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Behind the Hearst immersive hack

After many months of planning, “the weekend” finally arrived. On October 24 and 25, Hearst co-presented the Hearst Immersive Hack in Brooklyn, NY. For those unfamiliar, a hackathon is an event in which developers, designers and entrepreneurs collaborate intensively on software projects in competition with other teams.

The hackers are incentivised with prizes and free food (and energy drinks!) as they code throughout the night, usually for 24 hours. Why would Hearst do this? The answer is simple: to spark innovation by letting smart people think outside the box.

For the Hearst Technology team, the benefits of a hackathon are very evident. We get hackers to use and provide feedback on Hearst Magazines’ APIs (in simple terms, APIs are sets of requirements that govern how one application can talk to another). For this hackathon, we teamed with Hearst VP of Engineering, Jim Mortko, to open up the typically-private Hearst APIs. Our APIs are full of content—28 titles, 1.1m articles, 100 thousand galleries and 3.8m images.

The Hearst Technology team is constantly looking for ways to innovate and provide unique experiences to consumers. Right now, the most exciting consumer experiences come from immersive technology, specifically Augmented and Virtual Reality. In fact, some industry experts forecast this new industry of immersive tech will reach $150bn by 2020! Keeping in mind that this tech is still in its early stages, there remains a great deal of untapped potential for innovation, making it the perfect theme for this hackathon.

The Hearst Immersive Hack was not the company’s first public hackathon. In February 2013, the Hearst Fashion Hackathon was a great success, so we had a high bar to live up to. To maintain our high standards for hackathons, we also introduced three new things to set this hackathon apart—a new collaboration, inviting startups to participate and providing immersive gear to the hackers.

The Made in NY Media Center by IFP is a transmedia storytelling co-working space and community based in Dumbo, Brooklyn. The Media Center is a membership of producers, filmmakers and technologists, so we saw it as the perfect space to connect hackers.

One of the big goals of the Hearst Immersive Hack was to give early startups a chance to participate. This would set our hackathon apart and also increase the likelihood of being able to work with the established startup following the event. With that in mind, we created two challenges for this hackathon—the Fresh Code Challenge (for hackers) and the Startup Challenge (for, you guessed it, startups). In addition, there would also be a big grand prize open to both hackers and startups.

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Source: Hearst Corporation

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