CollabSpace NY 2015 Notes

I had the privilege - once again - of being part CollabSpace (organized by Mark Glaser - @mediatwit), a hands-on workshop focused on “intrapreneurial” innovation.  Eight cutting-edge media projects were given an opportunity to present, field questions from a room full of really smart and creative entrepreneurs, journalists, publishers, technologists, designers, marketers, investors and major players in the tech and media scene in New York. Then, in the afternoon the crowd broke out into groups to help the media projects get past their challenges.

Links to more information about the projects is available here:

The big question today: How can established media and tech companies foster innovation from within large organizations?

My role was to help frame the most interesting issues and challenges facing the “intrapreneurs” and identify potential questions and opportunities that the working groups should prioritize during the afternoon session.

There were too many issues/questions/ideas collected to be fully considered during the workshops in the afternoon.  And as I read through everything, I started to think a lot of the issues/questions/ideas that were collected would be interesting, and potentially useful - to the "intrapreneurs” who presented, to others working on driving change inside a media company, and potentially others.

So, I pulled together my notes/questions for each group and have pasted them below. Let me know what you think.

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The Atlantic’s Story Modules

Q: Should we be talking about ‘home pages’ as something else (because of how they have changed)?

Q: If flexibility is optimal/desirable, is there really a baseline to test against? Why not think about each iteration of the home page as unique, evolutionary based on things you have learned?

Q: What else could you test (besides density and depth)?  What outcomes are you trying to drive - beyond time spent or number of articles read (circulation around the site, consumption of more stories, back and forth, etc)? What is the larger behavior you are trying to shape or change among your readers?

Q: Beyond placement, beyond viewability standards of ads, what could you be learning/testing - and how might it relate to the overall challenge of engaging your audience?  Are you testing things about the story consumption experience (and reflecting that in the guidance towards ad creation)?  

Q: Is there a way to look into the reading experience (across devices) and use that intelligence to reverse engineer the design of the home page experience? Beyond just A/B testing all the different elements – what would the C tests be?

Q: Besides the ‘most popular stories’ module, which influences a lot of user behavior – what else influences how people spend time on stories?

Q: How is A/B testing done in other sectors (retail, politics, etc) and how might that influence your thinking about what to test, what is possible?

BBC.com’s Home Page

Q: How could you organize home pages around the world differently - instead of by geography, could you have home pages for audience types, story types?  

Q: How could you switch the focus from being about BBC or the home page to being more tailored/customized to the user experience?

Q: Is it reasonable to assume the audience knows what its looking for?  How can you test not just response to what you present, but what triggers people to take certain actions?

Q: Could you test how the home page evolves throughout the day (or related to a story)?  If editors have the ability to curate the different sections throughout the day, can you test different approaches within each section so they can be compared?

Q: Could you test how the user’s life experience changes - and how that impacts the home page (e.g. instead of responsive design, responsive content/experience)?  How could the home page experience adapt not just to the platform, but to the context?

Q: Can you test based on your ‘imagination’ — crazy options, big ideas, new approaches that haven’t been proven yet to push the boundaries of what might be possible (then build in what is possible now)?

Q: Could you build a number of different home page formats/templates/structures that auto-populate with stories and constantly experiment with different approaches as the news cycle presents the opportunity (sort us like you would when you consider a full re-design initially)?

Q: What other consumer experiences could you explore/test and compare against - to see how you are comparing to existing consumer experiences?  If you want BBC to be someone’s table of contents, could you test how people consume books digitally? If you want BBC to be a storefront for certain media products, could you test and compare to Amazon/Seamless/StubHub, etc?

Q: Do you have a crazy idea list (vs. a what worked list)?  How can you keep the big questions that you can’t A/B test as part of your consideration in an ongoing way?

Thomson Reuters’ Convene app

Q: How do you learn from each event - and recognize the users who attend multiple events, the patterns that emerge from those repeat behaviors?

Q: Is there a way to commercialize the product WITHOUT selling it (and instead get the value of the data that is collected)?

Q: What other ‘platform’ models could you explore (other than subscription based, etc)?  What about something like Survey Monkey, how it became a data company?

Q: How might the app become a swiss-army knife for different types of events, instead of trying to create a single experience and have the events adapt to best utilize the app?

Q: How can you redefine the idea of events (instead of just having a tool that makes existing events better)?  How do you convince people to use the app in different events - when different industries don’t entirely understand how to use it? How can you teach people to use the app differently/better?  

Q: How can you integrate what Thompson/Reuters is known for (editorial) into the app/event experience… to help customers using the app integrate content to produce a better event?

Climate Desk

Q: What are the new, most interesting ways that different brands/organizations are getting people to spend time, and how can those be adapted to support a discussion about climate change?

Q: What are the connections between climate change and other aspects of life that can be used to provide context, access to new/different audiences?

