Content Ninja's Weblog

An exploratory journey on the edge of newspaper evolution

Do something! April 21, 2008

Filed under: content,innovation,social media — contentninja @ 3:32 pm
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A personification of innovation as represented by a statue in The American Adventure in the World Showcase pavilion of Walt Disney World's Epcot.Image via Wikipedia

Lisa Williams and I talked last week about journalists innovating at the individual level. That may seem like an insurmountable task, but look at startups. What makes them work is not the grinding machinery of business processes; it’s people — a mere handful of people who roll up their sleeves and DO.

So we innovate on the individual level by thinking like a startup, but I concede that we won’t “turn the Titanic” (to borrow Williams’ metaphor) without management support.

Author Scott Berkun, interviewed for AIGA, puts it this way:

“Casual Fridays, innovation offsites or giving people copies of Who Moved My Cheese are all nice things, but have zero direct impact on creativity in the workplace. It’s the behavior of leaders and managers that determines how innovative a group is, and most of what enables creativity is entirely free. You can spend a zillion dollars on creativity efforts, but if the basic behavior of managers doesn’t change, you’re wasting your money.”

CEO Chuck Peters has been “walking the talk” for some time. He’s asking if I know yet how I will do this. I have not mapped all of the abyss, but in the darkness I can feel something taking shape, a mixture of content and context creation, aggregated community-generated context and social tools or their best functionalities used to connect with the community.

Every day I learn something from other voices in the dark. Take Furqan Nazeeri’s blog Altgate. His post, “10 Web 2.0 Tips: $75,” speaks to that entrepreneurial, startup spirit. He created a social network for Obama supporters to recycle used campaign material. He did it cheaply and quickly. No teams to build, meetings to hold or spreadsheets to fill out. It’s a beautiful thing.

Lesson for me? There are three types of community members (emphasis is mine): “My guess is that for every 1,000 members, about 900 are lurkers, 90 are participants and 10 are activists. Each of these segments has different needs. For example, blogs are great for activists, but polls can be a better way to engage participants. The lesson here is to think about these segments separately.

This is why audience discovery is so important and where I’m concentrating my efforts at the moment. What do people want? How can we help? Focus groups start tonight and go all week.

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3 Responses to “Do something!”

  1. Vicki Says:


    I have a page printed off from Gannett Digital called “Roadmap to a Successful Social Networking Site”. #1 is “Recognize that your social networking site probably has a shelf life”. I keep that in mind when I am working on business plans/business cases. The longer it takes to make the plan, the short the “shelf life” of the product!

    Keep up the great work!

  2. Matthew M Says:

    I typically have a “DO” attitude. In all the freelance work I have done my greatest success has been in getting the job done before the client expects a finished solution. If I say I will have a solution in 3 days I try to deliver in 1. Sometimes I deliver the solution an hour after the request.
    I love my father. Growing up he always promised to take my brother and I to Wacky Waters. We never went. I grew up like anyone else, listening to people talk the talk about how they were going to do this and that and nothing ever seemed to follow. I see this in business as well. When it comes to software and web development there are excellent open source communities and applications available to test and deliver industry grade solutions. WordPress being one of them, is an excellent tool for blogging and sharing thoughts such as this. In the business arena careful decisions have to be made in choosing solutions. The problem with this legacy model is by the time a business chooses a solution the next best thing is available by the next best company and your competitors rip part of your market share out your own front door.
    I think we need to innovate, debate and create all at the same time. Write the idea down. Talk about it. Develop a proof of concept and take bids all in the same day, or two if it’s a Friday band jams on the weekend, we must wait until Monday in that case.
    Remember there are no limits either. If you want to taste food as it is being advertised on a TV commercial let’s sit down and figure it out. Certainly there is a solution. Today I was thinking how it would be cool if my bird feeder had some sort of millivolt trigger to tell my camera to snap a shot when birds land on it. I caught a worthless picture of a Red Breasted Grosbeak today…it could have been better if I hadn’t scared it.

    My sleeves are rolled up and I am ready to rock. Let’s do something!


  3. contentninja Says:

    Matthew, they make birdhouses with cameras. Bird feeders can’t be far behind! :)

    I’m tasking with you keeping me on the “do something” path. When I’m all talk and not enough action, prod me. “Wacky Waters.” That’s all you gotta say.

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