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April 20 2012

15:49

Global insights into the mobile media revolution at ISOJ

The second session at International Symposium on Online Journalism focused on the impact of mobile and tablet.

A common theme was the need to tailor content for different mobile platforms to account for different audience needs and behaviours.

Pedro Doria, digital platforms editor, O Globo newspaper, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, started off by explaining how the company developed the iPad edition of the newspaper.

The iPad edition was based on understanding that readership on a tablet works differently from a news website, with reading mostly in the evening.

The iPad edition bundles news in brief, strong image, three or four long-form stories, some shorter articles and then cultural tidbits, and goes live at 6 p.m.

Before the iPad edition was launched in February, people would spend on average 26 minutes on the app.  After the revised evening edition was released, the average time went up to a hour and 17 minutes.

Impact of mobiles in Africa

Next up was Harry Dugmore, professor at Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa. He spoke about how the massive uptake of mobiles Africa had led some to hope the technology would help democracy flourish.

But, said Dugmore, we were wrong.

The technological environment in Africa has evolved, starting off with mobiles with small screens, slow speeds and sky-high subscriptions. This was still the situation in many places, with only one of every 100 phones in Africa being an iPhone.

The result was a focus on SMS services to keep people inform and in touch.

Mobile technology is moving towards better speeds, more competition and more powerful phones, said Dugmore. But costs are still high and net access can be intermittent.

Now, tablets and smartphones are starting to appear but are in a minority.

Some of the biggest changes, said Dugmore, have been the provision of free access to Facebook and Wikipedia on mobiles.  Facebook zero means anyone can access Facebook on a mobile, even if they don’t have any credit.

Twitter, too, Dugmore added, was emerging as a source for news, with two-thirds of Kenyans saying they get international news from Twitter.

CNN’s approach

Next up Louis Gump, vice president of CNN Mobile talked about the the mobile web as the hub of his unit’s business, with a portfolio of apps for iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows and more.

CNN Mobile reached 19.5 million users in the US in February, with over 17 million apps downloaded across platforms worldwide. This compares to around 100 million people that CNN reaches overall on digital.

Gump said CNN made a decision to take some time to think about its iPad app and see what resonates with consumers.

He concluded by highlighting imperatives for success: having a first-rate mobile website, a range of core apps, employing mobile professionals and understanding that mobile is different.

Mobile in the Philippines

A different perspective came from JV Rufino, head of Inquirer Mobile and Books, Inquirer Group, Manila, Philippines.

He comes from one of the largest media groups in the Philippines.

Rufino explained that the Philippines was largely a TV market, but that most people have several mobiles.

One of the ways The Inquirer uses mobile is by sending ad-supported news headlines by SMS, but it also has a premium news alert SMS service.

Its mobile apps are also sponsored but have to work on older Nokia smartphones too, Rufino explained.

As with other media organisations, The Inquirer has developed a range of tablet apps as premium products.

Rufino explained how the company has collated its news articles as ebooks, including aggregating romance columns and producing court transcripts.

 

April 16 2012

22:14

Vodafone Americas Foundation Announces 2012 Wireless Innovation Project Winners

Three Groundbreaking Mobile Innovations Target Critical Issues in Agriculture, Healthcare and Developing Economies

The Vodafone Americas Foundation and mHealth Alliance are pleased to announce the 2012 winners of the Vodafone Americas Foundation Wireless Innovation Project™ and the mHealth Alliance Award, a competition designed to spark innovation and help solve pressing global issues. The winning projects include Wireless Bug Sensor, a wireless sensor that helps farmers “spy” on insects; OScan, an inexpensive and easy-to-use tool for screening oral cancer; and InSight, a simple credit building tool for entrepreneurs in developing countries. Each of these projects leverage the ever-increasing accessibility to wireless technology to solve prevalent social problems. Collectively, the projects will be awarded $650,000 in cash and prizes to further develop their projects for implementation and adoption. The winners will accept their awards at the Global Philanthropy Forum in Washington D.C. on April 17, 2012.

"It’s incredibly energizing to be able recognize these innovative solutions for social good," said June Sugiyama, Director of Vodafone Americas Foundation™. "This is our fourth year of this competition and we continue to identify unique and impactful solutions.”

Introducing the 2012 Wireless Innovation Project Winners:

1st Place, winner of $300,000 – Wireless Bug Sensor, University of California, Riverside
A largely unrecognized barrier that farmers face to crop production is insect infestation, which is particularly difficult for farmers in developing countries due to high costs and limited access to pesticides. The Wireless Bug-Sensor team at UC Riverside in collaboration with ISCA Technologies has created a technology that senses the location, type, and number of harmful insects in the field, alerting the farmer about the type of intervention needed with a once-a-day text message. Inspired by the lasers used in spy movies to listen in on conversations, this wireless technology drastically reduces the costs typically spent by farmers on untargeted, blanket pesticide spraying. Ultimately, this will increase profits for farmers as well as alleviate hunger worldwide. www.cs.ucr.edu/~eamonn/CE/
www.iscatech.com/exec/wire...sensor.htm

2nd Place, winner of $200,000, and mHealth Alliance winner of $50,000 in strategic and networking support – OScan, Stanford University
70% of the world's tobacco consumption comes from developing countries and is sharply rising, leading to a large number of deadly diseases, including oral cancer. Early detection and treatment of these diseases can dramatically improve survival rates. The OScan team at Stanford University has developed an affordable screening tool that brings standardized, multi-modal imaging of the oral cavity into the hands of rural health workers around the world, allowing individuals to easily and effectively screen for oral cancer. This inexpensive device mounts on a conventional camera phone and allows for data to be instantly transmitted to dentists and oral surgeons. OScan aims to provide a means to empower health workers to connect early stage patients to health care providers and teach communities about the importance of oral hygiene. stanford.edu/~manup/Oscan

3rd Place, winner of $100,000 – InSight, InVenture
In many developing countries small business entrepreneurs are unable to grow their businesses and take advantage of financial services simply due to the fact that they are perceived to be risky. With InSight, an SMS-based money management tool, these entrepreneurs can track their finances in their native language, increasing their financial literacy and more efficiently running their businesses. More importantly, InSight serves as a global credit rating platform for small business owners. By creating access to credit reporting opportunities for these individuals, InSight will help to lower interest rates, mitigate risk, and increase profits. This is a vital tool that will lift entrepreneurs and other individuals in developing countries out of poverty. www.inventure.org/using/lea...ut-insight

“The Vodafone Americas Foundation partnership with the mHealth Alliance is exceptionally powerful in that it allows us to propel ideas for wireless technology into action,” said Patty Mechael, Executive Director of the mHealth Alliance. “The field of mHealth is constantly growing, and now more than ever it is essential for us to support innovations that will enable us to overcome development challenges and have a meaningful impact on people’s lives. This kind of competition inspires entrepreneurs and innovators to explore unchartered territory, enabling the realization of visionary ideas that improve communities throughout the world.”

