Summary:

The Economist’s 10-month web R&D project may have ended without having brought any output to market, but the publisher is now sifting throug…

The Economist’s 10-month web R&D project may have ended without having brought any output to market, but the publisher is now sifting through the leftover scraps for what could be a new online-only publishing venture.

The publisher’s chief information officer Mike Seery last night published a 21-page post-mortem to Project Red Stripe, the in-house experiment formed in September 2006 in London to “create an innovative and web-based product, service or business model by July 2007″ which ended after several changes in name and direction without being realised.

Yet whilst Project Red Stripe never materialised: “We did get close with our idea to start a network that could build a purely online audience. And, as Thomas A Edison commanded when he said ‘There’s a way to do it better – find it’, we are working on ways to take this idea forward.” Seery said The Economist Group “has increased its innovative potential” and “several ideas could see the light of day some day soon”.

The story is of missed deadlines, “meaningless straplines” and “no business model”, concedes the document – written to share lessons learned to other editorial innovators. Amongst the failings: “Some members of the team found the process of taking a step back from reality really hard”; “with two months of the project gone and no consensus around a final idea in sight, we needed to go back to the drawing board“. On business models: “Some of us thought that monetising the service would be pretty straightforward and non-contentious – most of us, though, thought that it was more likely that it would be run as a not-for-profit or even a charity.”

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