Two Days In Chicago To Improve Your Tech + Product Management Skills

We're pleased to announce a special two-day gathering in Chicago, September 28-29 where we'll be assembling some great speakers from INN member organizations and beyond to help news leaders better understand how to manage technology and product design in your organization.

The workshop will take place on the campus of Columbia College in Chicago and will be geared toward executive directors and editors, along with news technologists, with the goal of raising tech literacy of leaders at nonprofit and independent news organizations.

The workshop takes place on the two days before the LION Publishers Conference on the same campus to help members save travel costs.

The event is FREE for INN members and we are  pleased to extend registration at a discounted rate to LION member organizations.

Thanks to the generous support of the Mozilla Foundation, travel reimbursements also are available for INN members to attend the training. (Please apply here for travel funds.)

Register here.


These are our confirmed sessions and speakers as of this writing but this is subject to slight change as the event draws closer. All times are CT.

Wednesday, Sept. 28

10 - 10:30 am -  Welcome and introductions. Sue Cross and Adam Schweigert, INN

10:30 - 11:15 a.m. -  Congratulations, you’re a product manager! Journalists love telling great stories and they’ve developed the skills and experience to do it well. But now you have to (also) think about how to distribute those stories, who you want to reach, what impact you want to have and, above all, how to turn that into a business. Congratulations, you’re a product manager! Speaker: Rebekah Monson, WhereBy.Us

11:30 - 12:15 p.m. - Planning and budgeting for tech projects. Tools and techniques to eliminate the guesswork. Speakers: Amanda Krauss, independent consultant and Adam Schweigert, INN

12:30 - 1:30 p.m. - Lunch (provided) + Lightning talks from attendees and mentors. Prepare a five minute talk and share something you’re passionate and excited about. There’s no requirement for these to be tech related; could be about projects at your organization, side projects or other interests you have to share.

1:45 - 2:30 p.m. - Beyond pageviews: Getting the most out of analytics and impact tracking. An overview of the latest best practices around measurement and impact tracking. Speakers: Lauren Fuhrmann, Wisconsin Watch and Ryan Sholin, Chalkbeat

3 - 4 p.m. - Mentor meetings. Break into small groups and meet with mentors to discuss issues and solutions.

4 - 5 p.m. - Happy hour

Thursday, Sept. 29

10:00 - 10:45 a.m. - Recruiting and managing technical staff. Building and managing a diverse and inclusive workforce plus some general best practices for recruiting, hiring, managing and retaining tech/design talent. Speaker: TBD

11  - 11:45 a.m. - Planning and executing successful data projects. How to plan and budget for data and editorial projects, work effectively with news technologists and create impactful stories that drive change. Speakers: Julia Smith, INN and Fernando Diaz, Reveal/CIR

12 - 12:45 a.m. - User-centered design on a shoestring. How to bring design thinking into your organization without breaking the bank. Speaker: Kyle Ellis, SND

1:00 - 2:00 p.m. - Lunch (provided). More time to meet one-on-one or in small groups with mentors discuss challenges/solutions.

2:30 - 5:00 p.m. - From theory to practice. Split into groups, work through the design thinking process to propose solutions to a design challenge and share your work with the full group.

5:30 p.m. - LION opening reception. All attendees of the INN tech conference are invited to attend the LION opening reception at Film Row Cinema, 8th floor, 1104 S. Wabash, just off South Michigan Avenue in the South Loop. Doors open at 4 p.m., and the bar opens at 5:30.


Rebekah Monson is co-founder and VP of Product of WhereBy.Us, a local media startup that connects people to their cities through storytelling and experiences. Its first publication, The New Tropic, produces an email newsletter, original journalism and events in Miami that reached more than half a million curious locals in 2015. WhereBy.Us achieved profitability in its first year of operation and will scale to new markets in 2016.

