Three Lessons from Collab/Space New York

Jul 16, 2015


Article ImageMediaShift's Collab/Space is not the kind of conference where attendees shuffle from room to room to listen to one presenter after another. Founder, publisher, and executive director of MediaShift, Mark Glaser, has created a different kind of event. While there are a couple of keynote speakers, the real meat of the conference comes from (what else?) collaboration.

This year's Collab/Space New York took place on July 15 at the Ford Foundation in Manhattan and focused on "intrapreneurial innovation." Eight presenters-from companies like PBS, The Atlantic, and Thomson Reuters-gave very short, five minute presentations about new initiatives or projects at their companies, and the challenges they were still trying to solve. Eventually, attendees broke out into groups depending on which project interested them the most, and helped brainstorm possible solutions--which were eventually presented to the entire conference.

I learned a lot, as did the other attendees--which I know because throughout the day attendees had to introduce themselves to the larger group, and people who went toward the end of the day had to share what they had learned--but a few lessons stood out above the rest.

The Importance of Sharing

If your family is anything like mine, when you were a child they may have told you, "Sharing means caring." But at Collab/Space, being willing to share your triumphs and challenges means getting lots of--essentially free--advice from industry veterans you may never have had access to in any other setting. Many companies would be concerned about sharing too much proprietary knowledge, or giving away their strategy secrets, but by being willing to share their stories, presenters at Collab/Space gained access to a wide variety of expertise from across the media industry. Meanwhile, attendees who were willing to help their colleagues tackle tricky issues no doubt got a boost in creativity, and went back to their offices with new ideas of their own.

Big or Small, We All Have the Same Challenges

When you work at a small media outlet or publisher it's easy to believe that bigger organizations with more resources have it all figured out. That's not true. For instance, The Atlantic, which recently redesigned its homepage, disclosed that it is still testing different layouts to optimize its content density, and is trying to figure out how to get homepage visitors to dive deeper into the site. The BBC.com International was struggling with similar homepage issues. To which I can only say, "Aren't we all?" Engagement. Optimization. Loyalty. These are words that all digital publishers struggle with on a daily basis.

There Are Still New Audiences Out There-You Just Have to Know Where to Look

While many of the presenters were struggling with different versions of similar problems, one stood out: AP's Deaf Access News. Did you know that 95% of deaf and hearing-impaired people rely on closed captioning to get their news? And 63% are relying on websites and reading, but the average deaf high-school graduate reads at a fourth grade level. In other words, closed-captions and text-based news don't cut it when it comes to delivering the news to this community. Up until now, no one has really tried to address this on a large scale. But Deaf Access News hopes to serve this market by providing news in American Sign Language. There are a lot of questions to be answered. Where do you find talent? What platform works best? What's the business model? But with millions of deaf and hearing-impaired people in America, it's clear that this is an opportunity that cannot be overlooked.

(Image courtesy of Shutterstock.)