Open to nonprofit organizations, universities, and NGOs (Non-governmental Organizations) each year, the Wireless Innovation Project selects three winners and helps stimulate the projects through the next stages of development, such as prototyping and scaling. Since the Vodafone Americas Foundation Wireless Innovation Project was launched in 2009, nine winners have been awarded more than $1.8 million in cash and additional benefits. Vodafone provides invaluable support for the winning projects by integrating the teams with the foundation’s vast network of social entrepreneurs, NGO’s and international agencies.

ABOUT the Vodafone Americas Foundation Wireless Innovation Project™
Vodafone Americas Foundation™ launched the Wireless Innovation Project™ in 2009 to make a global impact through innovative wireless solutions. Applicants compete for first, second and third-place prizes worth $300,000, $200,000 and $100,000. The mHealth Alliance Award winner will receive an additional prize package worth $50,000, which includes strategic and networking support from the mHealth Alliance, an organization dedicated to enabling the use of mobile technologies to improve health throughout the world.
A panel of esteemed judges from the fields of wireless engineering, international development, social entrepreneurship, and business evaluate the applications for their potential to address issues in the fields of education, health, access to communication, the environment, and economic development.
Further details about the competition and winning projects can be found at project.vodafone-us.com. More information about the mHealth Alliance and its work can be found at www.mhealthalliance.org.

ABOUT the Vodafone Americas Foundation™
Vodafone Americas Foundation™ is part of Vodafone’s global network of foundations. It is affiliated with Vodafone Group Plc, the world's leading mobile telecommunications company, with ownership interests in more than 30 countries and Partner Markets in more than 40 countries. As of March 31, 2011, Vodafone had approximately 370 million proportionate customers worldwide. In the U.S., the foundation directs its philanthropic activities towards wireless technology projects in order to make a positive and enduring impact on the community. The Foundation is driven by a passion for the world around us. It makes grants that help people in the community and around the world lead fuller lives.

ABOUT the mHealth Alliance
The mHealth Alliance champions the use of mobile technologies to improve health throughout the world. Working with diverse partners to integrate mHealth into multiple sectors, the Alliance serves as a convener for the mHealth community to overcome common challenges by sharing tools, knowledge, experience, and lessons learned. The mHealth Alliance advocates for more and better quality research and evaluation to advance the evidence base; seeks to build capacity among health and industry decision-makers, managers, and practitioners; promotes sustainable business models; and supports systems integration by advocating for standardization and interoperability of mHealth platforms. The mHealth Alliance also hosts HUB (Health Unbound), a global online community for resource sharing and collaborative solution generation. Hosted by the United Nations Foundation, and founded by the Rockefeller Foundation, Vodafone Foundation, and UN Foundation, the Alliance now also includes HP, the GSM Association, and Norad among its founding partners. For more information, visit www.mhealthalliance.org.

March 29 2012

14:00

The Difference Between 'Invention' and 'Innovation'

Two and a half years ago, I co-founded Stroome, a collaborative online video editing and publishing platform and 2010 Knight News Challenge winner.

From its inception, the site received a tremendous amount of attention. The New School, USC Annenberg, the Online News Association and, ultimately, the Knight Foundation all saw something interesting in what we were doing. We won awards; we were invited to present at conferences; we were written about in the trades and featured in over 150 blogs. Yet despite all the accolades, not once did the word "invention" creep in. "Innovation," it turns out, was the word on everyone's lips.

Like so many up-and-coming entrepreneurs, I was under the impression that invention and innovation were one and the same. They aren't. And, as I have discovered, the distinction is an important one.

Recently, I was asked by Jason Nazar, founder of Docstoc and a big supporter of the L.A. entrepreneurial community, if I would help define the difference between the two. A short, 3-minute video response can be found at the bottom of this post, but I thought I'd share some key takeaways with you here:

INVENTION VS. INNOVATION: THE DIFFERENCE

In its purest sense, "invention" can be defined as the creation of a product or introduction of a process for the first time. "Innovation," on the other hand, occurs if someone improves on or makes a significant contribution to an existing product, process or service.

Consider the microprocessor. Someone invented the microprocessor. But by itself, the microprocessor was nothing more than another piece on the circuit board. It's what was done with that piece -- the hundreds of thousands of products, processes and services that evolved from the invention of the microprocessor -- that required innovation.

STEVE JOBS: THE POSTER BOY OF INNOVATION

If ever there were a poster child for innovation it would be former Apple CEO Steve Jobs. And when people talk about innovation, Jobs' iPod is cited as an example of innovation at its best.

steve jobs iphone4.jpg

But let's take a step back for a minute. The iPod wasn't the first portable music device (Sony popularized the "music anywhere, anytime" concept 22 years earlier with the Walkman); the iPod wasn't the first device that put hundreds of songs in your pocket (dozens of manufacturers had MP3 devices on the market when the iPod was released in 2001); and Apple was actually late to the party when it came to providing an online music-sharing platform. (Napster, Grokster and Kazaa all preceded iTunes.)

So, given those sobering facts, is the iPod's distinction as a defining example of innovation warranted? Absolutely.

What made the iPod and the music ecosystem it engendered innovative wasn't that it was the first portable music device. It wasn't that it was the first MP3 player. And it wasn't that it was the first company to make thousands of songs immediately available to millions of users. What made Apple innovative was that it combined all of these elements -- design, ergonomics and ease of use -- in a single device, and then tied it directly into a platform that effortlessly kept that device updated with music.

Apple invented nothing. Its innovation was creating an easy-to-use ecosystem that unified music discovery, delivery and device. And, in the process, they revolutionized the music industry.

