14 May 2012

Africans launch digital news contest

The first competition for digital news innovation in Africa has just been launched and closes in July. Winners will be announced on 10 November 2012.

Winners get cash prizes of up to $100,000 plus business, technical and marketing support. Finalists will be invited to a camp in Tanzania in August for workshops with mentors and industry experts.

Proposals can be submitted by news pioneers anywhere in the world, though they must have an African media partner to help develop and test the innovation.

This innovation challenge focuses on journalism and the news media. The organizers are looking for disruptive digital ideas for improving the way that news is collected and disseminated. This includes tools or strategies that use the Internet, mobile platforms, data driven journalism, computer assisted reporting, digitally augmented reality, or other electronic means to improve the relevance and impact of news media. 

Winning ideas should be focused on providing pragmatic solutions to real challenges facing African media.

Innovations are being sought in four broad categories: news gathering; story telling; audience engagement; or the business of news. Within these categories, the judges will look for ideas with the following goals:
  1. Strengthen existing media platforms, or harness new digital platforms for engaging audiences and transmitting news other journalistic content.
  2. Improve the way news reaches audiences, from traditional circulation / airtime management to newer disruptive ‘cross platform’ channels.
  3. Amplify the relevance and usefulness of news by improving the immediacy, depth and accuracy of journalistic content.
  4. Enhance the impact and ‘shelf life’ of news by extending its influence and intrinsic value for both audiences and content services.
  5. Deepen media’s understanding of its audiences and markets by improving user analytics, audience profiling and market segmentation.
  6. Boost the media’s resource base by diversifying business models, developing new revenue streams or improving operational efficiencies.

Finalists will be invited to the OpenNews Camp in Zanzibar, Tanzania, in August for one-on-one workshop sessions with business development mentors and other industry experts. Finalists will use these sessions to refine and strengthen their proposals, as well as develop implementation plans and budgets ahead of final judging.

Winners will receive cash grants of between $12,000 and $100,000, plus additional business development support, technical mentorship, and marketing support. Winners may also be offered opportunities to pilot their projects in AMI member newsrooms and showcase the results at international conferences or to venture capital funds.

All entries have to be made on the competition website: http://africannewschallenge.org

The African News Innovation Challenge (ANIC), is a pan-African contest designed to support digital innovation and experimentation that improves the quality and impact of African journalism. It that aims to accelerate innovation in news organisations by funding transformational ideas and then continuing to support them through a network of peers and advisors. It encourages new digital tools and techniques for ‘making’ news, new ways for audiences to engage with news, and new models for media organisations to sustain themselves. The idea is that the contest will support new media experiments and digital news startups in data driven journalism and investigative reporting, newsroom management, audience engagement, digital convergence and media business models.
ANIC is modelled on the Knight News Challenge in the USA, customised to address the challenges facing African media.

ANIC is run by The African Media Initiative (AMI), the industry association that is Africa’s largest umbrella body of media owners and executives.  AMI’s mandate is to serve as a catalyst for strengthening African media by building the tools, knowledge, and technical capacity for the media to play an effective  ‘public interest’ role in African society. This includes assisting with the development of professional standards, financial sustainability, technological adaptability, and civic engagement.  AMI believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged.  

ANIC funds news experiments and digital media startups in order to help cover the costs of developing, testing and scaling a new digital news venture or product.

Good luck!

11 May 2012

Best Free Tools To Make Infographics

Here is a great selection of tools for presenting data in visually compelling ways. 

As Fast Company notes, "it's not enough to simply write about data any longer; the world wants visuals."

A set recommended by Fast Company:
Many Eyes, by IBM;
Hohli for venn diagrams and scatter plots etc.;
Wordle, for word clouds; and
Visual.ly for not only creating, but also sharing infographics.

Link to post: The 5 Best Free Tools For Making Slick Infographics | Fast Company

Another great set of tools can be found here.

"Datavisualization.ch Selected Tools is a collection of tools that we...
 work with on a daily basis and recommend warmly... (and) will make your life easier, creating meaningful and beautiful data visualizations."

This list includes Web apps such as Stanford University's DataWrangler, for data cleaning and transformation, GeoCommons, a public community and set of tools to access, visualize and analyze data with maps, and Impure/Quadrigram, a visual programming language to gather, process and visualize information.

Read more about this collection at The Next Web

See also:

06 May 2012

Understanding the publishing process

Publishing a document can be harder than it looks. If you have ever had to help a colleague, boss or client get a document published in a ridiculously short amount of time, you will know how helpful it would be if they understood all the steps involved, what could go wrong, and how much time is required.

If only all clients could be well informed. At least you can educate yourself, and a good place to start is this promotional video by the company Inís Communication, which focuses on the development sector. Since Inís offers a wide range of publishing services, the video provides a useful overview of the types of issues involved in developing a corporate document.

This information could be helpful for anybody who asks the question 'why does production take so long?'. After all, they probably just ran over time on developing and agreeing on the text and want to see the finished product already! A quick look at this video should clarify that a professional document requires some important decisions and involves a series of steps that take time. While some of these steps can be compressed, run in parallel or even skipped, you risk having a poor result. And if you are planning a major document for your institution, it is likely that you cannot afford to take those sorts of risks.

Publication steps
Procedures covered in the video include:.
  • Client consultation (getting a clear brief from the person or team that wants the publication). What is the expected outcome? What is the overall scope of the project?
  • Target audience and format. Messaging and tone, print vs electronic, overall nature of the result and how it will be used (what do you want to achieve as a result?).
  • Filling the blanks: research and re-writing to get the contents to reflect the intended result. This addresses tone and length, structure and content, and overall messages and impact.
  • Editing (language appropriate to the audience, accuracy, grammar and ease of reading). Note that this is a crucial stage and cannot be easily truncated. If your document was written by a member of your staff, or had inputs from a whole range of people, there is a strong possibility that the text simply does not match the needs of your target audience. Many institutional texts need substantial editing and even re-writing before they become truly accessible to diverse audiences. 
  • Design (layout concept, visual identity, style and impact). The same as your prior documents? Or something new: modern or traditional, serious or fun?
  • Layout (illustrations, photos, use of colours and space). This is also the stage for the final proofing of text. It is your last chance to correct errors (but the text should already be edited! This is also not a time for re-writing, so plan accordingly). 
  • Adaptation to other outputs e.g. web, ebooks etc. (these should have been planned in advance).
  • Production - printing, XML and web, loading into ebookstores etc.
Don't forget the final important steps in promoting your publication! Consider how it will be released to the news media and other defined audiences. Will it be online in time for your public announcement? Are the files big enough to download or send by email? Should you put them on digital platforms like Issuu or Slideshare? Will it be sold or released through Amazon or the iTunes store