The Evolution of BarCamp NewsInnovation

bacamp newsinnovation 2014

The sixth BarCamp NewsInnovation event just concluded in Philadelphia. I’m sitting at a local coffee shop on a gorgeous Sunday morning to reflect and one thought keeps coming back: The NewsInnovation movement has evolved into a national journalism ecosystem and incubator for experimentation.

This year 320 people – the largest crowd yet – participated. The unconference included timely and relevant discussions and connections on:

For the the first time that I can recall, I was not the only product manager at a journalism event. People – journalists – regularly acknowledged and know the vital need to understand the audience. The Business Model Canvas was mentioned at least twice. There was actually a conversation about defining the purpose of a news organization.

Those are all signs that the BarCamp NewsInnovation movement is evolving in a positive direction. When it began I was an online editor in a newsroom who didn’t know much other than publishing. Today, I’m a product manager for a media company that can create connections between people and businesses in useful and interesting ways. In the next few weeks, I will be a co-founder of a startup company diving into mobile marketing for sports teams through recreating the nostalgia of the baseball card on a mobile app. I owe a great deal of my own evolution to the people, ideas and the like mindset behind NewsInnovation.

BarCamp NewsInnovation was introduced as a way to get people doing great things in journalism together to share, collaborate and encourage others to experiment. The unconference format was intended to get away from presentations and descriptions of best practices that are showcased at most journalism conference. It was and is lead by example, workshops that invite others to participate and ‘how can I help’ conversations.

Christopher Wink and Brian James Kirk, co-founders of, and Sean Blanda, co-founder of Technically Media, have given the BarCamp NewsInnovation movement this ongoing catalyst by hosting the event each year. It will continue to evolve, and I look forward to being a part of it.

Some of the projects I’m currently engaged with

A quick rundown of some of the projects I am involved with inside and outside of regular work. If any of these spark your interest, check them out and give me some feedback. Would love to hear your thoughts.

I work at a media company in Iowa and politics is one of the things outside of work that I follow most closely. We’ve launched a niche site,, without many resources to keep people engaged. It’s a start. We have one internal content resource and two people contributing regularly to compliment curation efforts and wire content.Our SEO efforts need to improve, and we have plans for a couple of features that would help engage with the audience.

Hoopla Music

I’ve been involved with the Hoopla Music project from the start. I enjoy the live music scene in Eastern Iowa, and it’s better than you might think. This site is easy to navigate as include the most comprehensive list of live music shows in the area. From the start, we committed a live person to contact bands and local venues to create the data. It launched about two weeks ago and so far the traffic is low but the audience has had nothing but good things to say.


I’m no stranger to the barcamp experience and when I heard a group of local people in the Cedar Rapids and Iowa City area were starting the process to organize one I wanted to help in some way. I am currently working on the content of the site. It’s live and we formally hope to launch late next week. The goal of the barcamp is to get the creative and innovate minds together in the area and start a dialogue and  do some things that help better the community.

Other ideas I’m working on:

The essential mobile app for Univ. of Iowa college students – The name sounds pretty lofty but all the mobile apps out there seem to cater to the classroom experience. We are working on focus groups to learn exactly what could make the experience of living in the Iowa City area better. So far, the hypothesis centers around these topics: study, drink, recreation, style. We should learn much from the focus groups.

Proactive approach to community contributors – Our company has done well in recruiting and receiving photos, videos and news tips from people who are willing to help us cover the news. But we have no internal mechanism to easily contact them when breaking news or weather events occur. These contributors could also be good sources for community news and events we don’t know about. I’m working with a small group to define the requirements of building a service to group contributors into affinity groups with a trigger to email, text or phone them when it is most relevant.

Mobile strategy – As the web continues to shrink and the need for local media to be more liquid, how a media company plays in the mobile space will be essential to our survival. Not to mention how we make money on mobile platforms.

Product differentiation via storytelling – We have newspaper and broadcast television packages that look and feel very similar on web and mobile platforms. No on is really training or educating well on storytelling on digital platforms. I’m working with a few others to define the training and tools necessary to transition our teams to work that into the everyday workflow.

What projects are you currently working on?


4 reasons to attend BarCamp NewsInnovation 2011

The folks at Technically Media have put together another impressive setup for BarCamp NewsInnovation 2011 which will be April 30 at Temple University in Philadelphia.

I’ll be there. And instead of doing the normal thing of saying how cool it is and how many interesting people will be there, I’ve decided to put together four reasons why journalists and news innovators from around the world should meet me there along with the more than 120 others already registered.

If you haven’t heard of it, this will be the third national BarCamp NewsInnovation. A few years back there were several regional one-day unconference events too. This one has stuck and become a yearly gathering of hundreds of journalism innovators.

Here are four reasons you should be there too.

To lead a session

I’ve led impromptu sessions at past barcamps and have actively participated in others but I’ve never planned a presenation. I don’t have a product or service to pitch but I have an idea that needs developed. I want feedback. I want to lead a discussion this time on community contributions.

