Once derided as Johnny-come-latelys to the digital media game, traditional publishers are now becoming enthusiastic start-up accelerators, buying or incubating early-stage companies that aim to disrupt the media market. Bonnier has just joined the club with its own Innovation Lab, a 14-week program seeking applicants who are interested in "developing revolutionary products and services that will change the way major media companies engage with their audiences." The idea being that Bonnier, like other publishers, has already waded its way into the modern media world and knows a thing or two about digital business and audience development, marketing and content strategy.

Not quite an ownership-based incubator, such as Hearst’s Interactive Media unit, the Innovation Lab is more like an educational program that helps entrepreneurs get their ideas off the ground and into the market.

The brainchild of David Rich, Bonnier Corp.’s director of digital innovation, the program features a dozen mentors. Some are from Bonnier’s ranks, including CEO Terry Snow, digital audience and analytics director Jennifer Anderson and VP of corporate communications Dean Turcol. And some are from VC firms and other start-ups.

Four start-ups will be selected for the first program and each receives a pretty generous set of perks, including a minimum of $25,000 in seed capital, $5,000 in PR support, $10,000 in PayPal transaction fees and about $79,000 in hosting credits from a variety of services including Amazon, Rackspace and Microsoft Azure.

For its part, Bonnier will get an equity stake in the startups if they make it from drawing board to real company—and presumably first dibs if it’s a concept uniquely appealing to Bonnier. But how much that ends up being depends on the progress of each start-up and what is ultimately negotiated as they progress through the Lab.