The Knight News Challenge released a report this week on “Lessons Learned,” from past projects. The report, completed in a collaboration with Arabella Advisors, uses survey and interview data with 2010-2011 winners and is a great resource for anyone looking to submit a proposal for the next challenge — or anyone thinking of starting a news focused project in their newsroom.
1) Figure out what kind of manpower you need. You can mix full time staff with volunteers, but you definitely need a dedicated, paid, group of people to be focused on the project all of the time. Passion is always a plus. We all have a passion for journalism and innovation, so much so, that it’s kind of a boring trait to have. But nothing gets people motivated like being compensated fairly for their time. Think about this in the newsroom: you want more interactive data visualizations. You can’t just ask someone to do it in their free time if you’re serious about increasing the use of them on your site. You need to give someone more money to launch that project or hire another team member.
2) There’s going to be resistance and you might have to rethink your audience. Sometimes resistance isn’t just about the publisher hating innovation; sometimes the product is too expensive, even when it’s user friendly. You have to be open to learning as you roll out a new tool that it might have uses you never thought of. I’ll call this the Twitter Rule — it was about communication. Now it’s about journalism, giving television execs new ideas for engaging with viewers, marketing, and, yes, the spread of cat videos. Who knew?
3) The devil’s in the user interface. You’d think this would be obvious, but apparently not. It’s easy to get the user interface “good enough,” but whether or not it’s attractive is only part of the problem. How does it feel to use it? Is it intuitive? How many buttons do I have to click to add or edit a video component? All of this helps not just in getting funding, but also aids in fighting that aforementioned resistance.
You can read their full report here and check out more profiles of past winners.