Innovation Management Wisdom

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Newspaper Innovation Requires Knowing What Readers Do with the News

Understanding what consumers are trying to accomplish with the news–not just where they go to get it–sets the table for innovating content, delivery, timing, digital and print channels and other aspects of the news business.

Our recent new product development work with two nationally prominent publishers underscores the urgency with which newspapers are scrambling to retool for the digital news world. Consumers are migrating to online news sources in greater numbers.

Readers are customizing their online news content, even creating it, and paying less for it. And there’s a wider spectrum of consumer expectations and behaviors with regard to news today than before.

Perhaps the most valuable insight we can impart to newspapers is that this migration is so broad and rapid, that many conventional approaches to understanding readers are rendered obsolete. Market share and other behavioral data will only tell you what you already know.

The real pay dirt is understanding why consumers are changing. Once you know what people are trying to accomplish with their news, you can anticipate where they’re going…and that is essential for “skating where the puck will be” in the news business.

To understand why consumers’ behavior around news is changing, we have to acknowledge that the news audience consists of people, not readers. Their lives involve touch points with people, products and events outside the news, but which are often influenced by it. Understanding how people use the news in their lives will guide news professionals to the what, where, why, when and how of innovating their products.

We’re on the forefront of customer experience research methods that unearth these insights–mental models and persona development among them. More important, we feel a kindred connection to the editors and reporters we’ve met. They, like us, are driven to create understanding where it hadn’t existed before. And that’s critical to improving our quality of life.

Jason M. Sherman is president of Whyze Group, a customer experience research and innovation firm based in Cleveland, Ohio. Whyze Group was founded in 2001 and has worked with more than thirty Fortune 500 companies in a variety of industry sectors. You can reach Jason at (440) 785-0547 or at jason@whyzegroup.com.

July 23rd, 2009

One Customer’s Experience Management Audit of Apple

Last night, CNBC’s Jim Cramer said that Apple has become the bellwether stock that drove yesterday’s 900 point stock market rally.  If that’s true, then Apple’s preeminence as a stock worthy of investor attention emanates from its strong customer experience fundamentals.

I recently bought my first Mac. So, my customer experience management audit of Apple’s customer experience is based on the experience of one–me–and my pre-purchase research about how consumers rate various PC brands and Macs.

This isn’t our complete customer experience management audit. However, it illustrates the kind of evidence we present to management teams deciding where to invest to improve customer experiences.  Just like with stocks, a cogent presentation of the evidence can make your choices so much more obvious…

  • Computer users rate reliability, ease of use, compatability, speed and computing power among the most important infuences on their computer and software purchase decisions.
  • On these measures, Apple rates superior to most or all competitors.
  • Customer loyalty, satisfaction and likelihood to refer are higher for Apple users than for other providers. Apple users are raving fans.
  • PC users are defecting to Apple due to their frustrations with software bugs, vulnerability to viruses, incompatible software, system crashes and lost productivity. Consumers’ complaints about Microsoft’s Vista operating system have contributed to consumer resistance to upgrades under the Microsoft brand.
  • Apple store staff I interviewed confirm that roughly a third of new Apple computer buyers had never owned a Mac.
  • Apple stores provide local market presences, user-friendly product displays and highly trained staff.  Live, in-store training sessions are provide for a nominal fee. These bolster customers’ confidence that their transitions from PCs to Macs will be short and successful.
  • Apple store staff are well prepared to answer customers questions about transferring files and software compatibility. Staff positively differentiate Apple by describing how Apple designs their software and hardware to work together and why Apple’s software is less prone to bugs and hacks. Store staff introduced me to two ex-PC users in the store who testified to Apple’s superiority.
  • Apple’s product lines, including Macs, iPods and iPhones, are literally made for each other and are 100% compatible.
  • Post-purchase, the same Apple store staff who sold the Mac called to assure that I was satisfied with my purchase and to answer any questions.
  • Computing consumption, in the form of desktops, laptops, software, entertainment and other products will continue to grow globally. New market entrants in the U.S. are mainly younger users who favor Apple in disproportionately higher percentages than Apple’s current overall market share. This presages likely increases in sales and market share for Apple.

According to stock market expert, Jim Cramer, if you were determined to invest in technology stocks, Apple would have to be near the top of your list. Choosing where to invest in improving your company’s customer experience is similar to choosing stocks. It’s not a mysterious process. With a robust review of the evidence in a customer experience management audit, the choices become clear.

October 29th, 2008

Should Newspapers Lobby for Changes in Digital Copyright Laws?

Perhaps a “legal innovation” in favor of protecting those who actually produce the news, newspapers, is appropriate if not long overdue.

Continue Reading July 23rd, 2007


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