2016 will be the year that media companies take bigger, bolder risks with innovation to keep up with startups and Silicon Valley behemoths.
Apple (Apple News), Facebook (Instant Articles and Notify), Google (AMP), and Snapchat (Discover) all made major incursions into media in 2015, creating powerful distribution channels but also introducing new risks. The new news platforms risk disintermediation of content creators from their audiences and homogenization of news brands, which tend to all look the same on some platforms.
Traditional media companies, at the same time, face intensifying competition from well funded new media companies, such as Vox, Quartz, Vice, and Business Insider — all of which secured major funding in 2015.
The bigger a company becomes, the more its culture becomes risk averse. There is often a heavy price to pay in terms of creativity and experimentation. But caution is also a risk: Some old media brands are atrophying, locked into a downward spiral of falling revenue and annual culling. But the more dynamic media brands — News Corp and Dow Jones included — will be fighting back hard in 2016: looking at acquisitions, their own startups, and investments in areas such as mobile, VR, and video.
This evolution will also see a change in the relationship between companies and employees. Companies will be on the lookout for entrepreneurial staff: people not just with great ideas, but the drive needed to get them off the ground. Expect to see far more career mobility, rewarding those who combine great ideas with the raw determination to see their projects succeed.
Edward Roussel is chief innovation officer at Dow Jones and The Wall Street Journal.