IBM: INNOVATION'S UGLY STEPCHILD

Admittedly, when it comes to corporate culture, Apple and IBM are worlds apart. But Apple and IBM aren't really as different as innovation's poster boy would have had us believe.

Truth is if it hadn't been for one of IBM's greatest innovations -- the personal computer -- there would have been no Apple. Jobs owes a lot to the introduction of the PC. And IBM was the company behind it.

Ironically, the IBM PC didn't contain any new inventions per se (see iPod example above). Under pressure to complete the project in less than 18 months, the team actually was under explicit instructions not to invent anything new. The goal of the first PC, code-named "Project Chess," was to take off-the-shelf components and bring them together in a way that was user friendly, inexpensive, and powerful.

And while the world's first PC was an innovative product in the aggregate, the device they created -- a portable device that put powerful computing in the hands of the people -- was no less impactful than Henry Ford's Model T, which reinvented the automobile industry by putting affordable transportation in the hands of the masses.

INNOVATION ALONE IS NOT ENOUGH

Given the choice to invent or innovate, most entrepreneurs would take the latter. Let's face it, innovation is just sexier. Perhaps there are a few engineers at M.I.T. who can name the members of "Project Chess." Virtually everyone on the planet knows who Steve Jobs is.

But innovation alone isn't enough. Too often, companies focus on a technology instead of the customer's problem. But in order to truly turn a great idea into a world-changing innovation, other factors must be taken into account.

According to Venkatakrishnan Balasubramanian, a research analyst with Infosys Labs, the key to ensuring that innovation is successful is aligning your idea with the strategic objectives and business models of your organization.

In a recent article that appeared in Innovation Management, he offered five considerations:

1. Competitive advantage: Your innovation should provide a unique competitive position for the enterprise in the marketplace;
2. Business alignment: The differentiating factors of your innovation should be conceptualized around the key strategic focus of the enterprise and its goals;
3. Customers: Knowing the customers who will benefit from your innovation is paramount;
4. Execution: Identifying resources, processes, risks, partners and suppliers and the ecosystem in the market for succeeding in the innovation is equally important;
5. Business value: Assessing the value (monetary, market size, etc.) of the innovation and how the idea will bring that value into the organization is a critical underlying factor in selecting which idea to pursue.

Said another way, smart innovators frame their ideas to stress the ways in which a new concept is compatible with the existing market landscape, and their company's place in that marketplace.

This adherence to the "status quo" may sound completely antithetical to the concept of innovation. But an idea that requires too much change in an organization, or too much disruption to the marketplace, may never see the light of day.

A FINAL THOUGHT

While they tend to be lumped together, "invention" and "innovation" are not the same thing. There are distinctions between them, and those distinctions are important.

So how do you know if you are inventing or innovating? Consider this analogy:

If invention is a pebble tossed in the pond, innovation is the rippling effect that pebble causes. Someone has to toss the pebble. That's the inventor. Someone has to recognize the ripple will eventually become a wave. That's the entrepreneur.

Entrepreneurs don't stop at the water's edge. They watch the ripples and spot the next big wave before it happens. And it's the act of anticipating and riding that "next big wave" that drives the innovative nature in every entrepreneur.

This article is the seventh of 10 video segments in which digital entrepreneur Tom Grasty talks about his experience building an Internet startup, and is part of a larger initiative sponsored by docstoc.videos, which features advice from small business owners who offer their views on how to launch a new business or grow your existing one altogether.

February 27 2012

22:09

New Knight News Challenge puts emphasis on pragmatists and builders

Now that the first new round of the Knight News Challenge is up and running there are a couple of things that seem to stand out, the biggest being the emphasis on speed and simplicity.

The speed part is not a surprise, given the fact that the $5 million innovation contest now takes place three times a year, with a gestation period of a little more than three months. (The application period runs from now till St. Patrick’s day. Winners are announced in June.) No, the interesting thing in today’s announcement was the dead simplicity of it all: A finished application will round out to about 450 words. And you can send it via Tumblr. (And, as you can see above, they’re also back with MOAR Michael Maness on the Internets. Also, a bewildered chihuahua.)

It seems like less of a start-up pitch session and more like a call for bids for a general contractor. And that may not be a bad thing.

As we’ve written before, Knight has a clear interest in improving the funding process for these projects. It has as much to do with their desire to get a social — or monetary — return in the investments they are making, as well as their mission to help transform journalism. What Knight is doing now is trying to shake out the best way to do that, and concise and complimentary are the guide words. Here’s John Bracken on the Knight blog:

We’re looking for ideas that build on the rise of these existing network events and tools — that deliver news and information and extend our understanding of the phenomenon. Anyone — businesses, nonprofits, individuals — can apply.

That’s why I come back to the contractor idea (that, or too much HGTV). What Knight is saying, especially with the networks theme, is don’t design us a house, just make a better kitchen. We don’t need architects and entrepreneurs, we want plumbers and engineers. I may be reading too much into the word “build,” but the application seem to emphasize clarity, skill and a focused knowledge, rather than a grand vision for saving journalism.

There is, of course, nothing wrong with entrepreneurs or visionaries, and by no stretch will the eventual winners not be big thinkers. But in streamlining their funding process, diversifying the funding mechanisms (grants, loans or investment capital are now on the table), and hanging the first challenge on the concept of networks, Knight is saying journalism needs people whose creative vision is critical and tempered with pragmatism. There’s no shortage of dreamers and thinkers wanting to tackle the big problems in journalism — and there probably never will be — but Knight appears to be designing a contest that can get builders working on the basics today.

Clock’s ticking. Make sure to read more about the application process before the March 17 deadline.

Disclaimer: The Knight Foundation is a funder of the Nieman Journalism Lab

February 10 2012

18:00

Still shaping the way people think about news innovation? A few reflections on the new KNC 2.0

As someone who probably has spent more time thinking about the Knight News Challenge than anyone outside of Knight Foundation headquarters — doing a dissertation on the subject will do that to you! — I can’t help but follow its evolution, even after my major research ended in 2010. And evolve it has: from an initial focus on citizen journalism and bloggy kinds of initiatives (all the rage circa 2007, right?) to a later emphasis on business models, visualizations, and data-focused projects (like this one) — among a whole host of other projects including news games, SMS tools for the developing world, crowdsourcing applications, and more.

