Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Part Two of the exclusive Interview with David Cook is Chief Digital Officer at Time Out.

Mark Baker: So as a Chief Digital Officer, what barriers have you had to overcome in creating this digital transformation?

David Cook: I think everybody has had to adjust to the changes in consumer behaviour; that’s a big shift for any organization. You have to assume that everything we produce is now read on mobile first; that’s very different to a traditional print mindset.
It’s important to challenge the status quo; you have to devise new ways to expand and new ways to make money if you’re going to remain a leader in the digital age.

Mark Baker: Did you find that the goals of the key stakeholders were aligned? Have they had the same vision or have the key stakeholders have different perceptions about what should and shouldn't be done, and about who should be making the decisions as well?

David Cook: Yeah, that's a good question. Once the new CEO started, it probably took us a few months to agree what the grand vision was. We wanted to challenge every preconception about the sort of growth that was achievable and set ourselves some big, hairy audacious goals. Rather than talking about expanding into 80 cities, we started talking about 800.

Mark Baker: How did you sell that idea internally?

David Cook: We devised a new operating model, something we call ‘Time Out in a Box’, which described in practical terms how we could expand efficiently and keep costs low; the good news is that we’re already seeing it come to fruition. Having a plan is one thing, but seeing it work really gets everybody aligned and behind the vision.

Mark Baker: Can  you give us any actual case studies of the transformations? Maybe roll-outs of ‘Time Out in a Box’?

David Cook: One example that comes to mind, is our franchise partner in Spain. In January 2014, they came to the UK to discuss expansion and were assuming it was an 18 month project requiring significant investment. We walked them through the new operating model and, to their delight, Madrid was live within 4 months at a relatively small cost. It was a major achievement and it gives everybody confidence.

Mark Baker: And are there different boxes lined up for other Spanish cities?

David Cook: Yes, it wouldn't surprise me that next year we add three more cities in Spain; there are plenty of great cities to choose from. We've also been using the model internally across the UK and US. We’re big in London, New York, Chicago, and LA, but that was really the extent of our footprint in those markets. This year alone, we've added Manchester, Edinburgh, Leeds, Glasgow, Washington DC, Miami, Las Vegas, Boston, San Francisco, Atlanta, Austin, Dallas, Seattle and Philadelphia. That represents a massive change in our time to market for new cities when compared to the past.

Mark Baker: And in each case you just have one or two people on the ground?

David Cook: Initially it’s a small local team supported by freelance journalists. They’re then supported by centralized national and global teams. As the audience in each city grows, so we increase the size of the local team. Some content, such as film reviews or interviews, can be produced centrally and distributed locally; that benefits everybody.

Mark Baker: And how do the local teams interact with the national center or even with main headquarters, if they are in for example LA or San Francisco? What’s life like for them?

David Cook: Typically the local teams comprise Editorial and Sales staff. They have a direct link with the national team and there are regular meetings that keep everybody on the same page. Ideas flow in both directions and we frequently see local initiatives being picked up and rolled out globally.
It’s tough for any remote team, but we do our best to keep everybody engaged.

more tomorrow

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