In an effort to not bury the lead, my news today is I am going to be the new Product Strategist at Postmedia Labs, headquartered (locally) at the Edmonton Journal. New job! New responsibilities! New places to eat lunch! (Downtown lunch recommendations welcome.)
Now then, on to what I think that means about community, or: the long read begins.
With media of all kinds being rocked continually by digital innovations, I think two things lead the way in allowing a media source or producer to stand out and remain relevant. The first is original content. Even the Huffington Post could only get so far re-purposing news content, and original content is what will drive Netflix’s continued growth.
On a smaller scale, or at least in more local media situations, the audience being a part of the process, in some way, shape, or form, is a key. That’s why I find this new opportunity at Postmedia Labs so exciting. While the newspaper arm of the company continues to create content, this startup branch is creating community-based projects to try and establish the newspaper of record (here, the Edmonton Journal) as a true hub of local knowledge, information sharing, and connection. It creates two-way conversations instead of old-style media which just pumps out content.
It’s these kinds of projects, these kinds of chances, from media organizations that will set them apart in an increasingly crowded social media stream. I think in a couple of years it will be projects and products like Capital Ideas, Gastropost, local events, and even bold ventures like the Winnipeg Free Press’ News Cafe, that help traditional media creators continue to do what they do (understanding that “what they do” is also changing). By connecting with the audience, by learning from and listening to them, new products are going to launch, new communities will be fostered, and maybe a little money can be made along the way to keep things afloat. And, really, everyone wins a little bit if we’re working together toward success.
The community aspect of Postmedia Labs is what draws me to the job.
For the last seven years I’ve been the Manager of Accessible Media Inc. (AMI) bureaus in Edmonton and Winnipeg. It’s been a tremendous opportunity and I’ve been a part of many great productions in audio and video which made media forms more accessible (such as audio versions of print material), highlighted disability issues, and helped this pioneering media organization work towards its important mission of making all media accessible to Canadians.
A couple of years back, I was also one of the two editors of local community website (and TV show) the edmontonian. Even with 14 years in traditional media this was probably where I learned the most about journalism and audience. My partner, and the main contributors who helped make the edmontonian what it was, taught me news and media is nothing without an audience and really becomes something special if it’s got the same audience top of mind while producing content.
At AMI I learned about Canada’s disability communities, and keeping them front of mind meant AMI’s shows and stories always had a reason to be produced and thus served a community. At the edmontonian, it was all about Edmontonians (obvs.) who were part of the conversation, and part of the editorial team when they wanted to be. Otherwise it would have just been Sally and I yelling at the Internet. Building up a community, and around one, is what made the edmontonian work and what makes AMI so unique in Canada’s broadcast system. Lessons I won’t soon forget.
Personally, this is an exciting opportunity for me because it’s my first step away from media work. While Postmedia is a large media company, the Labs is a startup within the larger corporation and doesn’t create editorial material like the newsrooms do. I also get to join a great team at the Edmonton location of the Postmedia Labs (Karen, Brittney, Vickie, Sam). I can’t wait to get over there to work with them and the many community partners they’re building with.