Now, after five years and $27 million in its first incarnation, Knight News Challenge 2.0 has been announced for 2012, emphasizing speed and agility (three contests a year, eight-week turnarounds on entries) and a new topical focus (the first round is focused on leveraging existing networks). While more information will be coming ahead of the February 27 launch, here are three questions to chew on now.

Does the Knight News Challenge still dominate this space?

The short answer is yes (and I’m not just saying that because, full disclosure, the Knight Foundation is a financial supporter of the Lab). As I’ve argued before, in the news innovation scene, at this crossroads of journalism and technology communities, the KNC has served an agenda-setting kind of function — perhaps not telling news hipsters what to think regarding the future of journalism, but rather telling them what to think about. So while folks might disagree on the Next Big Thing for News, there’s little question that the KNC has helped to shape the substance and culture of the debate and the parameters in which it occurs.

Some evidence for this comes from the contest itself: Whatever theme/trend got funded one year would trigger a wave of repetitive proposals the next. (As Knight said yesterday: “Our concern is that once we describe what we think we might see, we receive proposals crafted to meet our preconception.”)

And yet the longer answer to this question is slightly more nuanced. When the KNC began in 2006, with the first winners named in 2007, it truly was the only game in town — a forum for showing “what news innovation looks like” unlike any other. Nowadays, a flourishing ecosystem of websites (ahem, like this one), aggregators (like MediaGazer), and social media platforms is making the storyline of journalism’s reboot all the more apparent. It’s easier than ever to track who’s trying what, which experiments are working, and so on — and seemingly in real time, as opposed to a once-a-year unveiling. Hence the Knight Foundation’s move to three quick-fire contests a year, “as we try to bring our work closer to Internet speed.”

How should we define the “news” in News Challenge?

One of the striking things I found in my research (discussed in a previous Lab post) was that Knight, in its overall emphasis, has pivoted away from focusing mostly on journalism professionalism (questions like “how do we train/educate better journalists?”) and moved toward a broader concern for “information.” This entails far less regard for who’s doing the creating, filtering, or distributing — rather, it’s more about ensuring that people are informed at the local community level. This shift from journalism to information, reflected in the Knight Foundation’s own transformation and its efforts to shape the field, can be seen, perhaps, like worrying less about doctors (the means) and more about public health (the ends) — even if this pursuit of health outcomes sometimes sidesteps doctors and traditional medicine along the way.

This is not to say that Knight doesn’t care about journalism. Not at all. It still pours millions upon millions of dollars into clearly “newsy” projects — including investigative reporting, the grist of shoe-leather journalism. Rather, this is about Knight trying to rejigger the boundaries of journalism: opening them up to let other fields, actors, and ideas inside.

So, how should you define “news” in your application? My suggestion: broadly.

What will be the defining ethos of KNC 2.0?

This is the big, open, and most interesting question to me. My research on the first two years of KNC 1.0, using a regression analysis, found that contest submissions emphasizing participation and distributed knowledge (like crowdsourcing) were more likely to advance, all things being equal. My followup interviews with KNC winners confirmed this widely shared desire for participation — a feeling that the news process not only could be shared with users, but in fact should be.

I called this an “ethic of participation,” a founding doctrine of news innovation that challenges journalism’s traditional norm of professional control. But perhaps, to some extent, that was a function of the times, during the roughly 2007-2010 heyday of citizen media, with the attendant buzz around user-generated content as the hot early-adopter thing in news — even if news organizations then, as now, struggled to reconcile and incorporate a participatory audience. Even while participation has become more mainstream in journalism, there are still frequent flare-ups, like this week’s flap over breaking news on Twitter, revealing enduring tensions at the “collision of two worlds — when a hierarchical media system in the hands of the few collides with a networked media system open to all,” as Alfred Hermida wrote.

So what about this time around? Perhaps KNC 2.0 will have an underlying emphasis on Big Data, algorithms, news apps, and other things bubbling up at the growing intersection of computer science and journalism. It’s true that Knight is already underwriting a significant push in this area through the (also just-revised) Knight-Mozilla OpenNews project (formerly called the Knight-Mozilla News Technology Partnership — which Nikki Usher and I have written about for the Lab). To what extent is there overlap or synergy here? OpenNews, for 2012, is trying to build on the burgeoning “community around code” in journalism — leveraging the momentum of Hacks/Hackers, NICAR, and ONA with hackfests, code-swapping, and online learning. KNC 2.0, meanwhile, talks about embracing The Hacker Way described by Mark Zuckerberg — but at the same time backs away a bit from its previous emphasis on open source as a prerequisite. It’ll be interesting to see how computational journalism — explained well in this forthcoming paper (PDF here) by Terry Flew et al. in Journalism Practice — figures into KNC 2.0.

Regardless, the Knight News Challenge is worth watching for what it reveals about the way people — journalists and technologists, organizations and individuals, everybody working in this space — talk about and make sense of “news innovation”: what it means, where it’s taking us, and why that matters for the future of journalism.

February 09 2012

22:36

KNC 2.0: The Knight News Challenge revamps to quicken the pace of journalism innovation

Since last year we’ve known the Knight Foundation would be revamping their annual innovation contest to better meet the pace of change in technology and information. After completing its initial five-year run — which saw 12,000 applications and $27 million in funding to journalism and information projects — Knight said they would pull back and examine how they could continue to fund that kind of experimentation in the future.

Today we know a lot more about what that will look like. The biggest change is to the calendar: Instead of one big competition a year, there’ll be three in 2012. The new News Challenge is more topic-focused: Two of this year’s contests will seek projects on specific themes, with the third remaining a catchall. And Knight is going farther than ever before to widen the kinds of people who might apply: removing its requirement to open-source the project’s work and emphasizing it will take appeals from individuals, nonprofits, for-profits, and presumably any organizational structure on land or sea. (You can get an idea of the kind of, er, stylistic freedom they’re preaching in the 1992-fever-dream video above.)

The emphasis is on speed — competitions will last no more than 8-10 weeks each, rather than the October-to-June cycle of some previous iterations. The total amount of money at stake remains about the same as before: a total of $5 million in this first year of the new model, Michael Maness, Knight’s vice president of journalism and media innovation told me.

