Published last month by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford, Going Digital. A Roadmap for Organisational Transformation By Lucy Kuneg analyses how organisations can ‘disrupt themselves’ to master the digital environment, and core dimensions of best practice in such a transformation.

Lucy Kueng is Google Digital News Senior Visiting Research Fellow at the Reuters Institute. She is a professor and expert on strategy, innovation, and leadership with particular emphasis on digitalisation and technology transitions. She has authored numerous books and cases including Innovators in Digital News, Strategic Management in the Media (winner of the AEMJM Media Management Book Award) and, Inside the BBC and CNN – Managing Media Organizations.

The report draws on extensive research involving over 60 interviews in over twenty organisations including the Washington Post, Vox, Vice, the Financial Times, the Economist, Axel Springer, Schibsted, the New York Times, Le Monde and many more.

Kueng finds that two decades after the emergence of the internet, the structure of a new media ecosystem is becoming clear, as are the substantial challenges this presents to legacy media organisations.

In terms of the threats, Kueng finds:

The risk is not extinction but gradual erosion: of market share, of revenues, of share of voice, of relevance. Legacy leaders do not die; they slip down the food chain. Understandably, media players default to the content transformation…[but] they need to put as much effort into transforming their organisations as they do into transforming their product. This is the only route to sustainability. Failure to do this is undermining their significant investments in digital reinvention and compounds the risk of reduced relevance in digital media markets.

But she also sees opportunities for news organisations that understand the need to become truly strategic. According to Kueng for strategy to be successful:

Four elements are necessary: an unwavering long-term goal (usually analogous to the journalistic mission), a clear business model, a rigorous process for ‘shiny new things’, and a ‘central nervous system’ combining technology and data. The ability to exit low-potential business areas is important: failure to do so reduces focus, spreads resources thinly, and limits scope for experimentation.

And she has a message for legacy players who feel at a disadvantage to digital startups:

Legacy organisations can’t pivot but they can shift, and tactical shifts will be inevitable either to take advantage of changes in the strategic environment or when elements of strategy do not work out as planned. Shifts have three building blocks: clear signalling from a credible leader, cultural acceptance, and a degree of flexibility in organisational structure. All need to be in place before a shift begins.

Other key elements explored by Kueng include tech and data, digital storytelling and the need for radical culture change. You can download the full report here.

 

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