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February 15 2011

13:04

INNOVATION’S “i” IS THE SOLO WORLD’S BEST-DESIGNED NEWSPAPER OF THE YEAR

More good news for INNOVATION from the Society of News Design.

Lee Steele reports:

In its 32nd annual The Best of Newspaper Design™ Creative Competition, the Society for News Design has named Portugal’s inewspaper, a daily that launched in 2009, the World’s Best-Designed™ Newspaper.

Newspaper: i (short for informação)

Launched: 2009

Based in: Portugal

Size: Compact format, saddle-stitched, 250 x 345 mm or 9 ¾” x 13 5/8” with the trim

JUDGES’ OVERALL STATEMENT

As judges, we may have been more surprised than anyone to see that only one paper ended up on the World’s Best list in 2010. In fact, we carefully “parsed” our decision — reached by secret ballot, hence the surprise — to see why one publication edged out the other world-class newspapers on the table in the final round.

In this era of great upheaval in media, the decision came down to innovation.

Many publications we saw are clearly operating at the top of their game, and have been tenacious and intelligent enough to emerge stronger from the economic battering of the last few years. But Portugal’s daily newspaper, i, stood out for its ability to take the best of the visual language of newspapers, magazines and other publications and create something new that is more than the sum of its parts.

It’s compact. It’s fresh. It’s consistent, yet full of surprises.

Its magazine-like size allows the reader to hold the newspaper close; the format invites the reader to engage more deeply. The publication is packed with information, yet extremely well organized, using elements of layering and editing to draw readers into every page.

i walks the line between newspaper and magazine with perfect balance. Its format supports the kind of flexibility that lets it focus on hard news one day and features the next. The editions we saw featured a lead story about a great author one day, then strong reporting of the Haiti earthquake the next. We encountered stories told with a sense of urgency and newsiness, and others told with subtlety and humor.

The paper delivers traditional newspaper content with new, engaging presentation.

This causes us to wonder: Is this where newspapers are going? Is it where newspaperscould go, or should go?  Can new techniques make print even more vibrant and relevant?

WHAT WE LIKED ABOUT i:

The covers appealed to our curiosity, using techniques like thoughtful cropping of images to add intrigue. Color and variety drew us to the publication, providing provocation and an intellectual challenge. The cover featuring the Jose Saramago illustration “is amazing,” said one judge. “I just want to eat it. Every page offers up things that you want to devour.”

It’s smaller than most tabloids (250 x 345 mm or 9 ¾” x 13 5/8” with the trim) and it is saddle-stitched, so it holds together like a magazine. Readers can easily fold pages back, navigate without difficulty and — perhaps — concentrate without the distractions encountered with larger, unbound formats.

Designers are clearly thinking about the way two facing pages work together, whether the stories are related or not. This creates a flow that encourages reading without interruption.

i is composed like a beautiful piece of music. It has the discipline to play only the high notes that matter most. For example, it uses its full bleed capability sparingly. It creates strong impact, even with small things. The surprise of occasional whimsy makes the content inviting.

The publication has a steady grid structure, type and color palette that create a strong platform for difference and surprise. The grid and space look effortless. But there is more complexity than it first appears.

Typography is classic, not trendy. From very large to very small, the principles of scale and contrast apply throughout their type palette. Sans serif feels serious; the serif is more playful. It’s a wonderful contrast.

Headlines are relatively small, but pop within the context of the page.

We found color on every page, yet it is used purposefully, with smart pacing. It’s as though the designers are using a highlighter to clue the reader in to what’s important. One judge called this “print search optimization.”

The palette is rich. Cyan, magenta and yellow create a base for navigation while richer colors provide depth and contrast.

Details in the informational graphics are lovely. They are efficient, distilling ideas down to their purist form. Icons are very simple, easily discernable.

A minimalist approach allows larger treatments to stand out. One example: a two-page graphic that starts the cover story for the “Zoom” section.

i has even rethought the ubiquitous weather page, with a smart approach to organization and color. The compact approach communicates lots of information quickly.

Much of the photo play in i is like a mini reportage. Informational photos are used well, often organized in a series. Most of these images aren’t huge, but they are used proportionally within the design. We were amazed at how compelling we found spreads that didn’t actually include a dominant image. The structure of the page tied it all together.

