during their summer travels.

In turn, the journey also provided Dagens Nyheter with the valuable experience of engaging and learning from their subscribers, which in turn they hope will improve retention.

Being close to our readers is a privilege for our newspaper. We learn from them, and it becomes an asset for our journalists. It provides a lot to arrange physical meetings, and it probably strengthens the commercial relationship with the newspaper, and makes you more likely to stay as a subscriber.

 Peter Wolodarski, Editor-in-chief Dagens Nyheter

The first journey was so successful, they decided to organise a variety of new journeys for this year. Even though current trips have been cancelled due to the coronavirus, we are curious to see which new trips are planned for next year!

Coffee and cocktails – how The Sentinel made a newspaper cool

When Maisie Crow and Max Kabat took over The Sentinel in Marfa last year, they decided the new start required a new location as well. They bought the building of a former bar and set to work on turning it into something new. At first they didn’t know what that would be: the idea of turning it into a co-working space was quickly thrown away when they decided the subscription model wouldn’t be as inclusive as they wanted. Instead they decided to turn the space into a cafe/bar, with the newspaper staff working just next door.

But from time to time, the reporters move next door to work on stories, which as managing editor Abbie Perrault shared with The New York Times recently, helps “keep my finger on the pulse and get new leads and find stories.”

Of course, merging the news business with the coffee and cocktails business has presented some new challenges. For one, when a local politician asked to rent the space, they decided to say no due to concerns of an ethical dilemma for future coverage in the newspaper. They also had to keep the bar/cafe and the newspaper as separate businesses on paper, as the law in Texas allows for warrantless searches of establishments that sell alcohol; they did not want to open up their newsroom to this risk.

This initiative reminds us of The Ferndale Enterprise, which has turned their historic building into an Airbnb. Since 2015, guests even get their names printed under the masthead in the weekly print edition.

The Guardian responds to news emergencies with innovative campaign

To promote their international news magazine, Guardian Weekly, The Guardian launched a new marketing push in Berlin in February.

When we considered the fact we are living in a state of emergency, the emergency box came to mind. The idea is you can smash the glass, read the magazine and arm yourself with facts. It’s a nice visual way to display the product.

Sam Jacobs creative director of the Guardian’s in-house creative agency

Back when people could still walk around just for fun, residents of Berlin were greeted with a large campaign encouraging them to break the glass covering iconic covers of The Guardian Weekly, in case of a news emergency. For example, one such campaign read “In case of climate inaction, break glass” which then gave access to the print copy of the February 15, 2019 edition. This award-winning edition shares insights on the climate crisis from the point of view of school children.

The team behind this one-day stunt explained they considered that we were living in a state of news emergency, something that has only become ever more true in the past weeks with the covid-19 crisis.

Once the glass boxes were taken down, the stunt continued in the form of digital displays of the glass being broken by passersby. While the results of this campaign were not shared publicly, Kate Davies, director of brand and awareness at the Guardian shared with The Drum that they were hoping to see an uplift of 10% in traffic.

Mary-Katharine Phillips
Mary-Katharine Phillips
Media innovation analyst @ Twipe
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