Insights on Innovation: Findings from the News Challenge coming soon

Mayur Patel

In 2007, we launched the Knight News Challenge as a five-year $25m contest to support innovative digital experiments to transform the way communities gather, share and produce local news. The backdrop to the contest was the disruption happening in journalism, with the news industry in great flux. Since then, we have funded over 60 grantees, totaling more than $21m. With the future of journalism open, we made a deliberate effort to invest in a broad range of experiments from open-source publishing tools to journalism education, and from mobile news platforms to data visualization and mapping.

As with all experiments, the key is to learn from them. At the start of 2010, we put in place a multi-year evaluation to understand the impact of winners’ projects, highlight practices that are showing promise and assess the contest’s contribution to advancing media innovation. The initial results from this effort will be completed shortly and we’re excited to share them publicly with you in June! The findings will build on some of the earlier reviews we’ve done of news challenge winners and the contest itself.

Here’s some more detail: In 2010, we partnered with Lucy Bernholz and her team at Blueprint R&D (an evaluation and strategy firm on the West Coast), to put in place a framework for evaluating the news challenge. To date this has included:

  • An initial retrospective analysis to understand the progress winners have made in implementing their projects and the partnerships they have developed.
  • Profiles of individual winners and a set of papers exploring cross-cutting themes in the contest, e.g. news on mobile phone, civic media projects and news games. We started this by looking at the 2008 and 2009 winners, who are far enough along with their projects to examine outcomes. LFA Group, an evaluation firm, has been collecting this information by surveying and interviewing winners, their stakeholders and experts in the field.
  • We also recently put in place a system to help winners better track their progress and outcomes going forward by integrating web analytics and social media metrics into their work. John Lovett from Web Analytics Demystified has been supporting the 2010 winners with this. We’ll be demoing the platform they’re developing to track key performance indicators in the next few months.

It’s our hope that the insights gathered from the evaluation will help winners strengthen the implementation of their projects and help us refine our media innovation efforts. We also hope that the findings will be meaningful for your own work.

Others are also exploring the News Challenge contest independently of Knight Foundation. An example is Daniel Bachhuber’s recent post, which includes an interesting infographic. Check it out.

Stay tuned for Knight’s findings in June!

Mayur Patel is VP for Strategy and Assessment at Knight Foundation.