Kyle Ellis is a visual journalist turned product owner with a penchant for producing collaborative innovation events for media and civic technology communities. Energized by blue-sky ideation and fulfilled by collaborative execution, Kyle believes that data-driven decision making, a deep understanding of audience needs, and a strong sense of business goals are key to launching products that win. He currently works for American City Business Journals and the Society for News Design.

Fernando Diaz is a senior editor for Reveal, overseeing coverage of labor and privacy and surveillance. He has spent most of his career in Chicago, working at newspapers, magazines and websites, including as managing editor of Hoy, a Spanish-language daily newspaper. He has served on the boards of several nonprofits, including the Chicago Headline Club and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. He is a member of Investigative Reporters and Editors and The Society for News Design. Diaz is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.

Lauren Fuhrmann is associate director of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. Fuhrmann joined the Center in 2011 after receiving her bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia. At the Center, Fuhrmann leads revenue development efforts as well as public engagement initiatives, including events, social media, newsletter and promotional materials; tracks the distribution and assesses the impact of WCIJ’s news stories; assists with development of donors and writing of grant reports; handles bookkeeping duties; produces photos, audio and video content; and copyedits stories. Fuhrmann is vice president of the Madison Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. She was among five young leaders in the inaugural group of “Future Headliners” honored in 2014 by the Wisconsin Newspaper Association.

Amanda Krauss is an independent digital consultant who specializes in user-centered strategy and smart product decisions. Previously, she was the Director of Technology for the Texas Tribune, a nonpartisan, all-digital news source for Texans. She also worked with the Tribune as an interactive producer, and before that, she developed custom websites, wireframes, and prototypes on WordPress and other platforms. Previously, Amanda was a university researcher and instructor, which gave her a strong foundation in user experience, information architecture, and public speaking. She holds degrees in Classical Studies from the University of Michigan and the University of Texas, and has also co-translated an Aristophanes play, Women in Congress, which was performed at UCLA in 2013.

Ryan Sholin is the Director of Product & Growth at Chalkbeat, a nonprofit news organization covering equity issues in education. A former investigative reporter for the Oakland Tribune, online editor for the Santa Cruz Sentinel, trainer and strategist at GateHouse Media, and Product Manager at Gannett, Ryan was also a co-founder of Wired Journalists and a Knight News Challenge winner for ReportingOn.

Adam Schweigert is Senior Director of Product and Technology at INN, leading all of its technology-related efforts, including developing publishing tools, managing content syndication and measuring the impact of members’ journalism.
Julia Smith is the design lead on INN's product and technology team, working on a mix of internal projects (like Largo, our open source WordPress framework/platform for news sites), creating design standards and style guides to help guide our work and helping out INN's 110+ nonprofit members and our consulting clients.

Hope to see you in Chicago!

Welcome Our New Support Specialist: Meredith Melragon

As a team we believe very strongly that our mission is not just to build great products but also to focus on educating and empowering the users of these products at INN member organizations and beyond.

To that end, we've decided to invest more of our time, energy and resources in creating comprehensive documentation for the products we build, a more robust support infrastructure to help users with problems they may run into and training resources to help our members to level up their technology skills.

1930807_1052929756159_4892_nTo help us with this undertaking, today we're very excited to welcome our newest team member, Meredith Melragon.

Meredith joins INN from a variety of professional development roles focused on educational technology, including serving as the director of implementation for a software company. Across topics and settings she has designed, developed and delivered training sessions for a wide audience. Her consistent focus on customer service and developing meaningful learning experiences has enabled users to adopt tools and integrate them into their work, inspiring them to imagine new possibilities.

In her role as a contract support specialist at INN, her responsibilities will include managing our support workflow and developing documentation and training systems to help users and leaders implement the tools we build.

Her “b-side” is music. She has also served as the senior editor of a music magazine and an arts administrator for a non-profit music festival.

You can find her on Twitter @meredithm or say hi by email at

Please help me to welcome her to the team!

