Innovation and Incubation Labs
The independent media sector faces broad challenges and opportunities. Business models have been broken by both the migration of audiences and ad dollars to the digital space and a complicated online ecosystem that includes new competitors. The digital revolution has also given birth to many new independent media organizations and created unprecedented opportunities to reach new audiences and latch on to innovative new revenue streams.
But many journalism outlets are having trouble bridging the gap between yesterday and tomorrow’s media. Consortium members can take advantage of the tremendous opportunity the digital revolution provides—but only if they understand the tone, pace, technology, and unique editorial products that thrive on the web and through new platforms. The Media Consortium is offering a dynamic and strategic space to help members understand, navigate and experiment with new ways to overcome crisis and take advantage of new opportunities through our Innovation and Incubation Labs.
TMC members apply to participate. Organized by Media Consortium staff, labs include regular conference calls with participating members and outside experts, one in-person meeting for lab participants, online information sharing/communication spaces and more. This structure provides lab members with the opportunity and space for self-education, peer knowledge sharing, connection to outside experts/tools, and collaborations that can scale up to improve the long-term sustainability of their outlets.
Each lab will result in at least one experiment that all participants will execute. Whatever the focus of the lab, experiments must:
- Have top line goal(s) that can be shared by all participants in that lab.
- Address the focus of the lab.
- Be scalable/replicable.
- An emphasis on experiments that are collaborative or customizable per organization is highly encouraged.
TMC members must commit:
- 1-2 relevant lead staff from your organization to participate in the lab as a liaison for each group [(i.e. can be a different staff member if your organization is involved in one or more groups).] It is strongly recommended that one editorial staff member and one business staff member participate.
- To brainstorming, developing and participating in experiment(s) generated out of the lab.
- The organizational capacity to execute experiment(s).
- To sharing and communicating relevant news and information with TMC staff and lab partners throughout exploration/development phase.
- Participating in weekly or bi-weekly conference calls (depending on phase of project) and one in-person meeting to discuss and develop experiment(s).
- Analyzing and participating in a public end-of-experiment report.
- Paying small fee to cover base costs.
TMC staff commits to:
- Provide $5,000-$12,000 in seed money for experiment developed out of the lab.
- Organize spaces (online, phone, and in person) for members to connect, share information and develop experiments.
- Routinely provide relevant information (articles, reports, resources) on small group lab topic areas.
- Connect members to relevant allies and partners (i.e. technologists, researchers, etc..).
- Work with members to develop and roll out experiment.
- Partner with members to develop and produce a public end-of-experiment report.
Lab structure and schedule
Step 1: Resource-Gathering and Research. TMC staff will gather resources, experts, tools and more for each group to review on their particular topic. Lab participants will be encouraged to share their own resources (articles, reports, allies) that could help inform the conversation. Over the 3-4 weeks leading up to the first meeting, lab members will review the information through online spaces and conference calls to discuss the highlights, implications and address ongoing questions. In addition, TMC staff will work with members to identify and bring in outside experts to help flesh out experiment ideas and identify possible tools as resources to use in the experiment process.
Step 2: Generating Experiment Ideas and Making a Decision. TMC staff will work with members to develop overarching goals for experiments, brainstorm experiment opportunities, and identify needs to support experiment ideas. TMC will organize a one-day, in-person meeting of lab participants to brainstorm and iterate out goals and experiment ideas. As needed, TMC staff will continue to bring in outside experts to help with the brainstorming process.
Step 3: Design and Implement Experiment. Lab participants will work together to narrow down to specific experiment idea(s) to execute. Members will finalize goals, budget, staffing, and time period for experiment. Please refer to the Experiment Criteria (above) for additional requirements. TMC staff will work with members to finalize the seed money it will provide for experiment(s). Over the next few months, TMC staff will also work with members to provide consulting support, regular check-in of members on experiment execution and how/if experiment is matching with goals and needs of participants.
Step 4: Assess and Move Forward. As the experiment nears completion, members will work with each other and TMC staff to identify successes/lessons learned from experiment(s), note specific results and outline next steps needed (including funding) to make the experiment an ongoing part of your organization’s work. This report will be used to inform other TMC members and allies. TMC staff will work with small-group members to use that report for fundraising/marketing opportunities to help members to take that experiment to the next level on a more permanent basis.