A 10-month project web innovation project run by The Economist has ended with no site having come out of the exercise. Based in London and started in September 2006, Project Red Stripe, a digital incubation driver, used a six-member team of Economist Group members and a GBP 100,000 budget, tasked with “creating an innovative and web-based product, service or business model by July 2007”. Although the exercise was to be conducted in public with many ideas coming from readers, during the course of the project, the blog fell silent because staff thought “under cover” operation would work best, and the direction of the experiment changed several times. The latest incarnation was to be “Lughenjo”, a community connecting Economist with non-governmental organizations needing help – “a Facebook for the Economist Group’s audience”.
But Project Red Stripe ended over the weekend with no concrete outcome – “it was not obviously something that The Economist Group should do” … “there was not an immediate demand for a knowledge network from NGOs and social entrepreneurs.” Economist CIO Mike Seery told : “I guess that what our market told us was that it would have been difficult to create it and effectively monetize it. If we’d have taken the not-for-profit route … we were pretty sure that we could have gotten foundation funding, but that’s not really what the Economist Group’s about.” Adding the project was in “cold storage”, Seery said he would instead investigate how the Economist could build a different online “knowledge network” for readers. An interesting insight into editorial R&D, Project Red Stripe may ultimately have been undone by its very independence from Economist bosses.