From the innovator’s lab to the conservator’s blog

Having spent a week at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies in Florida, and thus weather-spoilt, we were greeted by icy winds upon landing in New York City. But the next days’ schedule turned the heat up, starting with a day at The New York Times, hosted by Bill Horn, deputy editor of the Times’ video desk.

He brought in Paul Smurl, General Manager of Core Digital Products, as well as Adam Ellick and Jon Galinsky who both are in charge of implementing the recommendations of the innovation report. Next came a visit to the Times’ R & D department, one of the most prestigious innovation labs in the media industry.

Chartbeat provides sophisticated analytics of online content for media and advertisers, or anyone else interested in their audiences’ behaviours. Our group was introduced to Chartbeat’s working methods: They assess content quality based on numbers of users and amount of time spent on a website – the longer users stay, the assumption goes, the higher the probability that the content is good and will draw them back.

At the Journalism School of the City University of New York (CUNY), Jeremy Caplan organised three presentations for the group, delivered by the founders and CEOs of the media start-ups InformerlyWiser and Narratively.

Before a tour of the New York City office of Google, John Paton, CEO of Digital First Media, second-largest publishing company in the US, surprised the students by saying: By now he was almost convinced that the transition from legacy to digital media was not feasible. A company had to start from scratch in order to become innovative. Paton’s newspaper group is currently up for sale.

At Story Worldwide and at an evening talk with Jeff Mignon, CEO of ad agency RevSquare, the group was drawn into a discussion on the topic of content marketing also known as native advertising or corporate publishing. “Brands are stories” is the mantra of this new approach towards advertising.

The last visit of the trip brought the students to the digital office of the Metropolitan Museum where they were hosted by Chief Digital Officer Sree Sreenivasan, formerly in the same position at Columbia University, who also coordinates the museum’s social media activities. The Metropolitan has just tried to ride Kim Kardashian’s coat tails on Twitter.

Sree wrapped the imim trip up with his presentation – and corporate communication tips, such as: “Everyone wants a peek behind the scenes.” That is why the museum’s conservators blogged about the restauration of a 17th-century family portrait. And Sree knows how to tell a story: The picture contains what might be one of the world’s first “selfies” – the painter in a mirror in the painting’s background.

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14 students and a piano at Poynter

Some of us are still struggling with jetlag, but the others have arrived at having great conversations at Poynter: For this week’s attendance block in the USA, the 14 Master’s students are being coached by several members of Poynter’s faculty and affiliates in St. Petersburg, Florida. Kelly McBride started the group off with her session, reminding them of the fact that journalists more and more become their own paperboys, being responsible for getting the content to the audience. That perfectly pointed to the week’s theme “Your Content Needs a Strategy”.

Carol Mitchell worked on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator with them, finding out whether they are more introverts or extraverts and how they make their decisions. At lunch break, Poynter’s recently appointed president Tim Franklin has revealed his 100-day plan of re-inventing the institute to the students. At this very moment, leadership trainer Jill Geisler enthuses the students about giving and accepting feedback. And Roy Peter Clark promised to even roll a piano into the seminar room for his session on Friday…

Follow the group on Twitter — next week visiting the New York Times, Chartbeat, Story Worldwide, Google etc.

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A Master’s Degree in Walking the Line

For imim the year ’13 was an auspicious one: It was a year ago to the day that the first cohort of students graduated. Originating from Austria, Malta, Romania and Serbia, the students, all of them media professionals, completed the academic part-time program involving interdisciplinary and intercultural team work. Over the course of their two-year study, they attended seminars in Austria, Germany, Spain, the United States and visited The New York Times, Huffington Post, Die Welt, Austrian Press Agency, El País and many more.

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At the ceremony: imim students and graduates on Oct. 2nd, 2013, at Vienna’s City Hall.

In his speech at the graduation ceremony at Vienna’s City Hall, Wolfgang Blau, Director of Digital Strategy at The Guardian, encouraged the students to walk the thin line between keeping creative and open minds and, on the other hand, discharging their “thorough, but slightly boring” duties of managing their accomplishments.

Did it work out for them? Did they master this ambitious challenge?

“Well”, Dieter Bornemann, an imim alumnus of the first generation, says, “imim helped immensely.” Dieter is a journalist at the Austrian public broadcaster ORF and the elected spokesperson of his colleagues there. As part of one of his projects at imim he created a “social media academy” and introduced a set of social media guidelines for the ORF journalists. He graduated with a thesis on “The Future Implementation of a Multimedia Newsroom at ORF” for which he did a survey among 236 employees of the broadcaster. Besides influencing internal processes, Dieter presented his results twice at conferences of the European Broadcasting Union in Geneva and Paris and is an often invited expert in this field.

Generally, Dieter says that the program broadened his mind: Watching current trends as conveyed by lecturers or as seen in situ during visits to news organisations in, say, the U.S. opened up new perspectives for him. “Two years ago in New York, everyone talked about ‘mobile news’. The trend has only just reached Europe.”

