Amy Eisman, School of Communication

Director Media Entrepreneurship & Interactive Journalism

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  • Cracked the Code 

    photo 2Just returned from a fabulous conference in NY for women digital news entrepreneurs. Cracking the Code was sponsored by the International Women’s Media Foundation and the Ford Foundation. Had to cut out a little early, but what I saw was refreshing, enlightening and diverse. Get the full flavor by checking the Twitter stream under #Code15.

    If it seems corny to call it “Success for Women Digital News Entrepreneurs,” I would disabuse yourself of that thinking. It WAS about success; no looking back to why it was so hard and more looking forward to how to replicate it. No wah wah wah woe is me.

    I took lots of notes, but instead will just share some one-liners that keep drifting to the top of my event memory. (The speaker/panel list was awesome, ranging from Amy Webb, CEO of WebbMedia and Ferai Chideya of everything to Mariana Santos, founder of Chicas Poderosas and director of Interactive and Animation at Fusion.)  As my seatmate noted at an afternoon panel, this is where Buzzfeed and Huffington Post and MediaBistro were the mainstream organizations in a room full of orgs like News Deeply, Nonny de la Pena’s Emblematic Group and Elmira Bayrasli’s much-heralded Foreign Policy Interrupted.

    Some takeaways:

    … Webb asked us to think less about scale and more about impact; she insisted we put audience before device …WBEZ shared the value of asking your listeners what they want; the responses changed the narrative (people wanted history, for example) … The co-founder of Foreign Policy Interrupted said that women should stop worrying about being perfect experts before accepting an offer to appear on TV because she said men just dive in …

    There was a definite argument for the subscription model from the founder and EIC of one depending on it, The Information … One of my fave speakers (she honors my class with a lecture every semester) was Mandy Jenkins of Storyful who says the career path has changed; working in journalism is not a ladder “but a jungle gym.”…

    … Laura Amico of Homicide Watch (on the panel called “The Rise of Single Subject News Sites”), told entrepreneurs to consider 1) what is success 2) how is it measured and 3) what is your exit strategy … Shazna Nessa, Knight’s new director of journalism and formerly of AP said on a panel about “intrapreneurs” that what worked for her was “patience … ” … There was talk of checking one’s “unconscious bias” to making sure “men are part of the solution” to just being smart about business.

    Overall, it was a beautiful event with effective “ignite talks” and plenty of time to schmooze. I’m going to borrow some ideas.


  • The data-visualized, structured, immersive podcast — animated and wrapped in a Vine 

    I am lucky to be involved with two MA programs – one in Interactive Journalism and one in Media Entrepreneurship – and sometimes they intersect. This is one of those moments. Recently I asked the world’s most plugged-in digital journalism professors (they live in the Online News Association’s Educators Facebook group) to share examples of the freshest ways to tell news and stories; their story formats hail from “traditional” newsrooms to startups – all organizations trying to succeed by doing good work in a creative way, while hoping to bring eyeballs to the screen.

    There are so many formats beyond Snowfall these days – immersive, Vine, structured, animated, dataviz, podcasts – it is no surprise that single-topic, hyper-curated sites are blossoming at the same time.

    Some storytelling examples, in no particular order, follow. I will continue to add.

    1) Storytelling via animation (In Jennifer’s Room, by The Center for Investigative Reporting – “A harrowing tale, told with simple illustrations, about what happened to a young developmentally disabled woman in a place that was supposed to keep her safe.”)

    2) Stories told through Vine (see this wrap-up of the six-second focus on riots, protests and Ebola coverage via The Guardian)

    3) News games as storytelling (BBC interactive lands you on a comet)

    4) Storytelling via more complex multimedia layers (the everything bagel from Boston Globe’s whale package)

    5) Storytelling via liveblog (NPR turned to Tumblr during Ferguson due to technical issues)

    6) Lisa Williams shares a powerful data visualization on US drone strike casualties in Pakistan.

    7) Lisa points us also to more snowfallishisness with WBUR’s Bulger on Trial about James “Whitey” Bulger, who was a fugitive for three decades before being caught.

    8) The complexities of an exciting and controversial podcast, via Serial.

    9) Pitchfork’s profile-with-playlist (H/T Jena Heath)

    10) Storytelling via Curious City, a WBEZ Q&A, with community input. (H/T Linda Fantin)

    11) Storytelling like Planet Money/T-Shirt that “maximizes audience engagement and user experience,” says Curt Chandler

    12) Storytelling as an illustrated documentary series, like Correspondent Confidential from VICE by Carrie Ching. (H/T Curt Chandler)

    13) Storytelling in The Guardian’s organized, multimedia mashup: Snowden (H/T Bob Sacha)

    14) Read it also in Chinese — Forging an Art Market in China, The NYT (H/T Jena Heath)

    15) Immersive storytelling via Des Moines, Oculus Rift

    16) The famous Vox card stacks — structured storytelling.