Professional journalists are great, but they can’t be everywhere and they can’t cover or engage on every idea or issue. Question I want to develop answers on: How to recruit , how to use the stuff that is submit, how to give it value, how to build a product or brand solely using the community and how to change mindsets at traditional media companies so community contributors are more valued. I have some ideas to present but want more input.

This is just one idea but leading a presentation on any topic is going to be a valuable tool to build on others. Which leads me to my next point.

To collaborate

There has been no better collaboration opportunity for innovation in journalism the past few years than those with those that will be in the building at Temple on April 30. Smart and passionate people willing to engage around an idea will be just a conversation away.

Those people represent organizations such as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, start-ups, small firms and more. Check out the list of people already registered. You’ll be impressed, but no need to be intimated. Everyone comes to participate and engage.

To have two-way conversation

I don’t know about you but I think I’m done attending conferences where one person speaks in front of a large group in a big room giving a PowerPoint presentation. It’s boring and often the most interesting thing is the free pen sitting on the table.

I’m not saying these types of conference are bad or don’t offer valuable information, but after attending several barcamps the conversation and engagement that happens in a small group setting where active participation is the norm, well, I’ll choose that every time.

Free beer

OK so this isn’t a given, but the odds are pretty good. The folks behind BarCamp NewsInnovation 2011 are seeking a sponsor for an after party event to serve . . . wait for it . . . free beer. Who doesn’t like that.

Still not convinced?

OK so four reason may not be good enough. Here is a video and some relevant links of what others have said about past BarCamp NewsInnovation events.

Ryan Sholin: Philadelphia and the pace of innovation

Christopher Wink: BarCamp NewsInnovation 2.0: My take aways and experience

Margarita Venegas: Finding inspiration at BCNIPhilly

Reviving BarCamp NewsInnovation

A few weeks ago Sean Blanda, who among other cool things put on BarCamp NewsInnovation Philly in April, called and asked a good question, and it’s one I’ve been asking myself for several months. In fact, Ryan Sholin brought it up back in April.

That question was basically this: What’s next for the NewsInnovation crowd? (If you forgot or don’t know about the NewsInnovation stuff here is the genesis of the idea and some of the original thoughts behind it.)

(Update – Sean Blanda weighs in: BarCamp NewsInnovation 2, What Should Change)

There were several barcamp-style meet-ups that occurred around the country earlier this year and seemed to come to fruition with more than 200 people in Philadelphia at Temple University. Blanda says there is interest in doing another one this coming spring, which is good to hear.

Several people, too many to name, played a pivotal role in creating the synergy that became the basis for the NewsInnovation push. But it wasn’t enough. We met, we shared great ideas but we didn’t do anything substantive with those ideas. Sholin even hinted at that in a tweet the other day: @ryansholin Love the spirit of #BCNI! (#BCNI being the hash tag for BarCamp NewsInnovation).

To my fault, even the push to continue the NewsInnovation movement has since taken an unintentional backseat. It’s a shame, really, because this industry is in desperate need of solution-seekers. There is no magic bullet or one-size-fits-all solution to the problems. But the collective intelligence can certainly offer solutions and seek out organizations and individuals to try, fail and try again.

Recently, Mallory Colliflower and Lori Marie Todd showed great interest in more barcamp-style unconferences for those interested in media and its future. They are right. We need them now, and we can learn from the past.

We want an affordable alternative to the big annual conferences, with a comparable level of networking and training that you’d pay hundreds of dollars at SND, ONA, NPPA or other conferences. We propose a BarCamp-style unconference. – @loritodd

We’d love to hear feedback on other ways or ideas to establish more affordable training and networking opportunities that don’t necessarily involve staying connected through social media. Another 10,000 words post from Mark Luckie stresses the importance of real-life relationships. I couldn’t agree more, I just wish they were more affordable. – @malcolli

Whether the NewsInnovation label stays or goes doesn’t matter. Simply put, we need more venues where smart, bright, energetic and passionate folks get together and try to solve problems.

Simply getting together, talking and then sharing ideas is not enough anymore. We have to do something. Anything that happens has to be solution-based with someone willing to try it. We can’t compromise on that. We can’t afford to have one more conference or summit or whatever you call it where a bunch people get together and talk and share ideas but nothing ever happens. It’s hard to make that statement because I’m as guilty as anyone in doing that. I have to change my behavior too, and I will.

With that in mind, here are some of the ideas off the top of my head that are topical around the media company where I work. Maybe the next round of BarCamp NewsInnovation’s or whatever they are called can come up with solutions to some of them. I know the place where I work would be interested in trying solutions to any of these problems or I would seek some organization or individual who would.

What ideas to do you have? If there is a consensus I will redo the page and update with ideas. You are welcome to do that as well. Who else wants to be involved? What’s the next step?