Summarising Our Brighton Workshop in September 2018

The team at the Brighton workshop

The team at the Brighton workshop

In September, we had our third workshop for members of the Diffusion Network in Brighton, following on from our first two in London and Madrid.

It was an interesting week - right after the Online News Association (ONA) conference in Austin, Texas, where danah boyd, Founder and President of Data & Society, gave an important talk on media manipulation. To quote her:

Over the last two years, both social media and news media organizations have desperately tried to prove that they aren’t biased. What’s at stake is not whether these organizations are restricting discussions concerning free-market economics or failing to allow conservative perspectives to be heard. What’s at stake is how fringe groups can pervert the logics of media to spread conspiratorial and hateful messages under their false flag of conservatism.

In this environment, the work of science journalism, based on fact and not falsehoods, is more important than ever.

The Diffusion Network workshops are a good opportunity for the members of the network to bring each other up to speed on their projects and progress since the group last met, but we also invite people who are doing interesting work within media to come and speak to us so we can make sure that as a network we are constantly thinking ahead.

Our speakers from the past few workshops have been people we think are doing interesting work in and around the media and journalism industry. This year, we had two external speakers: Astrid Viciano (Weekend Science Editor at Süddeutsche Zeitung) and Caroline Crampton (writer and podcast consultant).

Astrid took us through the German media landscape in detail and gave us an insight into the workings of Süddeutsche Zeitung in particular. It was really interesting to learn about the various kinds of news consumers in Germany, and Süddeutsche Zeitung’s current science focus on areas like AI, big data and medicine.

Caroline gave us a 101 on podcasting and we had a good discussion about some of our favourite podcasts and the future of podcasting in general. She gave us some tips to make podcasts spread on social media, like using audiograms, which WNYC does (Audiogram has now moved to Headliner), and some entertaining uses, such as the Chompers podcast from Gimlet Media, which encourages kids to brush their teeth through twice-daily two-minute podcasts! Podcasting is an interesting format that is certainly seeing growth within niche communities, and we see potential for this format as the Diffusion Network also – more on that below.

We used our time together as a group to talk about our future strategy as well. Our syndication progress continues apace (huge thanks to Scroll.in in India, Guokr in China, Hacking Finance, Quartz and The Next Web who regularly syndicate from us) but it is important for us to make sure that we also work on discrete projects to experiment with media content.

We’ve now formed three task-based groups that will look at Audience Growth and Impact, Podcasts, and Print Experiments. They all have their origins in work that we’ve already done: for audience growth and impact we are working with Gabe Stein, who has helped one of our member publications, How We Get To Next, fine-tune their audience strategy significantly. For podcasts, we want to look at building podcast networks – Diffusion Network member publication SciDevNet is planning on a podcast based in Africa, How We Get To Next has a podcast too (check out The Thin Layer, their most recent podcast on soil), and we’d like to build on that. For print experiments, we are looking to build on the work already done by member publications Materia (El Pais) and SciDevNet, who collaborated to produce a science supplement which was distributed in Latin America as a pilot project this summer.

We covered a lot over two days of workshops, but there’s a lot more to do. If you’re a small science publication and you’d like to become a member of the Diffusion Network, reach out to us. If you’re a big publisher who would like to syndicate some of the amazing stories our members produce, reach out to us too. Our lines are open!