DI Tour 2015 wrap: Nieman Lab, Thought Industries, MIT Media Lab and more

Boston common ()

View of Boston city from the city common

In this, the third update from the tour FIPP’s Cobus Heyl highlights some of the discussion points from the last two days.

Read the DI Tour day one update here 

Read the DI Tour Midweek update here

From mobile to wearables and data

Although the Nieman Journalism Lab’s focus is on newspapers rather than magazine media, some of the key areas of interest are not that different: mobile (“the change from the web to mobile is as big as the one from print to the web”), distributed content, wearables, design (and user experience) and native advertising.

Nieman Journalism Lab ()

Arriving at the Nieman Journalism Lab

Another key feature is data. Where in meetings in New York, the value of data in the editorial process was shown, in a meeting with Longitude Media in Boston the value of data in developing advertising opportunities across the full marketing funnel (on a side note, Seth Nichols, CEO of Longitude Media, explained and showed powerful examples of why publishers should not think of themselves as publishers but rather as marketers, providing solutions throughout the funnel to clients).

Seth Nicols, Longitude Media ()

Meeting with Longitude Media’s Seth Nichols

eLearning is a legitimate publisher opportunity

LinkedIn recently announced an acquisition of Lynda.com for an estimate $1.5 billion – a sure sign of the growing importance of this market segment. Thought Industries (a FIPP member already working with the likes of Rodale and F+W Media) was at the recent Digital Innovators’ Summit in Berlin, and the DI Tour group had the opportunity to meet with co-founder and CEO Barry Kelly, who explained the market opportunity for publishers and brands in great detail.

The four key reasons, apart from market needs and trends, why it’s an opportunity for publishers are:

  • Content: It is an opportunity to “add a further dimension” to your content, he explained, in line with various other ways in which publishers leverage content across platforms and channels.
  • Talent: Publishers are born storytellers. Packaging existing content into learn products is another form of storytelling. Publishers have the expertise to do this, and do it well.
  • Audience: Publishers have audiences congregated around their brands, who may well want to learn more about a field they already show some interest in (e.g. the reason for buying a particular magazine)
  • Marketing: Publishers have established marketing platforms, channels and expertise, linked to above audiences through which to sell learning opportunities

Kelly explained to the group several revenue models enabled by the Thought Industries platform, from free, ad-supported, freemium, once-off purchases and subscriptions.

The four Ps of creative learning

In today’s multidisciplinary world, collaborative work is imperative in fostering creativity and innovation. In previous DI Tour updates, I mentioned how companies are bringing together different disciplines into small, nimble teams to drive output forward (e.g. editors, developers, designers and data analysts working side by side).

MIT Media Lab ()

Welcome at MIT Media Lab

MIT Media Lab’s four Ps of creative learning provides a reminder of the importance of being creative in today’s world, and how to achieve it. This could very well be applied to media businesses today.

  • Projects: spanning the physical and digital.
  • Peers: people work together, reach out to one another and learn from one another (even if they are not working on the same projects). It’s a community that shares expertise.
  • Passion: People “learn longer and harder” when they care about the things they are working on.
  • Play: Experiment, take risks and don’t be afraid to fail. 
Inside MIT Media Lab ()

Inside MIT Media Lab

Distributed content across social platforms

The question of whether or not to hosting content natively on social media platforms (i.e. hosted on the platform, not linking out to the publisher website) came up in several meetings during the tour. The bottom line is to be in as many places as where your users or potential users find themselves. 

Insofar Facebook’s reported plans for publishers to host their content directly on the site, the view expressed at the Nieman Journalism Lab was that Facebook is such a significant factor, publishers have to (at least) give signing on and experimenting very serious consideration – especially if they can get first-mover advantage. In the end, however it will come down to detail: whether the terms on offer make sense.

Flowing from several discussions on the topic during the week, a thought that struck was this: in the past, publishers developed audiences around their content, creating and owning client relationships. If your content is hosted elsewhere, who owns the client?

A future in verticals

Overall, one of the key messages emerging from the tour is that there is a future in verticals, niches binding together people around deep interests. It is an area where print continues to perform well, but moreover one around which diversified revenue streams such as events, ecommerce and other opportunities can be developed – developing 360-degree models, so to speak.

Google shares insights (off the record)

The last visit of this year’s DI Tour was to Google, where the meeting focused on Google Play and Google Newsstand. Participants were shown some key figures and plans, but this was “off the record” so the information cannot be shared, safe to say to it was well worth the visit.

Google foyer ()

The Google foyer

Following the Google meeting, we held a debriefing session where participants shared their highlights, discussed key lessons as well as key take-outs they wish to implement immediately upon their return to their businesses (participants were mostly from Europe and Asia). 

Thank yous

A special word of thanks has to go to eMediaSF’s Ray Min and Beate Borstelmann, who not only organised all the meetings, but every single logistical detail, including fine dining and engagement and networking opportunities for participants with company leaders and among ourselves.

DI Tour participants ()

DI Tour participants (mostly) studying the menu at The Union Oyster House in Boston. Opened in 1826, it is said to be America’s oldest, continuously operating restaurant. (Experience pays off: the food was divine!)

In the same vein, many thanks to all the companies who hosted the DI Tour, sharing data, plans and insights in a forthright manner, engaging openly with questions and generally making everyone feel very welcome.

And last but not least of course, to all participants who contributed to the success of the tour.

About the DI Tour

The annual DI tour is an extension of FIPP, VDZ and eMediaSF’s successful Digital Innovators’ Summit in Berlin. This year’s DI Tour (with 25 participants) visits companies in New York and Boston, the USA, from 20-25 April. 

Companies visited

  • New York: The Daily Beast, XO Group, Huffington Post, Time Inc., The Content Council, IMPRINT, Atavist, CNN, Domino and Quartz.
  • Boston: Nieman Journalism Lab, Thought Industries, MIT Media Lab, McGovern Institute for Brain Research, Longitude Media and Google.

Check FIPP.com regularly for news about future events and tours, including to other parts of the world.

More like this

Read the DI Tour day one update here 

Read the DI Tour midweek update here

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