Mug shots are set up within a round frame. This balances the very rectangular format. It’s a nice trick. It softens the hard edges.

CONCLUSION

What we recognized in this year’s winner was its fresh, unique approach. “i” can inspire visual journalists and publishers anywhere in the world to rethink their models and revise or create new ones that best serve their audiences. They may look nothing like i.It won’t — and shouldn’t — represent everyone’s treatment.

We encourage all designers to apply similar creativity and tenacity to finding their own voice and expressing it with conviction and excellence, no matter the size of the staff or access to other resources.

The judges:
Haika Hinze, Die Zeit
Heidi de Laubenfels, The Seattle Times
Svetlana Maximchenko, Akzia (Moscow)
Carl Neustaedter, Ottawa Citizen
Sara Quinn, Poynter Institute.

What the SND report  doesn’t say is that “i” was from scratch an unique project of INNOVATION lead by Javier Errea and working since the first day with a brilliant team of founding editors (mainly Martin Avillez Figueiredo, Andre Macedo and Nick Mrozowski) that doesn’t work anymore for a paper that with less resources than ever still keeps the same creativity fire.

To all of them (past and current editors and designers) must go all the credit.

For the full story see the chapter about “i” in our 2010 INNOVATIONS INS NEWSPAPERS.

Over 200 pages of “i” can be seen in Flickr

January 03 2011

16:28

INNOVATIONS IN MAGAZINES IN TODAY’S HUFFINGTON POST

A review of our first INNOVATIONS IN MAGAZINES World Report.

The 2011 will be ready in a few weeks.

Get a copy of the 2010 here.

Sponsored post
soup-sponsored
04:52

July 30 2010

21:00

Luckie them: meet WaPo’s new National Innovations Editor

Big news today, both for The Washington Post and for its newest hire: the multimedia journalist Mark S. Luckie. [Go ahead, get it out of your system: Insert your favorite "Luckie" pun -- "the WaPo gets Luckie," "WaPo's Luckie charms," etc. -- here.] On August 23, Luckie — the former multimedia producer for California Watch, the current proprietor of the 10,000 Words blog and Twitter feed, and, let’s not forget, the possessor of one of the most delightful profile pics on the Internet — will join the Post’s newsroom as its National Innovations Editor.

Journalists, if you’re looking for evidence of the professional power of the personal brand, this is it. Luckie embodies the kind of learn-it-yourself/do-it-yourself ethos that is increasingly common — and even essential — in digital journalism: gather the tools you need, build a community, follow your own interests and passions and quirks. And if you’re (sorry!) Luckie: good things will come. As the soon-to-be-WaPoer tweeted of today’s news: “So happy right now I can barely eat my French toast : D”

I chatted with Luckie this afternoon; though many of the specifics of his role are still TK, he clarified a bit of what his Important-Sounding New Title will actually entail: experimenting with tools that will allow for better production on the Post website; fostering conversations and online engagement among readers; devising new methods of crowdsourcing. Pretty much your basic “innovations editor” job description — with the important caveat, Luckie notes, that the job will have a particular focus on “finding out what works for the Post.”

In other words: his role won’t be simply to “find out what’s cool and what’s hot,” Luckie says, but to “actually develop a strategy that will help not only the Post, but also the readers. Which is a big thing that I care about.” To that end, experimentation will be key, he says — but experimentation that’s respectful of the Post’s readership. “I don’t want to say, ‘Oh, we should be doing this’ if it’s not something that would work for the Post audience.”

But, that said, Luckie will look to other companies — non-journalism outfits like HBO and even NASA, he says — for ideas that he can steal for the Post. “I think the Post recognizes, and is moving toward, more digital integration — not just having a website, but having a destination. And an interactive destination.”

And in terms of that other interactive destination — the 10,000 Words blog — will Luckie be maintaining it once he’s started his new, uh, post?

“Yes!” he says. “I’m going to keep it going. I can’t not blog. I was in the museum the other day — I was just there to relax — and I was like, ‘This would make a great blog post.’ So that was a signal to me that, yes, I need to keep the blog going.”

