Reflection: Research Panel Discusses News Innovation

The first research panel of the 12th International Symposium on Online Journalism conference discussed news innovations and touched on every topic from R&D to education to creativity.

Seth Lewis, an Assistant Professor at the University of Minnesota discussed the use of open APIs by news organizations, explaining that, “news organizations learn from people outside of the organization and use that to speed up the innovation process within the organization.”

He listed the benefits of using open APIs as:
1. Faster internal and external product development

2. New opportunities for revenue

3. Spreading the brand (as developers create apps for other websites with your content)

4. Building a community of developers

Jake Batsell of Southern Methodist University shared his findings on how millennials used iPad news apps.

His students, the test subjects for his study, were generally not impressed with the apps and actually preferred the news organizations’ websites.

Batsell attributed this to the fact that many news organizations developed their iPad apps with an older generation in mind and aren’t even targeting millennials yet.

Mark Berkey-Gerard of Rowan University examined a hyper-local news venture in Philadelphia. The project, NewsWorks, is part of a larger organization and was partly an attempt to differentiate itself from the parent company.

Timothy Currie of University of King’s College discussed Canadian news conglomerate PostMedia’s use of Foursquare, a geo-tagging social media platform.

He observed that news organizations were only putting a small fraction of their content on Foursquare and looked into the rationale behind these choices.

He discovered that most posts were reviews on restaurants or venues or mass transit stops, content that provided recommendations in places where people were likely to check in and read reviews by their friends.

He noted PostMedia tried to “put them in places where people were inclined to interact socially, similar to having news stands on street corners.”

Carla Patrao of the University of Coimbra explained her research on journalism education for the future.

She noted that there is a huge gap between what journalism students learn in the classroom and what is expected of them in the newsroom.

Students in her experimental newsroom were required to produce and publish their content for the web under more realistic conditions and required them and interact with peers and readers through Facebook.

Nikki Usher of the University of Southern California argued that creativity is possible in the newsroom.

“News is a product of routines” was one of her main emphases as she explored if creativity can blossom in such a regimented environment as the newsroom.

She argued that creativity is abundant in the newsroom in the form of:
1. storytelling

2. gatekeeping

3. content differentiation

4. multimedia elements

5. social media

ISOJ 2011: Examining News Innovations panel Q&A, from Knight Center on Vimeo.