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Publishers, this is how hackathons can work for you

Jan Bechler is a serial entrepreneur and online evangelist. Among the many things he does, he is a key member of the 'Media Hackday @ DIS' team, a hackathon organised by Axel Springer Media Entrepreneurs, FIPP and VDZ.

Bechler talks to Cobus Heyl about the value of hackathons to media owners, and about the topic for the next Media Hackday in Berlin this March.

Tell us about yourself?

My name is Jan Bechler; I am an entrepreneur and online evangelist. After working for Axel Springer for some years, I started several companies: Navinum.de, an ecommerce wine company, Finc3, an online marketing agency and Online Marketing Rockstars, one of Germany’s leading conferences for digital marketing. There is more information at www.janbechler.de! [Note: it is in German, but Google Translate is your friend!].

Besides my own companies, I also run Axel Springer’s 'Media entrepreneurs' initiative that brings together the corporate and startup ecosystem. We organise hackathons [Jan participated in his first on in 2011], startup events, and more.

Why hackathons?

One of the challenges for media is to become tech-driven companies, and this will become more even important in the future. It is therefore super important to build better networks with developers and tech experts, and bring better understanding of challenges and opportunities into the company. Hackathons is one way of gaining exposure, including to tech talent.

Have you seen any awesome projects emerge from these hackathons?

The last few Media Hackdays (the one in March is the third with FIPP and VDZ) have delivered dozens of great ideas and projects. They are all completely different: B2B and B2C projects, hard- and software projects, ideas for the mobile web, and so on. It is difficult to name the 'best ideas' – they are all super interesting. 

[See photos and videos from the previous Hackdays on Facebook].

Have any of these ideas been successfully implemented by media companies?

Yes, there are several examples where participating media companies have been inspired by the results from our hackathons, finding ways to work with the developers who created these concepts in the first place.

One such example was a prototype developed at last year’s Media Hackday @ DIS, allowing you to save articles which are then converted into audio to listen to later (for example, when you’re driving or jogging). I cannot disclose company names, but it showed so much promise several publishers have started to collaborate with the team.

[This prototype won last year’s Media Hackday @ DIS. Developed by two, then 19-year old, twin brothers using the team name Pressty, it is an iOS app and Chrome plugin. At the time, it worked with several Axel Springer websites and Der Spiegel. See more on the DIS website and on the Hacker League website.]

The topic of the next Media Hackday in March is the 'connected car'. Why?

So far radio is basically the only media product you can really use in your car. But all cars will have Internet connections, enabling users to access media content. The questions for all media owners are: What roles can your content play in connected cars? What might products and business models look like? The hackathon is a platform to hand the creation of ideas over to super intelligent developers. Who knows what that might be? Give imagination a chance!

[See this recent Nielsen report for more on the connected car].

How can people contact you?

The best way is Skype (account handle: jbechler). Traditional email works as well, although I might take a little longer to reply!

Top reasons to participate in the Media Hackday @ DIS

The next Media Hackday @ DIS takes place on 21-22 March, ahead of this year’s Digital Innovators’ Summit.

As an API partner

  • Low risk experimentation: see what hackers can do with your content
  • Build and strengthen networks within the developer community
  • Get your own teams energised and involved
  • Unearth new talent
  • Have fun

[Note: with a number of API partners confirmed, we will need to finalise the list of partners soon, so please do not delay to get in touch if you want to participate!]

As a sponsor

Associate your brand with the future
Engage with participants – individuals as well as companies
Gain exposure through various channels associated with Media Hackday

If you are interested in becoming an API Partner at the next Media Hackday @ DIS, contact:

If you are interested in sponsoring the hackathon, contact Andre Glazier at FIPP.com.

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