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Posted December 16 2011


What can traditional media companies learn from start-ups?

Startford - The print media industry is going through a huge transformation. Digital media technologies have enabled readers to access information instantaneously. And the growing popularity of social media is turning online users into news content contributors and curators.

Large Canadian media publishers, like Postmedia Network, have been looking for inspiration and ideas on how to reinvigorate their business from the ground up. Wayne Parrish is Chief Transformation Officer at Postmedia. He’s been put in charge of leading the media company into the next phase of the digital era.

“Our new focus is on innovation, transformation and collaboration,” says Parrish. “We know we need to reach out to youth, who live and breathe new technologies like social media, and the digital community to find experts with whom we can create a two-way exchange – sharing resources and best practices.”

PostMedia launched in July 2010, shortly after Canwest sold off a large number of their newspaper businesses. At the time, Sheldon Levy, President and Vice-Chancellor from Ryerson University reached out to Paul Godfrey, President and CEO at Postmedia to see how the Ryerson Digital Media Zone (DMZ) could collaborate with and help the large media company with their transformation into a digitally-forward thinking organization.

The opportunity to collaborate made a lot of sense. After all, who better to help traditional media companies to predict the future than digital media start-ups? They’re the true “digital natives” – experimenting with new ideas and technologies daily.

“When we first visited the DMZ, we could feel the electricity on the floor, and knew we just had to be a part of it,” says Parrish. “By partnering with the DMZ and MaRS in Toronto, we are exposed as often as we like to digital talent, new ways of thinking, and technology innovations. On the flip side, we’re able to help DMZ and MaRS start-ups and SMEs with our expertise in building and running a business.”

DMZ start-up Viafoura enables premium publishers like Postmedia to grow the depth and quality of their audience engagement. “Our platform facilitates conversation between users through a combination of text, audio and video, while our gaming engine rewards users for specific online behaviours. For clients like Postmedia, the net result is an engaged community,” says Jesse Moeinifar, founder and CEO at Viafoura. “We were pleasantly surprised that a large enterprise client like Postmedia really ‘gets it’ and is hungry for the next level of user engagement which our platform provides.”

But it’s not just the new ideas and collaboration aspect that Postmedia is looking for from this partnership. “If our company is to become a leader in digital media and user engagement, we really need to adopt a true entrepreneurial spirit. Change happens at the speed of light for start-ups, and we need to be moving at that speed in order to create effective transformations at Postmedia. That’s why we acquired Sprouter, a Q&A platform for entrepreneurs, earlier this year. We need more entrepreneurial minds working on our business,” says Parrish.

Val Fox, Director of the Ryerson DMZ says that many large businesses, not just media companies, could benefit from partnering with digital media start-ups. “Businesses need to learn that it’s important to keep trying, and not be afraid to fail. You don’t have to be perfect when you start,” says Fox. She believes that the business community can work with digital media start-ups to see the bigger picture and stretch the realm of their imagination.

“There are a lot of small digital businesses emerging in Canada who can help big businesses out. They (big businesses) just need to be open to seeing the value from trying new things. At the DMZ, we’re all learning from each others’ successes and failures and collaborating. This is how we should all be working in the future,” says Fox.

The onus is up to large businesses to learn how to live and breathe in this brave new digital world. The CDMN has a network of partners from across Canada who can help you access digital media start-ups and SMEs. The time to experiment and lead in the global digital economy is now.

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