Can tech and an innovation ecosystem transform a big, traditional media company?

Karl Allen-Muncey and his team of developers at the Postmedia Innovation Outpost already have.

Allen-Muncey and Co. on Friday rolled out their first line of products designed to help Postmedia, the legacy publisher which owns many of the most important newspapers in Canada, including the National Post, gain increased traction in an advertising space dominated by players like Google and Facebook.

Their core product, developed at the Communitech Hub by a team of 12 over the past four-plus months, is a dashboard-style aggregator that allows advertisers big and small to see in near-real time the performance of their Postmedia ad buys across a variety of channels — including Facebook and Google. It shows metrics like audience reach, demographics and market penetration in a clean, simple format, giving advertisers added value for their buy, and guidance to help them get better bang for their buck.

A beta version of the product was pushed out Friday to 10 select advertisers, with more to be added in short order.

“As a media company, we’re trying to reinvent ourselves,” said Postmedia Executive Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer Andrew MacLeod, who was on hand for the launch.

“The language of media today is about technology. We need to get fluent in that language. And there’s no better place to get fluent in the language of technology than in an area like Kitchener-Waterloo. And to join an environment like Communitech, with the technology depth and entrepreneurialism, is an ideal marriage for Postmedia. That’s why we’re here.”

Lab Director Allen-Muncey said Postmedia’s development team in Toronto conducted an analysis of what their customers needed and set the team at the Tannery to the task of producing a solution.

“Postmedia is doing incredibly well on the digital side,” said Allen-Muncey, who had established  an extended track record within the Waterloo Region tech ecosystem prior to joining Postmedia five months ago.

“What we’re doing is we’re building a very powerful set of tools to add value and empower on-line marketers.

“I’ve got a very talented team and without them the product wouldn’t have been here in such a short period of time. It’s a reflection of the entire group”.

It’s hardly a secret that legacy media companies worldwide, Postmedia included, are struggling in the face of aggressive disruption from online behemoths. Advertising revenue from print products has fallen faster than can be offset by sales generated at digital divisions. The loss in revenue has stripped resources from journalism organizations precisely at a time when they have never been more necessary.

MacLeod said the ultimate aim of the products being developed at the Hub is to generate new revenue streams — resources that can then “reinvigorate our news media, editorial and journalistic divisions.

“The challenge facing legacy media corporations … is that there are better mousetraps out there for people to spend their advertising dollars on,” said MacLeod. “So the challenge of media companies is to find new revenue streams. They have to be scalable. They have to be large. The reality is, more and more of those dollars are flowing to two platforms: A search platform and a social platform.”

“Much of our future is predicated on our ability to work in concert with our new reality.

“It’s the core value proposition that we [aimed] to execute on when we built the product. The new media landscape is fragmented. While [it’s] effective, [it’s] also confusing. So we wanted to distil the complexity for [our] small, medium, and large [customers]. The product we’re beta-ing today will do just that.”

Allen-Muncey said his team will now take stock, enhance the beta version of the just-launched product, and then embark on their next phase.

“More platforms. A lot more integration. A lot more depth-of-result,” he said.

The team at Postmedia's Innovation Lab. (Communitech photo: Craig Daniels)

The team at Postmedia’s Innovation Lab. (Communitech photo: Craig Daniels)

About The Author

Craig Daniels
Senior Journalist

Craig Daniels is a veteran reporter, columnist and editor who has joined Communitech’s editorial team as senior journalist. He worked most recently at Postmedia in Hamilton, where he led the team that produced the National Post, and before that at the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Sun, Financial Post, the Montreal Daily News and the Telegraph-Journal in Saint John, N.B. He has an abiding interest in the transformational power and promise of tech and startup ecosystems, is a commercially licensed pilot, and has a debilitating wrist-watch fetish.