Nerding Out with News Nerds

Originally published on January 9, 2015.

A few months ago I went to an awesome event called SNDMakes, hosted by the Society for News Design in Boston. It was so awesome it made being in Boston for Jets-Pats on a Thursday night worth the pain and suffering. Well, almost.

SNDMakes is truly unique — it’s part conference, part discussion, part ideation, part hackathon, and all genius. It brings together the greatest minds at the intersection of technology and media — designers, editors, developers, journalists, product managers — and charges them with tackling some of the most pressing questions in the industry. For this iteration of SNDMakes we posed the question “How might we improve the content creation process?”, and spent the next three days discussing, brainstorming, and finally breaking out into groups and prototyping ideas.

My team built PrePost — a tool to preview your content across social media and other platforms before it’s published. (shoutout to my awesome team — Kawandeep, Chris, Nathan, and Fink!) I was blown away by the ideas built in such a short amount of time, check out these write-ups and videos to see what went down:

In case you couldn’t tell by now, I loved everything about SNDMakes. Here are some of my takeaways from a great weekend:

  1. We all face the same challenges.

It’s easy to complain and assume that other companies have it all figured out. In reality, we all have similar challenges as we try to push the media + technology landscape forward. SNDMakes had representatives from the NY Times, Vox Media, Washington Post, Slate, Knight Lab, ESPN and many more, and on day one we all started to realize we were speaking the same language. Whether it’s covering breaking news, presenting an evolving story over time, or optimizing the creation process, we articulated problems that sounded pretty familiar.

2. We can learn a lot from each other.

This sounds suspiciously warm and fuzzy, but it’s true! It’s an exciting time for media companies as we push the boundaries of how technology can revolutionize journalism. The industry (and, more importantly, consumers) has a lot to gain from shared knowledge.

3. Great minds build great things.

The best investment a media company can make right now is in hiring digital innovators. Whether that’s technologists, designers, product managers, journalists, and beyond — it’s the best and only way to move forward. Listening to the discussions at SNDMakes and seeing the prototypes built in 24 hours was a true testament to what can happen when you bring smart people together.

4. The content creation process needs help.

This inspired an article I wrote for Nieman Lab’s 2015 predictions for the future of journalism. Content creation often plays second fiddle to the user-facing experience, and that needs to change. Media companies need to realize that editors and writers are their most important users.

5. We need more events like SNDMakes.

SNDMakes is a truly unique event that brings smart people together and lets the magic happen. More conferences, events, and meetups should take a page from what the SND team has done. Thankfully it sounds like there’ll be many more SNDMakes to come next year!

Written by

Head of Product @theSkimm, prev @ESPN, forever engineer and API nerd, tragic Jets and US Soccer fan, dancer, traveler, often backpacker.

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