From The Sun to The Sunday Times, the publisher of some of the UK's biggest newspapers, News UK, could soon be recognised for more than just mass media.

News UK has taken an even broader interest and ventured into the world of startups since the launch of its startup lab initiative in August 2017.

Image: Christina Scott, CTO, News UK
Image: Christina Scott, CTO, News UK

Speaking on stage at the 2018 CIO Summit held at the Shangri-La Hotel London's the Shard, News UK CTO Christina Scott explained the company's four-week incubator programme, which was hosted at News UK-owned Unruly's headquarters in partnership with production innovation company, Fluxx.

"I set up with our CFO, the News UK Startup Lab, and we've never done this before," she said. "We spoke to lots of different companies who have and we spoke to companies who set up incubators and accelerators."

The programme included six startups and the mission was to prioritise early-stage startups in order to have a wider talent pool to choose from.

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Understandably, as a major content provider, News UK was not too familiar with working with startups so it was a learning curve which came with a new set of hurdles and questions to answer.

"We have amazing content and we were saying to the startups we've got all this archive data, it's brilliant but actually, none of them were interested in the content which is slightly disappointing to the journalists," said Scott.

"The things that we thought really hard about were, we have a fantastic connection to an audience. We have different titles so we reach a really broad audience in the UK. So we set off and we did a sort of Dragon's Den-style pitch, so we got all the startups and narrowed them down through criteria."

The initial process saw six startups chosen from 12 who pitched in front of the whole company. A decision was then made, followed with a phase-two initiative that focused on Series A startups.

"We found that actually working with early-stage startups is really tough, the overhead's big," Scott added. "We spent a lot of time doing various bits of training, and there are a lot of incubators and there are lots of people who do that really well, I just don't think for us we felt that the amount of overhead was really worth it for the company."

Scott explained that the News UK team made a choice to shift from having the incubator centered to a residential-focus, to an open-for-all opportunity to give startups more flexibility.

"We were bringing it closer to the core, and we themed it which made a big difference," Scott said. "So actually, now what we're doing is an always-on capability making sure that we bring the talent into themes that we're thinking of."