June 02 2010

13:00

The art of the (public) cover letter: Journal Register staff apply for ideaLab spots via blog comments

After last week’s successful completion of the Journal Register Company’s Ben Franklin Project, CEO John Paton was looking for a new project that would keep the momentum of innovation going for the beleaguered newspaper network.

Enter the ideaLab, JRC’s new strategy to “equip 15 Journal Register Company staff members with the latest tools and give them the time and money to experiment with them.” Journal Register will carve out 10 hours a week from ideaLab members’ current jobs, Google-20-percent-time-style, “to allow them time to experiment with these tools and report back on how we can change our business for the better.” And, out of advance recognition that ideaLab commitments might seep into staffers’ free time, the company will ad an extra $500 per month to those staffers’ pay.

Paton is currently in the process of selecting the company’s ideaLab members — and, to do it, he’s asked Journal Register staff to apply for the positions. Publicly, if they choose:

In about 200 words or less, email me at jpaton@journalregister.com or post on my blog what you would do with the tools and time to improve our business. Any Journal Register Company employee in any division or any department – part-time or full-time – is eligible. I will involve our Advisory Board ( http://bit.ly/dyhkVK ) in the selection of the 15 staffers and we will make sure the ideas of those chosen will be posted on my blog and the Ben Franklin Project site.

Now, the ball is in your court. Over to you.

What happened next was pretty remarkable: Journal Register staffers took that ball — and ran with it. Paton’s post has received over 150 comments — nearly all of them from Journal Register employees, best I can tell — and nearly all of them lengthy, thoughtful, and earnest. Cover letters, in comment form.

Here’s one from Joe Cahill of the Montgomery News:

Despite just officially joining JRC as a part-time employee, I have spent the last five months interning with Montgomery Media in Pennsylvania. As a college student majoring in Communications, working in multimedia journalism has been the fulfillment of a life-long dream. I have always dreamed of working in the journalism industry, and having the ability to utilize my passion for new technologies and multimedia production while doing so has proven invaluable to me.

Since its inception, I have followed the Ben Franklin Project diligently. I’ve worked alongside one of the editors, Andy Stettler, for the past five months. Andy, a friend and former classmate of mine, has taught me volumes during my tenure at Montgomery Media, and I continue to work alongside him to produce the best possible content for the company.

I would like to humbly submit myself as a candidate for JRC’s ideaLab. If chosen, sir, I promise to spend every waking second as an innovator, and using the tools and time given to me to both better the company and better myself as a student of Communications. Thinking differently is what I do best, and working for the ideaLab would be my chosen calling.

And one from Marissa Raymo of The Oakland Press:

With the ideaLab technology, I would like to explore ways to develop mobile websites for our newspapers (in addition to the mobile apps that are already in development). For example, the New York Times has both a downloadable application for iPhone/Android/Blackberry platforms and a mobile website (mobile.nytimes.com) that can be accessed without any downloading.

I would also research additional revenue opportunities through online advertising, etc. I recently tested a new online revenue opportunity through backlinks on our newspaper website. Since newspaper sites are generally highly ranked pages, our advertisers may be able to increase both their websites’ page rank and traffic through direct links on our newspaper websites (which cannot be made through our banner ad serving software). With time and technology, I believe that this could be developed into a very profitable revenue opportunity.

Most importantly, I would use the ideaLab to find ways to make our entire internet presence more user-friendly to the generations that were not raised on this technology. I look forward to the innovations and renovations to come. Thank you for the opportunity to grow with this company!

And one from Victor Ciarrone of The Morning Journal:

John,

As an account executive for The Morning Journal, I am excited about the direction the company is heading as a multi media news company. The Ben Franklin Project is very intriguing.

One of the main roadblocks we run into, as reps, is ad production. The time from receiving the ad material to the final proof can take days, sometimes weeks. With a faster turnover on ad production, our time on the street may increase.

10 hours a week will be spent on incorporating the iPhone, iPad, and Netbook into the success of our sales staff. These three products can be utilized for the production of ads right in front of our clients. Using the iPhone to collect data, composing the ad with the iPAD, and delivering the final result with the net book. (Plus the Netbook weighs much less than the laptop I am carrying around – might save me from a hip replacement later on in life.) It will be a fun opportunity to find innovative ways to help our company succeed with the goals we have in place. Timed saved on production is more time on the street building relationships and contributing the success of where we as a company want to be in the near future.

