Innovation @ BBG » MBN http://www.innovation-series.com Fri, 20 Nov 2015 18:47:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.6.1 Illustrating stories from Syria http://www.innovation-series.com/2013/06/26/illustrating-stories-from-syria/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=illustrating-stories-from-syria http://www.innovation-series.com/2013/06/26/illustrating-stories-from-syria/#comments Wed, 26 Jun 2013 10:00:43 +0000 Brian Williamson http://www.innovation-series.com/?p=3437 The news reports from Syria are dominated by casualty counts: 80 thousand… 90 thousand… 100 thousand people killed in the conflict. Syria Stories is a new online documentary project from the Middle East Broadcasting Networks (MBN) that aims to tell the stories of the ongoing Syrian civil war on a very personal, human scale.

Earlier this year, MBN contacted the Office of Digital and Design Innovation inviting us to help brainstorm, design and develop the Syria Stories site. The result is a collaborative project focused on sharing the stories lost in the daily reports of military strikes and casualty counts.

Six Syrians from across the country were selected to share their stories: Four men, two women from different ethnic, religious and family backgrounds from across the country.

But sharing these ongoing personal stories creates an unusual challenge: We can’t use the participants’ names or photos as long as the situation on the ground remains uncertain and potentially very dangerous. Doing so would put the participants and their extended families at risk.

The design challenge

It’s easier to relate to a story if you have a face to connect with the storyteller. How do you help readers form emotional connections with the participants while protecting their identities?

Because we were thinking about the dispatches as diary entries, we decided to try using hand drawn sketches to illustrate the posts. There’s a tradition of using artists to illustrate the news that stretches from the 19th century reportage artists through Robert Weaver and Alan Cober to the comics journalism of Joe Sacco. We were also inspired by George Butler’s reportage drawings from Syria.

syriaStories_styles

In order to help readers connect with the participants, we wanted to create a unique portrait for each author. As we experimented with a range of styles and possible portraits, we talked about cartoonist Scott McCloud’s spectrum of representation from photorealism to abstraction and the way that effects how readers relate to the character.

We wanted to strike a balance with the portraits — making them specific enough that they reflected the individual stories, but not so precise that they implied that they were literal representations of the authors. The final drawings are based on the general biographic information we were provided for each participant.

Illustrating the stories

The Syria Stories project is being maintained by a very small editorial team. In order to illustrate the posts we needed to devise a system that would allow editors to easily repurpose drawings for new posts. We decided to create an evolving library of sketches for each participant with different expressions and poses that can be layered over blurred out documentary photographs from the time and region described in the posts.

Syria Stories: collage example 2

Syria Stories: collage example 1

Syria Stories: Walid

The drawings are saved as layered Photoshop files, separated into ink and paint layers that can be turned off or on depending on the background. In this way, we’re hoping to maximize the different illustrations that can be remixed from the library of drawings and photographs. As the participants continue to share their stories in the coming months, ODDI will provide ongoing design, illustration and development support to help visually tell their stories.


Read three sample posts from the Syria Stories project translated into English.

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Website Showcasing News From Around the World Debuts Today http://www.innovation-series.com/2013/03/18/website-showcasing-news-from-around-the-world-debuts-this-week/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=website-showcasing-news-from-around-the-world-debuts-this-week http://www.innovation-series.com/2013/03/18/website-showcasing-news-from-around-the-world-debuts-this-week/#comments Mon, 18 Mar 2013 21:06:42 +0000 April Deibert http://www.innovation-series.com/?p=2792 —————-

[Source: Cross-posted from BBG.gov's Press Releases, 18 March 2013]

Washington, DC – Breaking international news gathered by one of the world’s most extensive networks of journalists can now be found in one place thanks to a new online initiative by the Broadcasting Board of Governors.

Today marks the launch of the BBG’s Global News Dashboard, which pulls together the English-language news from the more than 50 bureaus, production centers and offices supported by the agency’s staff journalists and more than 1500 stringers around the globe.

“This site showcases the depth and reach of the high-quality journalism that the BBG produces,” said Richard M. Lobo, director of the BBG’s International Broadcasting Bureau.  “There are millions of English-speakers worldwide who get their news from the individual websites of our broadcasters.  It makes sense to pool our resources and put them to work to serve our audiences even better.”

