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Home » How media companies can field test the future: Dan Pacheco on his new book | What’s New in Publishing

How media companies can field test the future: Dan Pacheco on his new book | What’s New in Publishing

Experimenting with Emerging Media Platforms by Dan Pacheco—Peter A. Horvitz Chair of Journalism Innovation at the Newhouse School—teaches how to independently field-test and evaluate emerging technologies that could impact how media is produced, consumed and monetized in the future.

Most media companies accept that they need to be constantly innovating. On the one hand, breaking new territory can prove to be lucrative, especially if they can establish new business opportunities before their rivals. At the same time, not innovating can leave companies floundering, relying on dwindling revenues from outdated business practices.

Yet researching, and ultimately delivering new ways of generating income is never an easy task. Many of the innovations that media companies pursue turn out to lead to blind alleys, and deliver products that have little impact. Conversely, when innovations pay off companies sometimes have scaling issues in handling the challenges that the new levels of growth deliver. All this against a backdrop of keeping staff happy and motivated while ensuring that existing business routines continue as usual.

One man who knows more than most about the pace of change in media companies and how they should cope with it is the Peter A. Horvitz Chair of Journalism Innovation at the Newhouse School Dan Pacheco.

Before he opted for a career in academia Dan spent many years as the pilot of innovation at the Washington Post and AOL, two companies that have consistently been trailblazers during the digital era. Dan admits that his time in media companies was something of a rollercoaster ride.

Nevertheless, Dan has learned key lessons that he has chosen to share in his new book Experimenting with Emerging Media Platforms – Field Testing the Future.

Although ostensibly targeted at academic audiences it nevertheless contains a great deal that will be of interest to media executives, in both the theory of how they should drive and deliver change, but also in the series of case studies that are a large chunk of the work.

“This book can be used in a class, but I intentionally set it up so that it can also be used by somebody who just wants to tinker, get out of their comfort zone and start making things digitally instead of just consuming. It works for someone in a media company who is looking for ways to help their staff get up to speed, because I think every media leader really wants their people not to just do whatever they’re told to do, but to try new things.”

Practical solutions

Dan hopes the book will prove to be a useful resource for media leaders especially in helping them cope with one of the main obstacles that limits innovation – finding the time.

“There are a lot of excuses that people have. ‘I have 16 things that I’m doing right now. I don’t have time to do this as well etc.’ With the approaches in this book, I prove that most people have time to tinker. It doesn’t really take that much. And I come up with little templates on the book’s website, where people can become familiar with simple coding and other things, and then from that point onward, then they’re actually creating things they didn’t realise they could do from their phone from your laptop.

Another issue that Dan discusses in the book is the tendency for people in both media companies and academia to discover a new technology or process and then become obsessed with it at the expense of other things. Dan’s advice here is that media executives should never be an expert in anything that is currently trending.

He argues that this is because “things are going to change. Okay, you should understand enough of it. Learn enough to be dangerous. You should understand how it works. But you don’t need to become an expert.”

He illustrates this by talking about how he has often been portrayed in the media industry as something of an authority on using Virtual Reality. Yet he says that Apple could come along and introduce something that completely changes VR which might supersede what he already knows.

“It’s shifting sands,” says Dan. “I don’t spend a whole lot of my time trying to optimise everything to create the best types of VR. I’m always looking at what’s new in this immersive space?”

Theories of innovation

Also on a practical level the book goes into detail about the various overarching theories of innovation and how they can be interpreted in the media landscape.

Dan believes that TAM, or the Technology Acceptance Model to give the concept its full title, is the one media people need to be most au fait with.

“TAM is really simple. If something is effective and amazing and helps people’s understanding of information or really engages them then it has negotiated the TAM model.” 

In other words – is it useful, is it easy to use and what external variables will impact its adoption?

Yet for technologies to reach this point demands long and sometimes complex journeys.

“I’d say, for every 50 things you try. 49 of them are not going to work. And you get that one, and you’re like, Okay, I think there’s something here right? And there are technologies like virtual reality, augmented reality, 3d Web, open source, general drones, chatbots, AI and automation that came out of this distillation process.”

If this all sounds a tad overwhelming, don’t worry, Dan’s book is full of case studies that show how technologies have been incorporated and ultimately integrated within media company’s offerings, not always successfully. There is plenty of advice and a lot of learning. Ironically when dealing with emerging technology hindsight about how previous innovations fared can be their springboard.

Experimenting with Emerging Media Platforms – Field Testing the Future is available via the website here

Dan will also be presenting at the upcoming FIPP Congress 2023 in Cascais, Portugal in June.

Originally published on The blog

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