Help! What’s a great news problem to solve?

Rich Gordon’s got programmers but no project:

Between now and when the [next Medill innovation project] starts (Sept. 23), we have to decide what the focus of the project will be. In my experience with previous projects, the key is to come up with an interesting challenge or question for the students to explore.

Right now there are two competing ideas, neither of them yet specific enough to organize the class around:

  • Civic engagement through online conversations
  • Mobile content and services

This project will be my primary focus for the next three months. We’ve got a great team, but we’re still hunting for a killer idea. What’s a great news problem to solve?

As for the platform, I’m leaning towards Android. (Admittedly, I’m putting the cart waaay in front of the horse here. The platform should always follow the idea, buuut…) The new gear from Google’s phone project is coming soon, and I agree with John Biggs at TechCrunch:

An open, powerful platform backed by a major, web-focused corporation is better than a useless accretion of outdated functions owned by a Borg-like conglomerate [Microsoft] or an OS created by a gnomic, arbitrarily pissy design company [Apple] in my book.

What do you think six budding new media journalists, two of whom code, should do for a quarter? Ryan and I could hack something pretty substantial in three months!

Any ideas?

Can old media get agile?

Signal vs. Noise sez:

We stalled launching our Job Board for a while because we felt we had bigger fish to fry. Once we got around to it, we couldn’t believe we had waited so long. It was easy to set up, a great resource for our community, and has generated lots of cash for the company.

There’s more than one way to skin the revenue cat.

They go on to suggest that this is a virtue of being a small, agile company.

This is something new and webby. In the before times, diversification took gobs of capital, either for R&D or aquisitions. Now you can just code up a job board, and bang! Your software company is a recruiting company.

Form, by carlosluis
Form, by carlosluis

Are old media too big to use the web like this? Maybe not.

The New York Times is getting into the game (quoting Matter/Anti-Matter):

In essence, this means the Times is turning into a software company, applying the same business model philosophy “as many start-ups in Silicon Valley:” “Build neat tools, get traction, and then figure out how to make money off them later,” as the Silicon Alley Insider describes it.

Whaddya think?

The SVN post also gives props to Apple – not a small company, but one with killer leadership. Do media execs even *want* to be agile? Or have they got too much mass?