The new site’s English-language content will come from Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and Radio Free Asia. Users who access stories will be directed to the original content on the sites of the three broadcasters. The Global News Dashboard also will include links to original content in Spanish of Radio/TV Martí and the Arabic-language online offerings of the Middle East Broadcasting Networks.

Before development of the Dashboard, people interested in the work of the BBG would have to visit the websites of five separate broadcasters. This tool, built on the Pangea content management system developed by RFE/RL and used by the majority of BBG’s broadcasters to power their websites, makes that search easier.

“It’s such a simple tool, but it will have a resounding effect,” said Robert Bole, director of BBG’s Office of Digital and Design Innovation. “Bringing all these sources of information together makes a powerful statement about this agency and the way we do business.  We’re so much greater than just the sum of our parts.”

The Global News Dashboard can be found at http://www.globalnewsdashboard.com.

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Innovation Strategy on a Global Scale, 2013 http://www.innovation-series.com/2013/02/26/innovation-strategy-on-a-global-scale-2013/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=innovation-strategy-on-a-global-scale-2013 http://www.innovation-series.com/2013/02/26/innovation-strategy-on-a-global-scale-2013/#comments Tue, 26 Feb 2013 06:24:52 +0000 robbole http://www.innovation-series.com/?p=2563 The Office of Digital & Design Innovation launched roughly a year ago with a very straightforward mission: the expansion and usage of digital platforms to grow our global online audience.  We do that by working with our partner media networks to bring best-in-class platforms and services, as well as experimenting and launching innovative new technologies that speed our transition in serving increasingly online audiences.

Over the last twelve months we have been working on the “ground game”, by migrating off of old platforms, adopting new agile software frameworks and generally preparing the ground for faster innovation.  I am very proud to say that with our close partners, especially with Radio Free Europe’s digital team, we have fully turned over all of our core infrastructure on-time and on-budget.  And in an unprecedented event, we will be able to take some operational savings and invest in new areas, such as expanding our mobile presence and improved digital syndication.

In this current year we are going to expand our presence and quicken the pace of introducing new products and services.  We have a mandate for change and now are fully ready to drive innovation that leads to audience growth.

Here is our plan for 2013.

 

2013 Strategy & Goals

1.  Integrate Digital Platforms: Develop our new core digital services to an effective “run” state in order to provide normal enterprise operating services to all of USIM.  ODDI is working closely with our colleagues in RFERL Digital, as well as with RFA, MBN, VOA and OCB, to ensure that our core services, such as the online video/audio platform (OVAP), mobile web and mobile applications, are effectively established for all of USIM.  In many places we believe that integration into the “Pangea core” and RFA’s system will enable important improvements in our operating efficiencies.

Digital platform highlights include:

  • Full integration of the Kaltura online video/audio platform (OVAP) into Pangea: ensure that video and audio management becomes a ‘back office’ function to a user of the Pangea CMS and enable seamless distribution to all USIM accounts, including external accounts like YouTube and SoundCloud.  We also want to do a complete implementation of mobile-compliant audio/video players for iOS, Android and other mobile devices.
  • Deliver enhanced live streaming capabilities for 24-hr “true” Mp3 audio playout: create capabilities for streaming services on digital channels such as Apple iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher and other radio streams.
  • Expansion of Direct to provide services to all entities and all content types: provide technical connectors to allow all entities to seamlessly publish a wide-range of content types (broadcast-quality to Internet-quality rich media, text, photos, etc) for a range of broadcast and digital affiliates.
  • Launch “measure everything” platforms: launch new platforms and technical services to ensure cross-agency tag management, web analytics, social media analytics and video analytics.  In addition, launch a powerful analytics application programming interface (API) and customizable dashboards of real-time analytical data for all levels of the organization–from the Board down to the editor and reporter levels.

 

2.  Grow Mobile: Drive future (“road map”) improvements and expansion of our mobile platforms and services to increase our global audiences.  Mobile is the single most important method for USIM to be able to reach audiences.  Statistics often point to the fact that mobile adoption has a lot of room to grow or that there is a clear ceiling on the use of fixed-line broadband in different regions.  Our goal is to deliver the platforms and services that enable all entities and language services to deliver content across all mobile devices–from high-bandwidth IPTV applications down to simple feature phones.  And, just as important, we want to facilitate the use of voice/audio over local phone calls.

