My questions for media intrapreneurs - CollabSpace NYC

Earlier this month, I had the privilege of participating in a PBS MediaShift organized Collab/Space event. The event, which was hosted at the Ford Foundation headquarters, offered nine “intrapreneurs” an opportunity to present their media-related startup-y projects and field questions from the audience. The afternoon was spent working with the "intrapreneurs” in groups to address various project-related challenges.

NOTE: There is a terrific post on the PBS Media Shift site that summarizes all the presentations and ideas that were shared throughout the day.  Here is an excerpt from that post that briefly highlights the different projects that were presented:

> We heard from NPR about its Analytics Dashboard, a new tool for the newsroom which the social news desk was trying to get adopted around the company.

> Joseph Agoada of Ashoka spoke on its Coursebuilder, a massively open online course for teachers to teach them how to educate their students to facilitate change.

> Mike Dewar from the New York Times spoke on Streamtools, a graphical toolkit for dealing with streams of data and the difficulty he had getting it adopted.

> David Yanofsky of Quartz spoke about Chartbuilder, an open source tool for anyone to make charts easily. One challenge was making charts mobile-ready.

> From the Wall Street Journal came a presentation by David Biderman on their new CMS (content management system) application and the difficulties the developers had in getting it adopted beyond for the World Cup coverage.

> NY Daily News‘ Cyna Alderman presented their Innnovation Lab — whose goal is to bring startups under its wing, facilitate them and use their innovations at the Daily News itself. People at the Daily News do work on the Lab as 20% of their work time, and thus don’t always prioritize it.

> Vox‘s Scott Kellum presented their cardstacks explainers, and the challenge that Vox had in getting more people to share and view them.

> Facebook’s Jason White described the social network’s FBNewswire project (in collaboration with Storyful) and was hoping to create a better version for news publisers.

> Community radio station WFMU‘s general manager Ken Freedman presented their Audience Engine commenting system and told the audience how good he was at talking down trolls (he called himself a “troll whisperer”).

You can read more about the presented projects here.

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

Even with only five minutes to present, and ten minutes of questions per project, there were too many issues/questions/ideas collected to be fully considered during the workshops in the afternoon.  Still, I think a lot of the issues/questions/ideas that were collected are 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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NPR’s analytics dashboard

Q: How do you pull multiple streams of data (make multiple calls) - from various sources - more effectively?  Do you build an internal data storage capacity? Is there benefit beyond NPR if you create a centralized data repository of some kind that many can easily access?

Q: Who else might NPR talk with (e.g. Mashable) about predictive analytics, or comparative data sources? How might you establish benchmarks to compare coverage of certain topics (NPR Politics vs someone else’s politics) to inform thinking?
Q: What outcomes would be a reflection of success (more adoption of data, deeper thinking, influence on coverage of certain issues)? What is the ‘theory of change’ for how this data improves news - beyond just making stories that will be consumed/shared by more people?
Q: Culture vs. Tools - how does one influence the other (or how can it)? Should the NPR/newsroom approach shape the technology, or should the technology help to re-organize the way the newsroom makes decisions?

Q: Audio metrics - how do you integrate them into the dashboard? How do you increase the sophistication/availability of tracking of audio to create equivalent of data available for digital?

Ashoka & Google’s Course Builder: Empathy for Educators

Q: Does Ashoka need to change/imrpve more than just the course offering (e.g. the entire online learning world) to realize success? Does the entier approach/culture of learning need to change?  What is their theory of change?
Q: How much is road map from minimum viable product to full course experience shaped by feedback, and how much is part of the original plan that is being validated? What is the focus of the testing?
Q: What other recruiting/teaching sources could be looked at for guidance (e.g. Boy Scouts)? Who else has accomplished what Ashoka is trying to accomplish in a different field?

Q: How do you turn non-changemakers into changemakers (teachers)? Can you teach someone a new approach, or do you have to build your teachers from the beginning?