Welcome Jacki Keys To The Team

Today I'm excited to announce the addition of another vegetarian former oboist from northeastern Ohio currently residing in Columbus, Ohio to the INN technology team.

jacki_keysJacki Keys is joining us to focus on training, documentation and support particularly for our Largo Project sites but also to help us better serve INN members' general technology needs, answer questions and provide general technology support.

Jacki brings with her extensive experience working in technical support in many forms at different types and sizes of organizations ranging from large companies with 50,000+ employees to small non-profits, though she prefers the personally rewarding experience of working with the latter. You can read her full bio on our team page.

Jacki is joining us as a contractor to start and says she's excited to use all her powers for good at INN and would love to help you in any way she can. And we're happy to have her.

You can also follow her on Twitter: @jacki890

7 Emerging Digital Trends For 2013

INN's Technology Director Adam Schweigert presented at the Kiplinger Program's Social Media Summit in November. This is a summary of his presentation.

Everyone wants to know what the next big thing will be. The temptation is to hand this crown to the latest, shiniest object, but for organizations with limited resources (which is to say, nearly any organization), it’s important to avoid jumping on every bandwagon. Being able to quickly evaluate and decide which new tools, sites or apps are a good fit for you and which are better ignored.

Contrary to what some tech blogs may lead you to believe, you don’t need to be on every new social network, to download every new app or to spend every last waking moment in front of a screen.

Identifying Trends

Last week I gave a talk about emerging social media at the Kiplinger Program’s Social Media Summit at Ohio State University. In my talk, I identified a few larger trends in technology and social media:

  1. The Pinterestification of Everything - The rapid growth of Pinterest and the outsized impact a relatively small site in absolute terms has had on the design of today’s web.
  2. Visual Publishing Comes Into Its Own - How the wide adoption of mobile technology and tools like Pinterest, Instagram and Tumblr have democratized the publishing of visual content in the same way blogging democratized the publishing of textual content.
  3. Conversations as Content - The rising popularity of forum and discussion sites and experiments seeking to elevate the quality of discussion on the web.
  4. Open Alternatives - A number of experiments with open source, community-driven alternatives to incumbent social media behemoths (particularly Facebook and Twitter).
  5. The Power of Small Numbers - The move from mass to niche as reflected in the proliferation of apps and tools that seek to do one thing particularly well (instead of trying to do everything) and the development of niche communities around increasingly narrower interests.
  6. Context is King - It’s no longer enough to just create great content. Increasingly it’s important to think about how, where, when and on what device content will be consumed so that you can tailor the content appropriately to fit the context.
  7. Wearable and Embedded Computing - Powerful computers are moving off of our desktops and out of our pockets and into our homes, cars and even our eyeglasses.

You can see more examples of each of these trends in the slide deck from the presentation:

With how quickly these trends are moving (and sometimes in different directions) it’s easy to become overwhelmed. So I spent the second part of my talk outlining some ways to choose how best to spend your limited time, attention and resources.

How To Decide

When evaluating any new tool you can start by asking a few simple questions to start to understand whether or not it might be a good fit for your organization:

  • Who do I want to reach?
  • Where do they spend their time?
  • What do they do there?
  • When are they online?
  • How can I contribute in a meaningful way?
  • Why does this make sense from a business perspective?

Answering some of these questions is a bit harder (and more time consuming) than others. You might have to do some surveys, research the demographics of various social media sites or even spend some time using the sites yourself but rest assured that the time spent in advance of launching yet another social media channel that you will then have to maintain is well spent and will likely save you time and money in the long run if you learn early that a new site or tool may simply just not be a great fit for your organization.

Once you feel like you can answer these questions, one other test you can use that works particularly well as you try to answer the last question about business purpose is called “The 5 Whys."

The idea is simple: Ask “Why?” five times. You'll better understand the motivations, underlying beliefs or the root cause of a problem.