In the first installment of the new-look News Challenge, which opens Feb. 27 and closes on St. Patrick’s Day, the focus is on networks, a topic that’s purposefully broad. As they explained in the blog post introducing the new challenge:

There are a lot of vibrant networks and platforms, on- and off-line, that can be used to connect us with the news and information we need to make decisions about our lives. This challenge will not fund new networks. Rather, we’re asking you to describe ways you might use existing platforms to drive innovation in media and journalism.

When I asked Maness what that means, he said applicants should focus on how existing systems can be used to deliver information in new ways. Instead of coming to Knight with a pitch for the next Facebook, talk about how your proposal could use it better. “We’re saying there are already robust tools on the internet. Let’s use those,” Maness said. (Sorry, aspiring Zuckerbergs.)

For Knight, the networks that matter aren’t just your Facebooks and Twitters and Pinterests and LinkedIns. There’s also the network of Knight-funded projects, initiatives, and people. (A network that, full disclosure, includes this site, a Knight grantee.) Last year’s class of News Challenge winners included a number of projects that built on early News Challenge winners, and efforts like Knight’s “test kitchen” at Northwestern are aimed in part at assembling and recombining the pieces of other innovative efforts.

Other Knight grantees have long been a source of support and information for News Challenge winners, Maness said. But more broadly, those networks of existing technology and other platforms can be a stepping stone to success, and ultimately sustainability, he said. What Knight is saying, to a point, is your chances of making it increase if you aren’t starting from the ground floor, building something that might not have the momentum to survive once the funding runs out. “If something can grow and fend for itself it can have a broader impact,” Maness said.

By dropping the open-source requirement, Maness said the foundation can better help people on all ends of the spectrum, from early-stage projects to those that are already established. One example: a company that might need a nudge to get to the next level but don’t want to show their code just yet. But Maness said Knight still wants to encourage open-source development because that can help future projects and, on a philosophical level, is good for the web. “Ultimately our goal is social return on what we do, so [a project] has to be something that makes sense to what we’re trying to achieve,” he said.

The overarching message seems to be a desire to cast as wide a net as possible to spur innovation in journalism and community information. By pulling back on past restrictions, while emphasizing things like impact and scalability, Knight is also trying to be a smarter, more agile organization that can ensure a return (even if its not a monetary one) on their investments. In that same way, they also want to leverage the institutions, people, and technology that are already available in the world of journalism — especially those Knight helped lay the groundwork for.

And they want to do it fast — faster than a year at a time. “Over the course of five years, what started as being radical at the time…the speed of the Internet and disruption happened so much faster,” Maness said. “We wanted to focus on making a contest that was faster and more nimble.”

February 05 2012

13:16

MARKETING AT ITS BEST: “FT RUN TO MONACO”

Financial Times reports:

Formula 1 World Champions from past to present will take part in the first ever Financial Times supercar experience – the FT Run To Monaco. The exclusive event will see former F1 champion Damon Hill leading the participants in a fleet of luxury supercars on a route from London, through France and culminating at the Monaco Grand Prix 2012.

My take: when you have a great newspaper yo have great readers and great advertisers, so you must have great marketing ideas. In a time of timid initiatives, second-class promotions,  low budgets and lack of imagination, this is a refreshing event. Think Big to win Big. Bravo!

Thanks to INNOVATION’s Peter Litger.

(Something that my friend Javier Goizueta en his fantastic team can do for any Spanish newspaper)

February 03 2012

15:36

Researchers reveal what goes into a good tweet

An analysis of 43,738 tweets from 1,443 users offers some valuable insights into emerging communication norms on Twitter.

The study (PDF) by researchers Paul André of Carnegie Mellon, Michael Bernstein of MIT, and Kurt Luther of Georgia Tech aimed to uncover what makes for a good message on Twitter.

The team found that the most valued tweets were informative, funny and encouraged conversation.  Perhaps surprising, they also found that self-promotional messages also elicited a positive response.

By comparison, the worst crime someone could commit on Twitter was being boring. This was by far the most cited reason for not valuing a tweet.

Among the other bad practices identified by the researchers were repeating old news, being cryptic or using too many hashtags.

In her piece for The Atlantic, Megan Garber had a go at putting together “the Most Annoying Tweet Imaginable”:

BREAKING: Last week I had a #sandwich that was SO HORRIBLE, it made me want to #scream. Seriously, why can’t they make better #sandwiches?

— Megan Garber (@megangarber) January 31, 2012

Instead, the study suggests the best tweets are informative, entertaining and encourage a response. Quite a lot to pack into 140 characters.

 

10:19

ALFONSO NIETO TAMARGO (1932-2012)

Alfonso Nieto died yesterday in Pamplona (Spain) but his legacy as a person, friend,  writer, thinker, mentor and leader will last for many years.

He was the absolute force behind the development of Journalism education in Spanish universities.

During his time as president of the University of Navarre we founded INNOVATION.

We learned from him many lessons and one of them was that “nothing is more practical than a good theory.”

Alfonso Nieto was a close friend of the late Leo Bogart, a founding director of INNOVATION.

Like Leo, he was a man of good manners, many friends, sharp mind and highly educated.

Both loved books and libraries.

And both loved newspapers.

But both were very critical about poor media business management.

Without credibility, values and compelling service to readers, advertisers, audiences and communities, press and media were “cathedrals without soul”.

Alfonso Nieto was  a pioneer in news media management education.

He saw very early, in the 1980′s, the big role and future of free newspapers and wrote a seminal book on this matter.

When I went to New York’s Columbia Journalism School as a Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow in 1978, his frequent letters to me during that year were always inspirational, challenging and really friendly.

A few months ago I got in the UK his last one, saying that he missed the Hay-on-Wye bookshelves!

They too, and all of us.

Don Alfonso, we will miss you very much.

 

 

January 28 2012

13:11

INTEGRATED MULTIMEDIA NEWSROOMS ROCK

INNOVATION is right now working with our Media Architects of Calau&Riera in Barcelona and our international network of Newsroom Management Consultants in almost a dozen of new integrated multimedia newsrooms, in United States, Latin America, Europe, and Middle East.

Watch here a short video clip with the key-elements of these “information-engine” and “digital first” multimedia newsrooms.

(In the picture, the Russian Ria Novosti super desk in Moscu)

09:16

THE PROBLEM OF NEWSPAPERS AS NEWS MORGUES

Let’s face it.

Many newspapers look today like a daily morgue.

A compilation of dead news bodies.

Well presented, but dead.