Q: Are there other partners (beyond Google) to compare with, or get input from? Should Ashoka build build their own platform, or just develop the curriculum - and syndicate it?  What is the best way to teach (based on Ashoka’s expertise, their organizational ego, the cost/business model options)?
Q: Outcomes vs. metrics… how do you know that completion of the course = desired behaviors? Is there a plan to study, a set of data/benchmarks to use to show the desired outcomes?

Q: How do you recruit more teachers? Who influences their decision - parents? colleagues? (Marketing)

Q: Does the vision scale? Are there 6,000 schools that care as much as the original 60 schools that have participated?  Public schools vs. private schools? How does the target universe of schools compare to the profile of existing changemakers (or the desire to ensure that a diverse audience of kids is engaged)?

NY Times’ Streamtools

Q: What helps people overcome the barrier to entry/starting? Framing? Education? What do they need to think about to get people to embrace this data stream?

Q: Why would anyone outside the NYTimes want to help make this better? Is this a public good vs. a business benefit, and what could the NyTimes spin off/incubate to help others with around the streams?

Q: Is there an internal mechanism for gaining adoption (emerging from the R&D lab vs. the entire company)? How do you get 'normal people’ to provide insights that could help to craft the tool and position it for success?

Q: Are there products that the data can feed? Are there things to test or just ideas, requests that people have) - some way to make it real, understandable in context?  Does this connect to the original problem you were trying to solve? Is the vision being sold (and the 'imagination gap’ being closed)?
Q: Is there a need to force some urgency to create some prioritization/attention? Is this definition of 'done’ not correct?

Q: Does a culture of 'streaming’ exist? Does one need to be developed/explained/cultivated - in order for adoption to follow?

Q: Are there specific people/groups that could be approached to get help (Aaron P, others)? What patterns/insights/models would be useful to learn from?
Q: What interface considerations reflect different phases of use - internal vs. small. vs mainstream? Do you need multiple variations of the UI/IX to support different users and their experiences?

Quartz’s Chartbuilder

Q: Is 'making a tool’ the way to solve this problem (vs. teaching people better ways to think about data AND giving them a tool to make that work easier)?

Q: Are there standards/protocols in place for good vs. bad charts? How to scale those standards - especially to places that might use the tool, but don’t have the same appreciation for, or internal capabilities of the team at Quartz?

Q: What usage prioritizes, presentation formats matter - how do you decide which audiences to serve, which devices to focus on, formats to create so that you don’t end up trying to create a customized toolset?
Q: Should this kind of tool live inside, or be open source? Is there an argument to be made for going with a different model to optimize innovation (e.g. Open Source is too reliant on a potentially engaged community)? How does being independent, or funded change things? What would making this a full-time focus (even internally) change in terms of accelerating the path towards good charting (and how much would divorcing it from the connection to the newsroom at present hurt the effort)?

Q: How to make this a journalism intrapreneur project to benefit the entire industry vs. just Quartz? Is this a foundation for more/better charting across journalism (and is that something Vox is interested in cultivating beyond their own current advantage)?

WSJ’s modern CMS

Q: How do you build something new so that you don’t end up waiting ten years to update it again (speed, culture process)?  How do you break through the bureaucracy? How do you use to the bureaucracy to your benefit?
Q: Why build things for different platforms (iOS, Android)? What can you learn by keeping them separate?

Q: Are there other highly bureaucratic organizations (e.g. federal government, IBM, etc) that have innovated successfully - and could be looked to as a model, or partner.

Q: How many other excuses (like the World Cup) could you identify as a way to experiment with, learn from, etc. - before you proceed with getting a project approved internally?


Q: Does the WSJ want to be like other news organizations, or does it want to focus on improving its current approach? Instead of looking at newer, digital-first journalism organizations, can embracing/defining/codifying your vision provide you with the focus to make a real difference?

NY Daily News’ Innovation Lab

Q: What about the model of successful incubators - outside of the media space - helps/doesn’t help here, and how do you maximize those elements?  What models are best… techstars, Y Combinator, etc?

Q: Can you scale the lab (or the startups) with only the “20%” allocation of time?  How might more outside contributors be included in the process - and what that access to being part of the lab be worth?
Q: How do you maximize failures along with successes?

