mixing it up engaging news partners

Mixing it Up: Engaging News Partners

It’s been an amazing launch week for the Knight-Mozilla News Technology Partnership (aka “MoJo”). We saw hundreds of tweets every day, coverage by 15 news outlets and blogs (plus lots of re-posts), almost 200 sign-ups on our new community list serve, and over 20 news organizations have already asked me how to get involved.

We also received our first bit of critical feedback publicly.

Regarding our first cohort of news partners, Tom Foremski wrote at the Silicon Valley Watcher:

It would be better to concentrate on the smaller media organizations, especially neighborhood newspapers. These have fewer resources and need the most help in transitioning to a new media economy.

The first and most important thing to say is that we welcome feedback like this. The partnership will only thrive if hundreds or maybe thousands of people check in with their ideas and questions.

With so many news organizations responding to the announcement, I too have been thinking seriously about how we recruit and support a great mix of news partners.

To Foremski’s point, our priority is to shape the marketplace of news applications by offering solutions built on open technology. Marketplace intervention requires a certain scale. But there is definitely a place for smaller organizations in the partnership.

When this partnership is over, it will be judged largely by how widely its innovations are adopted. To develop robust technologies that are easy to use – for small and large news organization – most of our news partners will have enough technical capacity that their fellows can focus on tinkering and experimenting with new ideas, rather than the day-to-day grind of helping organizations make their first new media transitions.

If we’re successful, we’ll help thousands of news organizations large and small by providing a new toolbox of open technologies that anyone can use (and repurpose).

That said, smaller news organizations come with special assets like deep localism and entrepreneurial grit and different perspectives on the emerging media landscape than larger players.

It’s a commonly held tenet of innovation theory, from Surowiecki’s “wisdom of crowds” to Karim Lakhani’s work on Innocentive, that diverse perspectives make innovation networks stronger.

I believe our news partners should be representative of the media ecosystem at large and include neighborhood newspapers, community media outlets and new startups.

The big question for me is how we involve a mix like that, especially since we only have 15 fellowships available.

What kind of value can we offer to news organizations throughout the partnership, whether or not they get a fellow in the end? Here are some things I’ve been thinking about:

  • Knowledge: we’ll offer a series of virtual and real events convening people on the frontiers of open web technology and journalism. This material will be available publicly, but perhaps the calls, webinars and events can be offered to organizations that sign up as news partners first.
  • Profile and Community: we hope that people will want to affiliate with the innovation community we’re building. It’s an opportunity to find support and new colleagues, and to offer one’s expertise through the innovation challenges and online courses. I look forward to building meaningful relationships with all of the news partners and will be available to listen and direct people to the resources we develop.
  • People and ideas: for any organization hoping to grow its innovation capacity, I hope this partnership will offer a rich intellectual resource and a great talent pool.

I hope to hear back from people. Beyond the fellowship, are these valuable offerings? Is there something else we could add?

Please drop a line here in the comments or join the conversation on our community list.

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