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AAN Digital 2014: Design Thinking for Alt-Weeklies, by Alexa Schirtzinger
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AAN Digital 2014: Design Thinking for Alt-Weeklies, by Alexa Schirtzinger

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"Reimagining Alt" was a presentation given by Alexa Schirtzinger at the 2014 Association for Alternative Newsmedia Digital Conference in San Francisco. These slides accompanied a "design project" …

"Reimagining Alt" was a presentation given by Alexa Schirtzinger at the 2014 Association for Alternative Newsmedia Digital Conference in San Francisco. These slides accompanied a "design project" tailored to an alternative weekly publication audience.


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  • 1. Reimagining Design Thinking for Alt-Weeklies “Alt”
  • 2. Umbreen Alexa
  • 3. The John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships at Stanford foster journalistic innovation entrepreneurship and leadership.
  • 4. My project: rethinking the business model for local journalism with a focus on alt-weeklies.
  • 5. 47 survey respondents 24 in-depth interviews so far...
  • 6. BRAND VALUE
  • 7. “The word ‘alternative’ doesn’t really feel like what we do.”
  • 8. “‘Alt’ makes me think of some ’90s band, which is terrible.”
  • 9. “What does alternative mean?” “We haven’t thought about it in our building, and we haven’t communicated it outside our building.”
  • 10. what we dowho we are print or digital? display or classified? events or services? listings or picks? “cool” “local” “sense of humor” “trusted journalism” “no sacred cows” “making a difference” “irreverent” “We’re getting away from what we’re actually good at.”
  • 11. “We have such a great position in the community. It’s just a question of how to leverage it.”
  • 12. In the competition for readers and advertisers... ...how can alt-weeklies find a niche?
  • 13. How might we leverage who we are to inform what we do?
  • 14. DESIGN THINKING “our process for creativity and innovation”
  • 15. “If you think of yourself as creative, you can create a new future.” —David Kelley, d.school founder
  • 16. BIAS toward ACTION!
  • 17. To reimagine the “alt” brand for a new, digital era. Your challenge:
  • 18. What unique value can we offer? How can we better serve readers and advertisers?
  • 19. design thinking 1 2 3 4 5
  • 20. hear a good story
  • 21. Hear a good story Ask your partner for stories that illustrate the value of his/her publication to its community YOUR NOTES/SKETCHES 4 min each 1 Interview your partner Start from the publication, then get personal 2 Dig deeper into one story Why? Why not? YOUR NOTES/SKETCHES 3 min each
  • 22. ...a time she felt proud of her paper ...a time she learned something new or surprising from a reader ...a time she had to deal with an advertiser who was happy—or angry Ask your partner about...
  • 23. Hear a good story Ask your partner for stories that illustrate the value of his/her publication to its community YOUR NOTES/SKETCHES 4 min each 1 Interview your partner Start from the publication, then get personal 2 Dig deeper into one story Why? Why not? YOUR NOTES/SKETCHES 3 min each
  • 24. imagine the meaning
  • 25. What does it mean? Gain insights by imagining the deeper meaning behind what you heard. Your goal is to take an extreme, inspired stance. Have fun with it! Imagine possibilities for the following statements: It’s interesting/surprising/telling that s/he… One thing that seems to be important to him/her is… I wonder if this means… 4 min 3 Imagine the meaning Notice something, then infer what’s behind it. 4 Create brainstorm topics Flip your insights into questions. How might we... How might we... How might we... 3 min
  • 26. What does it mean? Gain insights by imagining the deeper meaning behind what you heard. Your goal is to take an extreme, inspired stance. Have fun with it! Imagine possibilities for the following statements: It’s interesting/surprising/telling that s/he… One thing that seems to be important to him/her is… I wonder if this means… 4 min 3 Imagine the meaning Notice something, then infer what’s behind it. 4 Create brainstorm topics Flip your insights into questions. How might we... How might we... How might we... 3 min
  • 27. come up with new ideas!
  • 28. brainstorm: how? encourage WILD IDEAS defer judgment go for VOLUME be visual! build on others’ ideas
  • 29. New ideas! Generate a diverse set of concepts in response to brainstorm questions. Your goal is to build on the ideas of others. YOUR NOTES/SKETCHES 5 min per person 5 Share your work, then brainstorm as a team Recap one story, share one inference and your brainstorm question—then lead a brainstorm.
  • 30. Sketch it out Pick an idea and develop it in detail. Your goal is to flesh out the idea and make it visual. YOUR NOTES/SKETCHES 3 min 6 Choose one idea and flesh it out into a product or service What is it? How does one use it?
  • 31. build something!
  • 32. Prototype!
  • 33. feedback is a gift
  • 34. Let’s get physical, physical Let me hear your body talk! Your goal is to test your solution by making it tangible. 7 min 7 Build your solution Remember: it doesn’t have to be perfect! 8 Test your results Elicit meaningful feedback. What’s working? What can be improved? New questions New ideas 4 min each ? !
  • 35. Thank you! Alexa Schirtzinger John S. Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford aschirtz@stanford.edu @aschirtz