Q: How do you sustain the interest over time - beyond offering financial incentives (company stake for example), what benefits could be offered to get people excited to contribute?
Q: Internal (news room) vs. external… can you manage multiple tracks of innovation for the lab? Can you use the lab to build better technology, but also to help shape the larger journalism conversation?
Q: Getting word out… how to d you frame the opportunity/benefit of the lab (for startups, but also for other media organizations as potential partners)? Who should you target? What stage of a company’s work (e.g. just ideas, pre-business plan) do you want to tap?

Vox Media’s Cardstacks

Q: Are card stacks a product, a format, a type of content (all three, something else)? Does that matter in terms of helping people to understand their value? Do you need instructions to explain how card stacks are to be utilized by readers in order to shape the behavior that you want from the user?

Q: How else might people access car stacks? Email newsletter? What push opportunities exist - generally (to build knowledge over time) or time/context specific (when the opportunity arises)?

Q: What do the user habits of older users (the primary Vox audience) potentially do as to inform the future of card stacks? Are they designed for the audience Vox has, or for the audience Vox wants? Can the same approach to card stacks serve both?
Q: Editorial vs. “knowledge” - does the classification/framing of card stacks matter in terms of user adoption or expectation? Does Wikipedia compete - or provide learning/guidance?  Does the credibility of card stacks depend on the credibility of Vox (editorially, etc) or can it be considered separately?
Q: How do you distinguish cards from other stories? What might you try (color, placement, etc)? How will you know if card stacks are working - what measures exist to determine their effectiveness at informing audiences (e.g. audiences who read card stacks read more other content?)? 
Q: Do card stacks serve all audiences (and have you tested that) - in terms of perspectives/views on issues, or levels of interest/engagement in an issue (e.g. are card stacks for newbies, but not useful for people already more knowledgeable)?
Q: What is the timeline for producing card stacks - and how does planning allow for you to experiment with different approaches (e.g. obituaries can be more/less interactive depending on the amount of time that goes in to preparing for someone’s death)?
Q: Where do cards fit in the Vox brand? Is knowledge one of the outcomes that Vox is trying to achieve? How does knowledge drive value for Vox - potentially open up audience opportunities, or generate revenue? Why do card stacks exist?

Facebook’s Newswire

Q: Are there models for collaborative news gathering/production (e.g. how we used to do election exit polling, results) that Facebook 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 Facebook be involved in the shaping of these systems/processes - vs. expecting an outside group to establish them?

Q: Can you make something like Facebook newswire bespoke/tailored/customized for the needs and interests of individual news organizations/users and still have it scale?

Q: How do you mix/integrate with trends and other data that is available with limited (human) resources?  What would be game-changing priorities? How about Facebook as a Service (FAAS)?
Q: 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 Facebook, so there is more than just one perspective/approach (Storyful) involved?
Q: Are there plan to create rules for copyright, stock image use? Does it need to be part of Facebook’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 Facebook’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 Facebook study that would create intelligence that would help news organizations (and in doing so, increase their likelihood of wanting to use Facebook news content in their work)?  Example: Participant Productions study on viral social change films.
Q: Do you need an editorial team? What are the limits of the algorithm that Facebook might build in terms of creating news? How might the Public Insight Network, Public media community, etc help (creation, distribution, curation, etc)?

WFMU’s Audience Engine
Q: Do you study patterns in discussion to understand more about audiences, help others understand the culture that you have created?  Is there research/data into what makes your community so committed (that others could learn from?)
Q: How can public benefit startups thrive in the same ways that “traditional” ones - and what input would be helpful?

Q: What side revenue might be possible by making expertise, or data, about audience and community engagement available?
Q: Is there a benefit to creating a community around On Demand programming (e.g. a different time window) - that would help in other areas as well?
Q: What else are you doing with the community to test engagement options? What is worth considering/exploring (gaining listeners for example)?

Q: What startup incubation is worth organizing (e.g. a lab approach), or supporting/forcing to solve your issues more proactively? How might you get people from different areas of expertise, or those with shared interest in figuring these out, together.