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The Risk of Innovation

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I've been silent this past week due a company off-site innovation summit in Iola, Wisconsin (the headquarters of Krause Publications, a division of F+W Media).

As part of this off-site, I presented a success story from the Writer's Digest community related to our webinar series that launched in January 2009. (P.S. Next one happens tomorrow, covering online marketing and promotion.)

The funny part about innovation is that I'm not convinced it happens on a schedule, in a meeting room, though you certainly walk away from such meetings with more ideas about how to improve and grow than you can possibly execute.

Also, innovation carries risk, and not every innovation is destined to be successful. In the case of Writer's Digest, we tried launching a video model in 2008, WritersDigest.tv, but it did not work out as we'd hoped. (In comparison, if you look at the F+W art community, they've been quite successful with their TV model, ArtistsNetwork.tv.)

So when we decided to try out writing webinars in 2009, I was a little worried writers wouldn't take to the format. No writer has ever approached me and begged to take a webinar. Most don't even know what a webinar is. (It's a fancy name for a live, online event, and all it requires is an Internet browser and a good Internet connection.)

But we do know that writers want personalized and immediate instruction, with definite benefits and results, and lucky for us, the technology behind webinars allows us to accomplish this in a brand-new and effective way. There may not have been much hard evidence that a webinar program would be successful, but the innovation has worked (at least so far) because it provides information and benefits that writers need and want (and can justify spending money on).

Thus, one of the most stressed points at the innovation summit, as we evaluated our ideas, was: What consumer need are we meeting? Unfortunately, it's easy to trick yourself into thinking that you are fulfilling a need, especially if you are looking for new ways to make a buck.

Photo credit: Photo Mojo

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