    And Berkeley’s work-in-progress categorizing all the different forms of storytelling … (Thanks, Paul Grabowicz!)

    17) Ferguson VR via views of witnesses





  • ONA14: ‘Transitioned into era of transition’ 

    The Online News Association continues to amaze, and this year’s annual conference, drawing 1,700 participants, totally delivered for me (Chicago isn’t a bad backdrop either).

    As I tweeted earlier, this year it morphed from being a gathering for digital journalists to being the conference for … journalism. If you missed it, check out the videos, posts and social media feeds and of course, Amy Webb’s packed trend session where, among other things, she said 2015 is the year of privacy. It was her most intellectual talk yet, beyond gadgets and apps into the very essence of journalism.

    Amy introduced us to an untraceable Blackphone, as well as suggested we explore immersive technology; understand algorithmic curation of journalism; and try our hands at covering an event on Snapchat, just to explore the challenges of content that, well, disappears. Think about the legal implications, she said.

    It was no surprise Amy owned the room. She always does. But it was an extra big year for women, from the Lady Leaders panel where there was talk of protecting young women from getting stuck in “the impostor syndrome,” to the news startups panel where News Deeply’s CEO said there is a “swagger gap” – women don’t have the same swagger as men and thus don’t compete as well for funding.

    Like others, I scrambled to write down apps, tips, names, orgs and ideas, but it can be overwhelming. So this year I decided to step back and capture just a few of the themes that got my attention.

    Startup and design thinking is center stage: I’m happy to see entrepreneurial thinking slip so comfortably now into journalism’s shoes. People are getting more welcoming of constant change, even excited about it. “We’ve transitioned into an era of transition,” Heather Chaplin said at one point. And in the NYT Innovation report session, there was the reminder that we must build newsrooms “out of Legos, not bricks.”

    There’s a hunger for context. This is pretty obvious in the 24-7 vise we live in. But journalists are doing something about it. Vox cards. Explainers. The coming launch of “Ebola Deeply” and single-topic projects, not unlike Wikipedia. Apps to measure not only people being followed, but whether that means they are truly influencing people. The Ferguson panel showed that perspective matters (local vs. national, documentary vs. news), which was really obvious when each journalist shared a video. Bottom line: It seems we’re all tired of the noise – particularly those of us producing it.

    Digital millennial journalists define careers by adding onto skill sets, not adding onto titles or hungering for brands. Place doesn’t matter as much as what they are doing. Disclosure: I am involved with the MJ Bear Fellows (committee chair), which spotlights journalists under 30. Doesn’t mean I still can’t be impressed with them, as well as the AP-Google Scholars. The session, expertly led by Benet Wilson, turned into a therapy session for news execs hungry to know how they think. But the best part is what they did; Beatrice Katcher, the AP-Google scholar, is trying to figure out how to get kids involved in news; Aaron Williams, an MJ Bear Fellow, has coding down pat and wants to further apply it to journalism; Anika Anand, also an MJ, works to track the impact of news stories. They are forging new paths.

    I didn’t get a chance to do the workshops or training sessions, so I hope someone else can fill in on those. But overall, I found this a strong moment in journalism’s trajectory and am happy to be on this ride.





  • &nbsp And they’re off Meet the most recent… 


    And they’re off … Meet the most recent students in Cohort 3 of the School of Communication Master’s in Media Entrepreneurship program at AU, all of whom started their classes this fall.


  • Content is … hot? This says investors are interested again 

    Forbes: “Matter’s managing partner, Corey Ford, says he’s seen growing interest in media startups among venture capital firms and media organizations.” Read it here.


  • Great resources capture growing number of Media Startups 


    Favorite this list of startups in media, globally.


  • There are ways to make money at this … 

    Whether you agree or not, this is an awesome list on SLATE of 76 ways to make money in digital media.


  • Mobile. Mobile. Mobile. 

    This was shared on the ONA Educators FB group … Worth sharing here. Most digital media consumption happens on your smartphone. More than tablets, desktops. You knew that. But here is some proof.


  • Which revenue stream is the answer in media? 

    Jeff Jarvis deconstructs the recent efforts at Forbes, and talks about various streams that may have hit some rocks.


  • Entrepreneurship educators: How to set up a partnership 

    My colleague Lynne Perri and I recently pulled together our thoughts for PBS MediaShift  on why we at AU decided to partner with 1776, a startup hub in downtown DC. We are one of three schools at our university using the space; other universities are just getting on board. Basically, we think it is great for students and faculty … So far our expectations came true.


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