Media Groep Limburg; a case in a turbulent media landscape
2017 – Media Groep Limburg (MGL) publishes a regional newspaper under two titles, runs a website for enterprises and a website for job vacancies in the region. It has 275 employees now. MGL is now own by Concentra partner in the Belgian Mediahuis.
The Media Groep Limburg (MGL) was formed in 2001 and employing 805 persons at that moment. MGL had four different owners since 2001. The first two followed a cost cutting strategy to cope with the turbulent developments in the media landscape, accompanied by the loss of subscribers and advertisers. They fired hundreds of employees. The Works Council and the local management opposed to that strategy and propagated a quality and innovation strategy that requires investments. At last in 2014 – with the support of local authorities – they enforced a takeover by Concentra, a publisher who was (and is) willing to invest in newspaper publishing.
In the period 2006 – 2014, the local management had already started a new internal policy, alarmed as they were by the continuing layoffs and declining revenues.
First, the jobs in Marketing and Sales were enlarged, enriched, empowered and upscaled. In short the jobs changed from selling subscriptions or advertisements to account management.
Second, the work of the journalists was changed as well. Now the journalists work in theme groups, where they formerly were organized in district groups. They no longer write short messages about local news items. After all, the market for short and quick messages (news items) has largely been taken over by social media. The journalists are now doing research, focussing on a theme that is of importance in the region and writing in-depth articles.
This internal strategy of the local management got support of a new CEO who took office in June 2013. This new CEO also stimulated the collecting and developing of ideas of the employees for new business. One can speak of: employee driven innovation, which was relatively successful.
The most important result is that there still exists a relatively successful, independent and high quality regional and daily newspaper in Limburg now, that is well performing and employing 275 people. The quality of work has improved very much compared to the first ten years of this age: the commercial as well as the editorial jobs have been enriched sustainably and there is much more engagement with the company.
The employee driven innovation has resulted in some good initiatives. Two good examples are:
1. An online news providing service (‘1Limburg’) together with the local broadcasting company as partner. 1Limburg is very successful in terms of people visiting this website and it plays a role in the regional communication networks. However even after a few years this initiative still demands financial support. Therefor MGL left this joint venture in the beginning of 2017.
2. The creating of a ‘Media Valley’, an ecosystem, where new media initiatives and startups can develop. The media valley as a field for experimentation is a success and can be continued thanks to the financial support of the University College, a city Council and MGL
Due to the recent reorganization of the media landscape in Western Europe, large scale acquisition strategies prevail in the last years. Mediahuis focuses at finding ways to use the possibilities of digitalization and publishing newspapers. The Works Council of MGL supports this strategy because at least Mediahuis is willing to invest in new opportunities for the newspaper and high quality journalism.
This case shows that a commercial organisation can profit of workplace innovation. At the same time, the case also shows that economic goals can win (temporarily) over social goals. The conclusion can be that social innovative ways to reorganize a business is brittle when a profit company feels the pressure of the market to focus on economic goals, not taking the time to search if and how workplace innovation might improve the chances to survive in that situation and in the long run.
MGL was described as a case in an Eurofound study as well as in SI-Drive. A copy of both the mini-case MGL in the Eurofound study and the case description for SI-Drive are attached.
Eurofound (2015) [Peter Oeij, Rita Å½iauberyte-Jakštiené, Steven Dhondt, Antonio Corral, Peter Totterdill, Paul Preenen], Workplace innovation in European companies, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg. The full report can be found elsewhere on this knowledge bank: https://www.kennisbanksocialeinnovatie.nl/nl/kennis/kennisbank/workplace-innovation-in-european-companies/1306?q=Eurofound . De mini cases can be found seperately in the EUWIN knowledge bank: https://portal.ukwon.eu/File%20Storage/5227567_7_37.%20NL-INFO-NEWS-L.pdf .
SI-Drive is an EU-project and network (also including non-EU members) on Social Innovation (see website: www.si-drive.eu. On this website you can find a short description of this case-study: https://www.si-drive.eu/?page_id=186#comment-120.