Have a wonderful week and I hope to hear from you.

Victor Ciarrone
The Morning Journal
Retail Advertising

There’s much more in that vein. Anyone in the company can become part of the ideaLab, Paton told me — and while, “so far, one of the best applications is from an intern,” he’s also received applications from publishers of Journal Register papers. “It’s all departments, part-time, full-time. If you’re one of the 3,106 people on our payroll, you’re eligible.”

It’s pretty remarkable to see journalists essentially applying for jobs in the open (though the comments, Paton notes, don’t include the many emails he’s received containing similar cover-letter-like expositions). But the public-auditions phenomenon Paton’s post encouraged is of a piece with the transition toward transparency he’s been trying to inculcate at the company. “This was a crappy culture here before, at JRC, and hardly known for innovation,” Paton says. Staffers have “been screwed on pay, they’re been screwed on benefits” — trust in executives, understandably, has been low. But the ideaLab, both in its formulation and its application structure, is meant as a kind of crucible of cultural change. Like the Ben Franklin Project, “this is a way of making them think differently about the process.”

“The courage and tools to experiment”

It’s also a way of liberating Journal Register journalists. “When I started in this business in the ’70s — probably because we had more money than God — we weren’t afraid to experiment,” Paton notes. “Newsrooms used to be places where people hated to follow process, weren’t very good at rules, didn’t like authority, saw themselves as independent, and were generally anarchists — and proudly so.” Now, though, “dollars are challenged, and people are much more afraid to try new things.”

But giving journalists the freedom to experiment — reviving that spirit of independence and even rule-breaking — can be good business as well as good journalism. The Journal Register sites, Paton says, have gone from serving around 100,000 video streams this January 1, to, as of April — after the staff, later this winter, were given Flip cams and the mandate to use them — around 1 million. “So people can do this — if you give them the courage and tools to experiment.”

And how will the ideaLab leverage those goods? Basically, its members will be “free agents,” Paton says — they’ll be given tools and simply asked to experiment with them and find new ways to use them. There will be no real rules, “other than that we’re going to make sure you get 10 hours — so 25 percent of your work week — free.”

The idea for the ideaLab itself, Paton notes, actually came from Jay Rosen, a Journal Register Company advisory board member. (“As a CEO, my greatest gift is theft,” Paton says. “I used to be a rewrite man — I can take anybody’s good work and make it mine.”) Rosen sent Paton a note suggesting that the company put together a group of innovation-minded employees who could spearhead the company’s efforts at innovation. “And I thought it was a pretty good idea,” Paton says. But though it was the CEO who implemented the experiment, Paton notes — and here he loses some of his idea-thief cred — “all credit for the ideaLab goes to Jay Rosen.”

Of course, it’s not a given that the innovation-via-staffers approach the JRC’s ideaLab concept endorses is the best way to create value in a news organization. In the most recent episode of their Rebooting the News podcast, Rosen and Dave Winer discussed the idea — and Winer objected to the org-centric, supply-side-focused sensibility the ideaLab implicitly endorses. “I think you’re barking up the wrong tree,” Winer said. “I think these guys ought to go learn what their customers want. They ought to get on the other side of the fence — I think that’s where you’re going to find the answer.”

Still, there’s nothing to say that experiments oriented toward the demand side of news production couldn’t be part of the group’s mandate. In fact, when it comes to the ideaLab, pretty much anything is fair game, Paton says. The team will hold no regular meetings or conferences or check-ins; the idea is simply to give smart, knowledgeable, enthusiastic people the freedom to experiment, and see what happens. Paton, who ran news operations in Europe and Canada (as well as the U.S.) before taking the helm at Journal Register, has a farm in France; he’s learned, from cultivating it, the benefits of letting things bloom, organically. “I don’t want to manicure anything anymore,” he says. “I don’t want to be one of those guys on his John Deere, up on the lawn, making it cute. And I think that’s what this is going to be like: Think of it as wildflowers instead of a nice, clipped garden.”

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