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The local Media Association have wrapped up their ninth year of Innovation Mission, which is geared towards bringing to light the world’s most bright and innovative technology and media companies. The mission involves traveling and speaking with various media leaders at companies such as Amazon, Facebook, Mercer and more. This year, their journey began in New York City and took them ultimately to Seattle.

“An intense five-day study tour, it is designed for senior-level local media executives and R&D partners who want to be inspired by innovative cultures and cutting-edge practices being implemented by leading technology and media companies. This year, 27 executives participated on the trip (a sellout),” says a summary in a report on the mission.

According to Nancy Lane, LMA president and author of the report, the IM had four major takeaways.

•The Dirty Secret — Human Capital Problems Are Killing Us

• We Must Start Every Process with the Customer and Work Backward

• Failure Must Be Part of Our DNA and Culture

• Innovation Requires Structure

The tour spent 10 hours in Seattle visiting Amazon and learning everything from the company’s views on customer service to Amazon’s AI technology, Alexa. Visitors learned how the company operates and how they run their meetings.

“In the media industry, we focus on revenue, not customers, on margins, not experience,” said Shannon Kinney, founder of Dream Local Digital. “At Amazon, they focus on the customer first, and work backwards. This is more than just customer surveys and reading feedback, it’s an entire point of view that drives product development, how they measure success, and what they focus their resources on. Customer Obsession is their North Star metric and is the core of their culture and came out in every presentation we heard from the Amazonians,” she said.

Many testimonials from IM attendees hailed the “customer first” dynamic of Amazon. They were also recognized for uncommon practices and ways of thinking that allowed for more innovation in the workplace. These practices helped form some of the key takeaways of the report.

“At Amazon, meetings are for getting stuff done. In order to facilitate meetings where the focus is on in-depth discussion and collaboration, Amazon employees write six-page narratives, which meeting attendees spend the first 20 minutes of the meeting reading. After they’re all on the same page with the details, they can have a productive, thorough and focused meeting. While I don’t know that writing narratives is the right strategy for every company or every situation, I applaud the notion of productive meetings, with clear topics and focus,” says Toby Collodora, vice president of content strategy for Cordillera Digital.

As far as established names in media, Amazon is not the only big player LMA had the chance to speak with. According to Lane, the New York City meetings included a look with the Facebook news team and Instagram storytelling team.

One IM visitor, Erica Smith, online editor and director of digital strategy atTheVirginian Pilot, explained the relationship between LMA and Facebook as “frenemies” who have had several encounters before, most of which were off the record.

During the visit with the Local News Partnership team, “the two sides were still a bit leery, but there’s less skepticism and distrust over the other’s interests.”

During the stop, “Facebook leaders pointedly asked for and listened to feedback on several features. Facebook officials also openly discussed real-world problems facing publishers, and provided updates on Instant Articles and projects now in beta testing with select publishers, including the breaking news tag and Today In,” says Smith.

According to Smith, the day was wrapped up with an interactive tour of Instagram, where IM attendees learned how to use different features of the app. Smith described the interaction as “insightful.”

“At the end of the five days, the path to innovation became more clear. Real media transformation requires the right culture, the right leaders and an obsession with the customer,” said Lane.

The full report can be purchased at www.localmedia.org/product/2018-innovation-mission-report/.