And our newsrooms spend time and time just to collect, embellish and organise the daily morgue.

Yes, we do some forensic journalism too, but it’s too little, to late.

Instant analysis is done more and more by websites, blogs and wire services.

So, what’s the role of a daily newspaper?

Not to be a news morgue.

Not to be forensic media

But “Prognosis Media.”

Diagnostics are not needed in newspapers after dead news are in front of us.

Again, it’s to late.

What our readers need and want in print or in tablets is “Slow Cooking Journalism.”

Not just telling us what we already know, but “Forward Journalism.”

Print and tablet news journalists are needed to advise and prevent.

Welcome to the “Strategic Journalism” preached in the 1980′s by pioneers like Claude Monnier.

Welcome to INNOVATION’s “Caviar Journalism.”

 

 

January 20 2012

16:00

This Week in Review: The SOPA standoff, and Apple takes on textbooks with ebooks

The web flexes its political muscle: After a couple of months of growing concern, the online backlash against the anti-piracy bills SOPA and PIPA reached a rather impressive peak this week. There’s a lot of moving parts to this, so I’ll break it down into three parts: the arguments for and against the bill, the status of the bill, and this week’s protests.

The bills’ opponents have covered a wide variety of arguments over the past few months, but there were still a few more new angles this week in the arguments against SOPA. NYU prof Clay Shirky put the bill in historical context in a 14-minute TED talk, and social-media researcher danah boyd parsed out both the competitive and cultural facets of piracy. At the Harvard Business Review, James Allworth and Maxwell Wessel framed the issue as a struggle between big content companies and smaller innovators. The New York Times asked six contributors for their ideas about viable SOPA alternatives in fighting piracy, and at Slate, Matthew Yglesias argued that piracy actually has some real benefits for society and the entertainment industry.

The most prominent SOPA supporter on the web this week was News Corp.’s Rupert Murdoch, who went on a Twitter rant against SOPA opponents and Google in particular, reportedly after seeing a Google TV presentation in which the company said it wouldn’t remove links in search to illegal movie streams. Both j-prof Jeff Jarvis and GigaOM’s Mathew Ingram responded that Murdoch doesn’t understand how the Internet works, with Jarvis arguing that Murdoch isn’t opposed so much to piracy as the entire architecture of the web. At the Guardian, however, Dan Gillmor disagreed with the idea that Murdoch doesn’t get the web, saying that he and other big-media execs know exactly the threat it represents to their longstanding control of media content.

Now for the status of the bill itself: Late last week, SOPA was temporarily weakened and delayed, as its sponsor, Lamar Smith, said he would remove domain-name blocking until the issue has been “studied,” and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said he won’t bring the bill to the House floor until some real consensus about the bill can be found.

That consensus became a bit less likely this week, after the White House came out forcefully against SOPA and PIPA, calling for, as Techdirt described it, a “hard reset” on the bills. The real blow to the bills came after Wednesday’s protests, when dozens of members of Congress announced their opposition. The fight is far from over, though — as Mathew Ingram noted, PIPA still has plenty of steam, and the House Judiciary Committee will resume its work on SOPA next month.

But easily the biggest news surrounding SOPA and PIPA this week was the massive protests of it around the web. Hundreds of sites, including such heavyweights as Wikipedia, Reddit, Mozilla, BoingBoing, and WordPress, blacked out on Wednesday, and other sites such as Google and Wired joined with “censored” versions of their home pages. As I noted above, the protest was extremely successful politically, as some key members of Congress backed off their support of the bill, leading The New York Times to call it a “political coming of age” for the tech industry.

The most prominent of those protesting sites was Wikipedia, which redirected site users to an anti-SOPA action page on Wednesday. Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales’ announcement of the protest was met with derision in some corners, with Twitter CEO Dick Costolo and PandoDaily’s Paul Carr chastising the global site for doing something so drastic in response to a single national issue. Wales defended the decision by saying that the law will affect web users around the world, and he also got support from writers like Mathew Ingram and the Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal, who argued that Wikipedia and Google’s protests could help take the issue out of the tech community and into the mainstream.

The New York Times’ David Pogue was put off by some aspects of the SOPA outrage and argued that some of the bill’s opposition grew out of a philosophy that was little more than, “Don’t take my free stuff!” And ReadWriteWeb’s Joe Brockmeier was concerned about what happens after the protest is over, when Congress goes back to business as usual and the public remains largely in the dark about what they’re doing. “Even if SOPA goes down in flames, it’s not over. It’s never over,” he wrote.

Apple’s bid to reinvent the textbook: Apple announced yesterday its plans to add educational publishing to the many industries it’s radically disrupted, through its new iBooks and iBooks Author systems. Wired’s Tim Carmody, who’s been consistently producing the sharpest stuff on this subject, has the best summary of what Apple’s rolling out: A better iBooks platform, a program (iBooks Author) allowing authors to design their own iBooks, textbooks in the iBookstore, and a classroom management app called iTunes U.

After news of the announcement was broken earlier this week by Ars Technica, the Lab’s Joshua Benton explained some of the reasons the textbook industry is ripe for disruption and wondered about the new tool’s usability. (Afterward, he listed some of the change’s implications, including for the news industry.) Tim Carmody, meanwhile, gave some historical perspective on Steve Jobs’ approach to education reform.

As Carmody detailed after the announcement, education publishing is a big business for Apple to come crashing into. But The Atlantic’s Megan Garber explained that that isn’t exactly what Apple’s doing here; instead, it’s simply “identifying transformative currents and building the right tools to navigate them.” Still, Reuters’ Jack Shafer asserted that what’s bad for these companies is good for readers like him.

But while Apple talked about reinventing the textbook, several observers didn’t see revolutionary changes around the corner. ReadWriteWeb’s John Paul Titlow noted that Apple is teaming up with big publishers, not killing them, and Paul Carr of PandoDaily argued that iBook Author’s self-made ebooks won’t challenge the professionally produced and marketed ones. All Things Digital’s Peter Kafka did the math to show the publishers should still get plenty of the new revenue streams.

The news still brought plenty of concerns: At CNET, Lindsey Turrentine wondered how many schools will have the funds to afford the hardware for iBooks, and David Carnoy and Scott Stein questioned how open Apple’s new platforms would be. That theme was echoed elsewhere, especially by developer Dan Wineman, who found that through its user agreement, Apple will essentially assert rights to anything produced with its iBooks file format. That level of control gave some, like GigaOM’s Mathew Ingram, pause, but Paul Carr said we shouldn’t be surprised: This is what Apple does, he said, and we all buy its products anyway.