The current cohort of imim students is scheduled to travel to the U.S. in November, for a seminar week at The Poynter Institute and visits of The New York Times, City University, Story Worldwide, Chartbeat etc. There will be many new perspectives to be taken in.

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10 things you should think about when integrating your newsroom

“What does it take to change the newsroom?”: The current issue of EBU’s magazine tech-i (ebu_tech-i_020, page 5) features a synopsis of Dieter Bornemann’s thesis at IMIM_Master. Dieter lists 10 trends he observed when comparing six cases of newsroom integration withtin the EBU community:

  1. Resistance by the journalists is part of the process — the management has to cope with it.
  2. Multiskilling (=one journalist working for many different media types) is less common than working bi-medial.
  3. Political independence is a must.
  4. There is a good chance that the newsroom management will be changed in order to break the resistance against newsroom integration by the middle management.
  5. Multimedia collaboration still needs physical proximity.
  6. The utilization of user-generated content and mobile news needs to be taken into account during planning the transition.
  7. Sharing of content via a proper content management system (CMS) is a key issue in a multimedia environment.
  8. Technology trainings for journalists are crucial.
  9. An integrated newsrooms means more coordination effort.
  10. Professional change management during transition is a must.
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Facing the tsunami: What is the right thing to do?

“We can see the tsunami, but can the others?” José García Avilés, head of the journalism institute of University Miguel Hernández and imim‘s host in Elche/Spain, chose a drastic metaphor to visualize what is currently going on in the media business. Decreasing advertising revenue and increasing usage of mobile devices are just two examples of influencing factors which can be seen both as causes and as symptoms of this tsunami, forcing legacy media to change and start ups to pop up.

The third attendance block of the Executive Master’s program in International Media Innovation Management – imim focused on the overall topic of “what the media does to society — and vice versa”. Tying in with his seminar in Berlin, Romanus Otte, General Manager at Welt Digital, started off the week with letting the students pitch innovative business ideas for the regions they come from, for the people who live there. The winning project, a passionate proposal for press freedom, came from Macedonia.

Together with José, Klaus Meier (University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt) not only discussed current concepts in journalism studies such as product vs. process journalism with the class, but also advised the students on their research proposals. Program director Andy Kaltenbrunner integrated national examples of media politics issues into his seminar, featuring a new law restricting the freedom of research in Namibia and Lafka kiosks controlling newspaper distribution in Bulgaria.

Karen Sanders discussed several examples of media ethics with the international group, asking them: “What is the right thing to do?”. Wrapping up this year’s sessions in Elche, Bill Horn, deputy editor of the New York Times’ video desk, shared information on workflow, audience and innovation management at one of the biggest brands in media business. He assigned the students to work on a video project they will have to present upon arrival in New York City, where the course of imim studies will take them to in November.

Photos by Félix Arias and Fátima Navarro.

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Who wants to work in a multimedia newsroom? — or: How imim students shape the future of media

47 questions to survey the attitude towards a multimedia newsroom: that’s what Dieter Bornemann evaluated in an online questionnaire among his colleagues at the Austrian public broadcaster ORF. Dieter is not only their elected spokesperson but also a first-cohort student of the Executive Master’s program in International Media Innovation Management — imim who graduated in October 2013.

Alexander Wrabetz (CEO of Austrian public broadcaster ORF) using Bornemann's thesis for his presentation of the future ORF newsroom. (c) Wimmer

Alexander Wrabetz (CEO of Austrian public broadcaster ORF) using Bornemann’s thesis for his presentation of the future ORF newsroom. (c) Wimmer

Recently, Dieter’s thesis has been used to argue the meaning of a change process at the ORF and other traditional broadcasters: in external and internal discussions like board meetings. Even the European Broadcasting Union EBU invited Dieter to Geneva to present his conclusions to all EBU members.

207 journalists of the station’s TV, radio and online news answered the survey about the introduction of a multimedia newsroom. Dieter evaluated how ORF journalists approach a convergent workplace. Besides, he compared six radio and TV stations — from the BBC to Danish Broadcaster DR — and how their journalists’ work changed in a multimedia environment.

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imim – where “weak ties” promote creativity and innovation

“First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin”? For imim students, this Leonard Cohen song would have to be sung the other way around: After having met at Berlin University for Professional Studies last week, they will meet again in November in Manhattan for visits at The New York Times and other media companies (in between, there will be two more attendance blocks in Elche and Madrid/Spain and at the Poynter Institute/Florida).

The Berlin week focussed on improving innovation managers’ soft skills — especially in terms of communication and leadership — by reflecting on their cultural, professional and personal background. The week started off with Gerhard Apfelthaler lecturing on intercultural differences in media economics and management. Gerhard, who is Dean at California Lutheran University and one of the beta-testers of GoogleGlass, spoke about the cultural traits that enhance innovativeness, such as individualism. According to him, individualistically oriented U.S.-type cultures are more productive and acceptant of new problem-solving methods than collectivistic ones (not that individualistic cultures don’t have their downsides, as well).

