Innovating to succeed, or how to revolutionize a century-old model

For plenty of companies, a major upheaval in their business environment is a risk that can create uncertainty when it comes time to invest. Just think of North American newspapers, which have seen their advertising revenue drop over 60% in the past ten years, and the clothing industry, which is dealing with the phenomenon of offshoring.

But what generally counts is not just the business’s environment, but also how its managers tackle that environment. In a changing market, it is possible to transform your company while preserving its DNA. The important thing is to know where you’re headed, understand the evolution of the market and not be afraid to take risks to adapt to it.

That is the message that emerged from the presentation by Guy Crevier, president and editor of La Presse+, at the Lunchtime Conference held by the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal on Wednesday.

Dare to make bold decisions

To get its new platform off the ground, La Presse overhauled over 20 media development systems. Even more significantly, the decision to offer La Presse+ for free was a risky one for a company with a business model that had been virtually unchanged in 130 years of existence.

But the example of La Presse shows that a considered risk can easily become an opportunity, without having to give up on the company’s original mission.

By being available for free, La Presse continues to be a mass media outlet, with the objective of providing the public quality information and an informed look at the issues facing our society. But this change also made it possible to attack the source of the problem: the consistent drop in readers of traditional media age 55 and younger. 

Results that speak for themselves

Did the risks pay off? Compared with 2003, La Presse managed to maintain 73% of its revenue, way above the industry average. Of this revenue, almost 88% now comes from digital content. As for younger people no longer reading newspapers? A look at the readership of La Presse+ shows that the proportion of readers age 18 to 54 is much higher than their demographic weight in Quebec’s general population. So essentially, mission accomplished.

The key here is that rather than resisting the shift to digital technology, La Presse guided its readers through it. It didn’t see the shift as an inevitable misfortune; it approached it as an opportunity to protect its market share and reach new readers. It just goes to show that the right approach in the face of a seemingly negative upheaval can ultimately lead to renewal.

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