Making ‘truth vigilantes’ mainstream: The outrage late last week over New York Times public editor Arthur Brisbane’s column asking whether the paper’s reporters should challenge misleading claims by officials continued to yield thoughtful responses this week. After his column last week voicing his support for journalism’s “truth vigilantes,” j-prof Robert Niles created a site to honor them, pointing out instances in which reporters call out their sources for lying. Salon’s Gene Lyons, meanwhile, said that attitudes like Brisbane’s are a big part of what’s led to the erosion of trust in the Times and the mainstream press.

The two sharpest takes on the issue this week came from The Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf and from Columbia Ph.D. student Lucas Graves here at the Lab. Friedersdorf took on journalists’ argument that people should read the news section for unvarnished facts and the opinion section for analysis: That argument doesn’t work, he said, because readers don’t consume a publication as a bundle anymore.

Graves analyzed the issue in light of both the audience’s expectations for news and the growth of the fact-checking movement. He argued for fact-checking to be incorporated into journalists’ everyday work, rather than remaining a specialized form of journalism. Reuters’ Felix Salmon agreed, asserting that “the greatest triumph of the fact-checking movement will come when it puts itself out of work, because journalists are doing its job for it as a matter of course.” At the Lab, Craig Newmark of Craigslist also chimed in, prescribing more rigorous fact-checking efforts as a way for journalists to regain the public’s trust.

Reading roundup: Not a ton of other news developments per se this week, but plenty of good reads nonetheless. Here’s a sample:

— There was one major development on the ongoing News Corp. phone hacking case: The company settled 36 lawsuits by victims, admitting a cover-up of the hacking. Here’s the basic story from Reuters and more in-depth live coverage from the Guardian.

— Rolling Stone published a long, wide-ranging interview with WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange as he awaits his final extradition hearing. Reuters’ Jack Shafer also wrote a thoughtful piece on the long-term journalistic implications of WikiLeaks, focusing particularly on the continued importance of institutions.

— Two interesting pieces of journalism-related research: Slate’s Farhad Manjoo described a Facebook-based study that throws some cold water on the idea of the web as a haven for like-minded echo chambers, and the Lab’s Andrew Phelps wrote about a study that describes and categorizes the significant group people who stumble across news online.

— In a thorough feature, Nick Summers of Newsweek/The Daily Beast laid out the concerns over how big ESPN is getting, and whether that’s good for ESPN itself and sports media in general.

— Finally, for those thinking about how to develop the programmer-journalists of the future, j-prof Matt Waite has a set of thoughts on the topic that functions as a great jumping-off point for more ideas and discussion.

January 19 2012

15:28

What Kodak teaches us about disruptive innovation

The demise of Eastman Kodak is a story of a company which did not take on the challenges of disruptive innovation.

After 133 years, the company has filed for bankruptcy. Essentially, Kodak was caught out by a combination of factors.

The technologies that enable us to represent with world in still images changed radically with the development of digital cameras. The rise of digital was bad news for a company that made so much of its money from selling film.

But technology alone doesn’t explain Kodak’s demise.  Along with digital technologies came changing patterns of behaviour.  A device intended to help us communicate while on the go, the mobile phone, took over as our everyday camera.

There is a sense of irony at play. Here is a brand that became synonymous with the Kodak moment - “a rare, one-time moment captured with a photo, or should have been captured by a photo,” as the company defines it.

Now, those moments are captured by a device that most people carry with them all the time, the mobile phone. These connected devices also make it easy for us to immediately share those “Kodak moments” with friends and family,

Kodak failed to see the danger from digital imagery, the mobile phone, increased connectivity and the shifts in people’s habits.

But it is easy to see why the company didn’t act.  The first cameras on mobile phones were of such poor quality that there seems little reason for Kodak to see them as much of a threat. The phones were clunky, slow and not hooked up the net.

Such an attitude ignores the lessons of disruptive innovation.  Clayton M. Christensen argues that companies fail to see the value of disruptive innovation as:

They offered less of what customers in established markets wanted and so could rarely be initially employed there. They offered a different package of attributes valued only in emerging markets remote from, and unimportant to, the mainstream.

Based on this premise, Kodak would not have seen digital cameras and mobile phones as competition or potential threat to its core business. Its core market was film and film cameras for customers who wanted good quality photos.

However, the history of technology shows how often the initial versions of a product or service are often of low quality but over time shift from being low-end and overtake established products and services.

Executives are reluctant to invest in technologies which disrupt their existing markets and customers, and usually bring in much less revenue, at least initially.

The rise and fall of Kodak is an example of how companies struggle between sustaining innovations that prop up existing markets and customers and disruptive innovations which challenge long-standing ways of doing business and require a radical rethink in corporate strategy.

 

January 13 2012

16:30

January 09 2012

15:21

It is not about whether the Washington Post is innovating too fast

In a column, Washington Post ombudsman Patrick Pexton asked if the newspaper was innovating too fast.

Pexton noted how “hardly a week goes by without the Web site or newspaper launching some feature, or a venture to attract more revenue, or a blog, or a social media innovation.”

He later added, “I’m wondering, and readers are too, whether there’s just a bit too much innovation, too fast.”

In response, the Post’s Managing Editor commented, “I actually wish it were true that we have too much innovation at the Post.”

The crux of the issue here is not whether the Post should innovate, or about the pace of innovation. It is about the approach to innovation.

Given the fast evolving media space, news outlets have to experiment and explore different tools and services to reach, connect and engage with audiences.

The technologies people use to get the news are changing, how they use these technologies is changing and the institutional structures to support the news are changing.

Pexton notes that some readers find the pace of innovation “exhausting”. The problem for the Post, and for newspapers in general, is that the product is changing.

As a mass media product, the newspaper was designed to bring together a bundle of news, information, commentary and entertainment with broad appeal to a wide audience.

Online, that product is unbundled – both content and audiences are fragmented.  This requires a different approach to innovation as editors and developers have to consider the wants and needs of diverse audiences, who have different needs at different times on different devices.

