OPA InContext

Collab/Space New York Tackles Real World Challenges to Foster Industry-wide Collaboration

By Michelle Manafy on 07/10/2014

Collaboration is the key to the future of digital media and it is essential for survival, according to Mark Glaser, Executive Editor of PBS MediaShift and host of the brand’s new series of Collab/Space events. This week, PBS and the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute held Collab/Space New York at the Ford Foundation. While the day featured a few traditional presentations, the majority of the format took an innovative problem-solving approach that focused on building actual collaboration within the media industry rather than simply highlighting examples of innovation.

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Collab/Space New York kicked off with some ice breaking exercises to set an off-beat and interactive tone for the day, followed by a talk by Atlantic Media VP and GM Kimberly Lau who offered candid insights into how she is trying to increase the pace innovation. While she pointed to Quartz as “a great example of building something from scratch and giving the team the resources they need…without a legacy business to reinvent,” her focus has been on increasing innovation from within that “legacy business.” Though she said that priorities come from the top, Lau emphasized the effectiveness of fostering greater collaboration between editorial and development sides of the business.

This set the tone nicely for a series of five minute presentations from a range of organizations who had an innovative product, development or initiative underway that they wanted to take to the next level. Among the many mini-presentations:

  • NPR Producer, blogs and social media, Wright Bryan discussed the challenges expanding the functionality and adoption of its analytics dashboard.
  • New York Times Data Scientist Mike Dewar showcased the work it the R&D Labs team is doing with its Streamtools toolkit for dealing with live streaming data that isn’t yet capturing the imagination of a wide range of staff so that it can be fully leveraged..
  • Quartz reporter David Yanofsky showed off his Open Source Chartbuilder tool, which he would like to see broader market adoption and mobile-centric development. .
  • Newsroom Development Editor David Biderman from The Wall Street Journal (which was celebrating its 125th anniversary) discussed its progress in creating a fast and easy-to-use Web CMS interface that it hopes will find adoption among the multitude of parent News Corp.’s sites..
  • Daily News’ Managing Director Cyna Alderman looked at the challenges faced as her organization launches an ambitious project to support media startups—not just financially, but by bringing them into the newsroom to closely collaborate on innovation. .
  • Vox Media Designer Scott Kellum looked at the company’s Cardstacks, which underpin its explanatory journalism efforts and expressed the need to improve their discoverability, shareability and scope.

While it included an excellent presentation from News Corp.’s VP of Product Kareem Amin on how he “questioned everything” (and circumvented a fair amount as well) to kick start innovation, the afternoon was primarily devoted to breakout groups that worked on honing their collaboration skills before setting to work tackling the challenges and objectives of the morning’s presenters. As Daily News’ Alderman tweeted, the biggest takeaway was “strengthen your projects through collaboration.” That theme was not only apparent in the enthusiasm the breakout groups exhibited in helping solve the presented problems, but also in the over-arching goal of the day: to strengthen the digital media industry through collaboration among organizations and the passionate people working in them.


photo credit: Anika Anand