Q: Is it time that the coverage of climate change needs to change (example: deep.ly) - not just presented differently, but approached totally differently?  

Q: In addition to syndicating the coverage, could you collaborate on ideas for how to cover/produce stories differently?  Could you collaborate not only on stories but on planning and problem solving (so you take full advantage of

Q: Who else should you bring on as partners - who are not just media sources (e.g. Purpose)? What others areas of expertise could you bring in through partnership (event organizing, audience expertise, etc)?

Q: What is the next big thing… beyond charts, interactive, graphs, video production?  What are the different partners doing uniquely well that you could help to scale for others across the network (so instead of doing the things that everyone wants, take the things that only one person can do and making it possible for everyone to do them)?

Q: Can you dedicate resources just to cross-partner communications (knowledge sharing) - not leave it too much to chance?  

Q: Can you take the idea of ‘partnership’ or ‘collaboration’ to the next level?  Is there an opportunity (or benefit) to creating a truly shared brand - a ‘super friends’ for this topic, not just a back-end efficiency?  Could you create a data consortium - a shared resources that tracks all the data, the audience, etc. and get an even deeper sense of what is working/not working.

AP’s Deaf Access News

Q: Do you need to redefine the standards for access to news (so people understand what is appropriate and not appropriate)?  Do you need to think beyond adapting news to serve the deaf audience - make the conversation bigger?

Q: Is there research available - mainstream understanding - about how the deaf audience accesses news, and its issues? Is there research into deaf audiences use of social platforms (twitter, Facebook, etc) and how they connect to news?

Q: How do you make this the next big challenge in news - not just adapting the existing platforms to deaf audiences, but truly building the new framework?

Q: Who are the news innovation partners that you could tap - schools, technology companies, etc?  Who are the other partners (IDEO, etc) to help solve these challenges?

Q: Could the focus of the project be on identifying the solutions, in ways that can be integrated by news organizations - making the cultural, business, and other case for embracing this (and then also conceivably create the syndication model for supporting it across all platforms)?

Q: Who else could you tap to funding (beyond nonprofit, beyond CSR, etc)?  How do you make this into a full business (or an initiative of a fully functioning media business - e.g. NYTimes, CNN, etc)?  Who would fund news innovation ideas (e.g. Case Foundation)?

Google News Lab

Q: What is the BIG, FUTURE of news - the things that nobody is thinking about, the solutions that only Google could try to address?  How can Google dramatically change the news business (not just help journalists do things, because they don’t know what to ask for necessarily)?

Q: How can Google help tell us what people will be curious about next — instead of just making responsive journalism more efficient, how can we predict trends?

Q: Are there models for collaborative news gathering/production (e.g. how we used to do election exit polling, results) that Google can learn from?  Beyond discover-ability of news, what needs to be organized/codified (e.g. legal rules for use of images, sharing protocols)?  How should Google be involved in the shaping of these systems/processes - vs. expecting an outside group to establish them?

Q: How do you move beyond trailing indicators (e.g. Google Trends)?  How do you predict (or shape) editorial priorities?  What data could be utilized? What ownership of the editorial efforts could be shared by news organizations, along with Google, so there is more than just one perspective/approach (Storyful) involved?

Q: Are there plans to create rules for copyright, stock image, data use? Does it need to be part of Google’s work to ensure it happens? Is it necessary to have in place for news organizations to want to participate (or are they ok with third party managing that)?  Is it in Google’s best interest business-wise to take responsibility for that work?

Q: How do you improve 360-degree tracking to determine/learn more about how news is consumed/shared? What can Google study that would create intelligence that would help news organizations (and in doing so, increase their likelihood of wanting to use Google news content in their work)?  Example: Participant Productions study on viral social change films.

Q: Do you need an editorial team, a curation effort? What are the limits of the algorithms that Google might build in terms of creating news, or the tools you might make available?

UNHCR’s The Hive

NOTE: I work on this project so I did not summarize/challenge the presenter in the same ways as with the other projects.

POV’s Web VR Starter Kit

Q: How do you get people who don’t understand VR to embrace it (and make the whole conversation a bit more mainstream to reach more people)?  How do you create more ‘consumer’ demand (which will then drive media adoption, etc)?

Q: What don’t people understand yet about VR, or are wrong about (afraid of) that POV could help to address?

Q: Could POV help to inspire/encourage people to use this in certain ways — issue the challenges for others to pick up, start to expand the audience for who is participating?  

Q: What are the pilot projects/examples that you could create - across different sectors - that would help people to understand and contextualize this?

Q: Should POV take a broader role in positioning VR - outside of the deeply knowledgeable crowd, to help build/create some consumer demand?

Q: What would a BtoB strategy for this look like - actively seeking out a few specific partners, organizations that could run with this, and building those strong relationships to drive the interest and adoption?