Mobile highlights include:

  • Launch of new news “Umbrella” applications for all five entities.  In conjunction with the entities, we will be launching and improving a range of mobile news applications.
  • “Responsive+” on core digital platforms.  Re-development of our core digital sites to utilize both responsive web design and progressive enhancement with server-side detection through a mobile-first strategy.  This change will enable us to provide digital content across a wide range of devices and bandwidths, customizing the content for the user, based on their device’s hardware and software capabilities and network connection.
  • Expansion of IVR and other low-bandwidth mobile publishing.  Improving existing open source frameworks to enable enterprise Interactive Voice Response (IVR) services to enable low-cost local calling for the audience, and low-cost operational costs for BBG.
  • e-Book, magazine publishing improvements.  This year we will be piloting a number of design templates and easy workflows to create interactive books and magazines for the distribution of collections of content both in static (text) and dynamic, rich media formats.

 

3.  Expand Audience Engagement: Implement an innovative initiative that builds a USIM-wide, audience-centric sourcing, storytelling and distribution service. We are focused on elevating the role of the global audience in our work as journalists, from enhancing simple commenting and discussion tools to supporting direct audience participation while covering events. Audience engagement occurs within a news organization when three critical pieces align: business strategy, technical capabilities and editorial management.  Our office will elevate the notion of audience engagement throughout our language services while simultaneously increasing our digital capabilities.

Audience engagement highlights include:

  • Strengthening core content (text/audio/video) platforms.  Working closely with RFERL and TSI, we will focus on enhancing our current infrastructure, as well as adopting or building enhancements to platforms and services that enable audience members to participate in our journalism.
  • Interactive storytelling expansion.  We are introducing a number of new JavaScript and other frameworks to enable new types of storytelling by our journalists.  Our goal is to identify, seed and then support a core group of video and audio producers to understand and use Popcorn.js, Timeline.js and other frameworks to publish interactive content–especially using audience-generated materials.
  • Audience engagement testing.  In order to engage with audiences, we need to understand their interests, preferences and cultural lense in order to present compelling content and product that encourage their participation.  We will be partnering with BBG Research to identify and test digital products in-country, especially to discover better ways to create and develop content with audiences.

 

4.  Grow Digital Affiliates: Expand the number of websites and digital services that carry USIM content through new API and other syndication services.  Our goal is to: 1) replace expensive satellite distribution for lower-cost Internet-based distribution wherever possible; 2) increase the ability for ALL entities to share, distribute and create content with local partners; and 3) build a new class of “digital affiliates” in the form of syndication points (i.e. Google Currents), blog networks, emerging all-digital news organizations, etc.  Our goal is to build an expanded “affiliate storefront” using a robust application programming interface (API) strategy.

Digital affiliate highlights include:

  • Increased syndication partnerships.  This includes regional goals whereby we will launch two to four quarterly syndication agreements with global partners, as well as targeted regional syndication deals in Eurasia, Africa and Southeast Asia.
  • Direct API/digital affiliates program.  We have three goals in this area: 1) the integration of Direct with our Kaltura OVAP system for the inclusion of Internet-quality video and audio content in affiliate distribution; 2) integration with OSD’s customer relationship management system to enable affiliate information to flow between the two systems; and 3) a public-facing API to enable existing affiliates, as well as the potential for a new class of “digital affiliates”, to have our content delivered to them dynamically.
  • Strong syndication analytics system.  This includes the expansion of our analytics platforms, as well as offering training and simple dashboard tools, to enable a more robust tracking of digital content usage by existing and new affiliates. We hope to provide business/editorial managers with more information on the use and consumption of their content by third-parties.

 

In order to accomplish these goals, ODDI is going to continue to evolve its operations and capacities.  We have been replacing remote vendors with an increasing number of “makers” at the staff level, or through full-time, in-office, contractors.  As resources become available we will be adding additional capabilities to the office.  We will be continuing to balance an expanded, full-service, in-house capability to build, maintain and grow a range of new digital platforms with a rational number of high-quality, best-in-class vendors.  In particular, we will focus on expanding our capacity in three critical areas: technical development/programmers, user experience design/storytelling support and increased services for doing digital data analysis in support of product development and strategy.

If you have any questions, comments or thoughts in improving our 2013 strategy please let us know!  [You can leave a comment below or contact us on Twitter (@BBGinnovate).]

- Robert Bole, Director of Innovation, Office of Digital & Design Innovation

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