Thursday, January 10, 2008

thinking differently at the BBC

The BBC has taken a page from Google's 20% time concept (where all engineers at the company get to spend a day a week on their own projects) and is allowing certain staffers (sounds like mainly their new-media folks--why not spread it through the whole newsroom) to spend 10% of their time working on new ideas.

It's a brilliant idea that has already produced one concrete product (an iPhone-optimized podcast page) with more great ideas to come, I'm sure.

Hearing this reminds me of the origins of Richard Koci Hernandez's Mercury News Photo website. After having the idea of some webspace dedicated exclusively to photography and multimedia rejected by management, Hernandez and another colleague at the San Jose Mercury News decided to build it anyway, dedicating countless nights and weekends to building a website from scratch (they had to teach themselves everything). Once it was completed, they went back to management and said, essentially, "You know that site we told you about? Well, it's done. Can we use the newspaper's name on it?" And they demoed the site for management, got the OK to use the logo, and went live, hosting the site on servers they paid for out-of-pocket. The site now garners tons of hits and does multimedia journalism better than almost any other news site I've seen.

It's exactly this type of thinking that will save existing newspapers and magazines. The next great idea is lurking among your own colleagues and staff, they just need to be given the time to make it a reality (along with the leeway to make mistakes along the way). With new cuts being announced every day and seemingly no new ideas forthcoming, what's the risk?

(BBC story originally via Teaching Online Journalism)