IIS Breakthrough Recap: Collaboration Fosters Innovation as a News Agency Reinvents Itself


Marie Giangrande, Public Notions

Post by Marie Giangrande, Public Notions Once a push oriented news agency, Christian Science Monitor re-invents itself with the concept of “Content Scaping”, a strategic, ongoing effort to collaborate with its readers, distributors and editors.

Known as “The Monitor”, the Christian Science Monitor is an international News Agency covering political world news across 11 countries. Faced with a continuing decline in earnings, the company embarked on a challenge to explore new digital offerings and re-invent itself.

At SIIA’s Information Industry Summit, Donal Toole, Finance and Strategy Director along with John Yemma, Editor, talked about the key actions they took to change the Agency’s direction. Today the Agency is creating premium digital subscriptions, distribution-specific packages and readership-driven content. The earnings are positive and overall growth is up.

The success of this transformation hinged on a change in philosophy and management processes. The agency started to think about their readers and distributors as new assets. And they nurtured collaboration internally and externally to understand readership needs.

The executives outlined the most impactful steps they took:

1) Tear Down the Chinese Wall

In the past, there was a ‘Chinese wall’ between the editors and readers. This was erected to maintain ‘our independent, unbiased views’ explains Donal Toole. But it meant that they did not understand what the readers wanted.

As an example, The Monitor was serving news about global events while their readers wanted ‘an analysis of the impacts’. This led the Agency to offer a premium product for Global Political Risk analysis. The executives maintain that they now see their business as a collaborative effort with their core readers. Today, they encourage readers to ask questions about articles and this is circulated to the Editorial group to help enhance their coverage.

2) Institute ‘ContentScaping’ Assessing Segments and Trialing New Offers

The term ‘ContentScaping’ refers to an internal management process to develop new information products. Executives described this as ‘constant vigilance to assess our assets and identify underserved segments’. The starting point is to use the Editorial teams to evaluate and identify new skills and capabilities. These newly identified assets are then mapped against market opportunities and market segments.

Once they make a decision to ‘super serve’ a segment, they reshape content and enter a trail phase.

“It’s very critical to test and trial every new offer, because not everything works” commented Yemma. One time they found a video interview was gaining undue attention. People were watching because there was an inappropriate joke made by a Political figure. “That was not the content we wanted to serve,” Yemma continued.

This process is on-going and has helped the organization adhere to a data-driven decision matrix while developing new content packages.

3) Build a Multidimensional, Investigative Team

“Of all the changes made, none are as important as the creation of a new Executive Leadership team,” explains Toole and Yemma. This team establishes the roadmap for the company’s products and drives the ‘ContentScaping’ process. Both executives at The Monitor underlined the importance of the multi-dimensional team to bring together varied expertise. At The Monitor, they instituted a Leadership Team across:

  • Editorial
  • Digital Outlets
  • Content Sales and Partnerships, and
  • Strategy and Analysis

Ultimately it’s the people” concludes Toole. And for us in the audience, we can only hope we have catalysts like Toole and Yemma to take us on the path of collaboration and innovation.


About Marie Giangrande, Public Notions

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