From professional to personal

British-Swiss media management professor Lucy Küng analysed innovation strategies in media corporations and provided the students with solutions for problems in their day-to-day work. One of her most important “take-away messages”: In order to create an environment which fosters innovation, boost your weak ties! According to social network analysis, each one of us has “strong ties” (family, friends) and “weak ties” (people, with whom you share an interest). These weak ties help stimulate our creative and innovative abilities — much more than our closest relationships. Lucy characterised imim as one of these innovation-fostering environments.

On the personal level, Thomas Bauer supported the students in improving their communication skills; he will follow up with a seminar on leadership in 2015 and will also provide feedback on the group’s development.

Visits at Welt Digital and KircherBurkhardt

A highlight of the week was a visit of the content marketing agency KircherBurkhardt, where founder Lukas Kircher inspired imim students not only with his venture’s portfolio, but also with his entrepreneurial spirit. He recommended keeping a close eye on media channels like The Verge (created in cooperation with Vox Media; former Washington Post journalist Ezra Klein just announced that he would found a new publication at Vox). 

A second highlight was, Romanus Otte, General Manager of Welt Digital, inviting the group to the publication’s brand new newsroom. Though part of Welt Digital, daily Die Welt just happens to be printed on paper. Editor-in-chief Jan-Eric Peters had a off-the-record talk with the students in order to explain Welt Digital’s strategy. 

For the next attendance block in Spain, Romanus Otte gave the students the assignment to come up with ideas for start-ups or projects in their respective countries. The task will be rounded off by students presenting their projects to foreign investors in a mock “elevator pitch”: Each student is allocated about 1 minute to pitch their idea to a fictitious investor whom they happen to meet on the elevator.

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Students’ talk with Jan-Eric Peters: “Try to live the change”

This gallery contains 3 photos.

Thursday evening, Jan-Eric Peters, editor-in-chief of Die Welt, joined imim students and faculty during their Berlin attendance block for a background talk. “We still are at the beginning of the digital revolution”, Peters said. His publications’ editorial and production team (online, … Continue reading

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Newman’s Predictions for the New Year

At the end of each year, Nic Newman, who is a Visiting Fellow at Oxford’s Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism and lecturer at imim, looks back. And then he looks ahead — and shares his predictive insights in a report (the full document can be read here).

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(c) Netflix

The overriding trend is format disruption, in every sense of the meaning: Regarding the TV market, Newman regards “House of Cards” (with Kevin Spacey) as setting standards. The Netflix production was released in a way that allowed “viewers to watch at their own pace”. Currently, according to Nielsen, 38% of US households use Netflix’ on-demand service (p. 8f). This model will threaten classical TV’s business model, Newman says. He also predicts a “dramatic loss of audiences” for public service TV: “down 10% year-on-year” (p. 12).

For newspaper-like content, all that disruption results in a layout that conforms more to the standards of real-life visuality, not to the ones of printing machines: Newman mentions Medium (created by Twitter founder Evan Williams) as an example for “single image hero panels” that seem to replicate head-up displays instead of classical navigation bars (cf. p. 30). Even hardware formats (think of wearables, like Google‘s “Glass” or Samsung‘s smart watch) or advertising formats (native ads) are disrupted. We should not be surprised: 2,500 years ago, Heraclitus asserted that the only constant is change.

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(c) Columbia

In terms of content, the “improved reading experience on tablets” and “tools that let you save content for offline reading” makes people read longer pieces again and revives their “taste for substance” (p. 19). That might lead to making media consider charging for their articles more seriously: Newman predicts that the Guardian — one of the fiercest opponents of paid online content to date — and other UK national papers will introduce at least a “paywall trial for some specialist content” (p. 26).

Furthermore, traditional publishing houses such as the New York Times or Axel Springer invest heavily in video storytelling (p. 20), shooting their own documentaries. Even content marketing explores new audiovisual online formats — Pharrell Williams’ 24-hours interactive music video “Happy” sets a milestone (p. 22).

Publishers’ consolation: Facebook faces disruption, too. Newman states that in 2013 teenagers were leaving the social network “in droves”. But the condition of new and old media is the same: People “are not abandoning Facebook“, they are “just experimenting with additional spaces” (p. 15).

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First step of imim’s journey taken

Tired?! Thanks to all of you for these eight inspiring days!! For a review of what happened during the program last week, please have a look at this.

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Martin Schipany, Tanja Paar, Naser Selmani, Paulo Rebelo, Michael Vielhaber, Karin Strobl, Markus Kichl, Ongame Angala, Martina Pock, Alina Tsonkova, Sonja Sagmeister, Manuela Kosch, Georgi Makaradzhiyski, Konstantin Vulkov

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