So if someone at your organization says, "We need to be on Pinterest!" You'd ask:

Because we know our potential customers (e.g., readers, consumers) spends a lot of time there.
They find it useful as a way to discover new products they might like to buy, or content they would like to consume and share.
They follow people who have common interests and share cool stuff.
They want to be viewed as tastemakers.
It’s cool to be a trendsetter.

By drilling down, you gain insight to help you tailor your approach.

If you had asked why only once (or not at all) you might have decided that since your prospective customers are on Pinterest, you should use it as a broadcast channel to push your content out and get it in front of people who may want to consume it.

But drilling down a bit deeper your approach might evolve and become instead to reward your most loyal fans by allowing them to participate, to help curate and share content on your behalf and to be recognized as trendsetters so that they feel more connected to your organization.In this way you have accomplished not only your primary objective (get content in front of prospective consumers) but also gotten more bang for your buck (or maybe even saved time and money) by rewarding your most loyal current fans by helping them feel more connected to your organization and to each other.

Social Media is NOT a Strategy

As you make decisions about where to spend your time and money, make sure you understand the difference between strategy and tactics. You should be engaging in strategic thinking, and not just reacting to a changing environment. Employing tactics without a clear guiding strategy behind them is like trying to kill a rhino with a butter knife. Your strategy should be a grand plan, in line with your mission, that doesn’t really change all that much. It should outline a problem and how you intend to solve it. Tactics are the specific measures you use to push this plan forward. These tend to change frequently and are particularly shaken up these days by changes in technology. So nothing about your strategy should be technology specific. “Launching a Facebook page” is a tactic you might use in service of a broader strategy to become more connected with your customers but it is not a strategy.

Establishing Goals, Metrics and Targets

Once you understand your audience, have a strategy and have selected the tactics you’ll use to bring that strategy to life, you're ready to establish goals. Select the metrics you’ll use to track your progress towards those goals, and then set targets for each metric that will determine whether your efforts are a success.

Goals: What do we want to accomplish?
Be as specific as possible and make sure defined in terms that allow you to measure your progress.
Example: Increase the depth and frequency of conversations around our political content.

Metrics: How will we measure our progress?
Some common web metrics might be pageviews, unique visitors, new vs. returning visitors, time on site, conversions, etc. and your choice of the metrics you use will depend on the goals you set. There are a number of excellent books about using web metrics, but one word of caution: Make sure the metrics you choose measure what you think they measure. Every website visitor didn't read your article in its entirety, and all of your Facebook fans and Twitter followers probably didn't see your most recent update.
Example: Number of comments on an article per thousand non-bounce visitors.

Targets: What does success look like?
It is really, really, really important to have clearly defined targets. It's easy to get excited and say, “We have more followers today than we did yesterday so our efforts must be working!” But unless you use meaningful metrics, set clear targets, and evaluate trends over time, you will have no idea whether the amount of effort you’re putting in is really paying off or if the trend you’re seeing should actually trigger a change in your approach.

Be as specific as possible and make sure each target has not only a direction (e.g., increase, maintain or decrease a quantifiable measure you hope to achieve) and a date when you hope to reach this target.
Example: Increase the average number of comments per post per thousand visitors in the politics section of our website by 10 percent by Nov. 31, 2012.


Here are a few key points I hope you’ll take away from this post:

  • Try lots of little experiments, with an eye towards how new tools and approaches might fit into your bigger picture strategy.
  • Ask a lot of questions. It’s the best way to dig deeper and understand your audience — and your own motivations.
  • Set clear, specific goals and targets and regularly evaluate your progress.
  • Remain flexible, Iterate frequently, but know when to say no. It’s perfectly alright if some of your experiments fail, but you need to recognize what failure looks like (and also when to double down on a promising effort).
  • Celebrate successes. Another great reason to set clear targets is you get to reward yourself when you blow them out of the water.
  • Spend more time outside because there’s more to life than the Internet and inspiration can be found everywhere.