Some features will be aimed at a broad audience, but some innovations will be aimed at specific fragments of the audience. For example, the @mentionmachine cited by Pexton is likely to have greater appeal for political junkies than a general Post reader.  And that is just fine.

The challenge for news organisations is taking a strategic approach to innovation. There is a risk of becoming enamoured with the latest shiny bit of technology or adopting a platform such as blogging without thinking through the why and how.

For example, when a British newspaper introduced blogs in the mid-2010s, it asked for a show of hands to decide who in the newsroom wanted a blog. A few months later, the newspaper realised that just letting any journalist blog wasn’t a good idea.

A good starting point for developing a new feature or introducing a new tool is Forrester’s POST framework, which provides a framework to consider the audience, the objectives and strategy to decide on the appropriate use of technology.

Innovation should be driven by the journalism and serve the journalism.  We should not argue about too much or too little innovation, but instead discuss what makes for good or bad innovation.

 

January 03 2012

15:20

How We Created a Startup Culture at ASU's Cronkite School

It was a few days before the end of the fall 2011 semester, and a friend at a small southern university was bemoaning the lack of innovative spirit among her students. She'd built in an entrepreneurial module into her class, but only a small percentage of the students took the bait to even try to come up with a business idea.

walterc.jpg

By contrast, on that very same day, my office was buzzing with students seemingly in no hurry to pack up for the holidays and head home. And, interestingly, only one of them was my actual student. One was a Cronkite School of Journalism freshman who had heard me speak to her class and wanted to run an idea past me. A Cronkite sophomore had a major media company interested in a Microsoft Word plug-in he had come up with and wanted to make sure it was actually doable. Another was a business major at Arizona State University's Carey School who needed some advice on developing an iPad application that he got $5,000 in seed money to build. An ASU engineering major wanted to make sure he could get on my schedule before the end of the year to talk through plans for his new business for the coming year.

As I was looking into the earnest faces of the students who paraded in and out of my office that day, with their Power Point presentations and legal yellow pads filled with sketches for their big ideas, I thought about what made the difference between my friend's institution of higher education and my own.

encouraging innovation

At ASU, innovation and entrepreneurship are being pushed everywhere you go. Funding contests abound such as the Edson Student Entrepreneurship Initiative, which funds up to $20,000 per student team; the ASU Innovation Challenge, in which each student team can win up to $10,000 for an idea; the Performing Arts Venture Experience gives away up to $5,000 for student ideas, and the new 10,000 Solutions provides up to $10,000 to fund good ideas from students, staff, faculty and community members on how to impact local and global communities.

Additionally, Cronkite School students (and faculty) are encouraged to submit ideas for Knight News Challenge and J-Lab Women Entrepreneurs grants, and those winners are heralded as much as winners of journalism contests.

Professors at Cronkite and other schools bake pitch session into their syllabi so students are thinking of the practical as well as the theoretical. I recently sat in on a pitch session at the College of Nursing and Health Innovation where nutrition and health majors were trying to answer two questions with fresh ideas: How do we get Americans to drink more water, and how do we get sedentary office workers to move more?

The university also tries to make it easier for like-minded entrepreneurs to find each other. Each of the four ASU campuses have Changemaker Centers where students from different majors can hang out and kick around the "what if" questions. I've always kept an open door policy at my own lab, Cronkite's Digital Media and Entrepreneurship Lab, where students from any major can pop in to talk, and they do. In the past academic year, I've helped a public policy major think through an iPhone app to help track lost pets and a social work major create a proposal for a volunteer matching site for high school students and non-profits. Journalists for local media companies stop by to hash out ideas as well, and I am really excited about a couple of projects in the works.

University President Michael Crow employs Entrepreneurs-in-Residence who help student startups get their footing but who also help faculty working on innovation and entrepreneurship at such a large university find and support each other. It helps that professors at the College of Technology and Innovation know that I'm looking for Objective C engineers to hire or that faculty at the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning might be interested in collaborating on a mapping project.

like minds unite

Lastly, like minds like being around each other. At Cronkite, we've hosted News Foo for two years running, and a fall Where Camp attracted several dozens of data nerds for a weekend hack fest. Cronkite students are encouraged to attend local startup weekends around the area and conferences out at the university's Sky Song business incubator. It was at such a startup weekend last spring that one of my graphic design students hacked together his latest venture that is attracting angel investments; a few weeks ago, he dropped out of school to move to Silicon Valley to give it a try.

Several adjunct professors at Cronkite are working on startups, and the school employs both a technologist-in-residence and an entrepreneur-in-residence. Next door to my lab, a startup Network, Magicdust Television, has launched a hybrid digital media/television show called RightThisMinute that is produced in the Cronkite building and employs Cronkite students.

So it's no wonder that a lot of students at Cronkite and other ASU schools have the entrepreneurship bug, and especially a penchant for social entrepreneurship. Yeah, it's a cold, cruel world and a god-awful economy, but the message over here, at least, is that such a reality only provides another opportunity to do something about it.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Nick Bastian.

December 31 2011

14:51

December 29 2011

00:20

Open Philanthropy Post

Last month, Fast Company’s new blog, FastCo.Exist, published my piece on Lucy Bernholz and Open Data in Philanthropy.

Networked technologies and big, open data are in the process of reshaping nearly every industry–music, health care, education, scientific research, and journalism, as well as the nonprofit sector, civil society, and government. The consequences of long-tail economics and wise crowds are forcing almost every institution to adapt (and hopefully improve) or face obsolescence. Except, perhaps, one prominent sector: institutional philanthropy.

Read the whole piece here.

Share

October 06 2011

03:06

Steve Jobs’ on death: ‘The single best invention’

Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, who passed away tonight, once described death as “the single best invention of life.” Why? He said that’s because death “is life’s change agent.  It clears out the old to make way for the new.” Amazing words from one of the greatest...

July 20 2011

04:37

The evolution of Apple's business: iPhone and iPad are now 66pc of its sales

SAI | Business Insider :: The iPad is already the second biggest part of Apple's business as measured by revenue after less than two years on the market. In the June quarter, the iPad generated $6 billion in revenue versus the Mac which generated $5 billion. The real story for Apple continues to be the iPhone which did $13.3 billion in sales for the quarter. The iPhone and iPad are now 66% of Apple's sales, impressive considering how relatively new the products are.

Continue to read Jay Yarow | Kamelia Angelova, www.businessinsider.com

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