A great part of my job at Adweek the last few years is the opportunity to go to the Cannes International Advertising Festival. It’s a lot of work but it’s in the South of France. This year I’m doubly excited about going because we’re trying something completely new.
In past years, we’ve covered the event in the traditional way: daily news stories and a magazine story. Some years we’ve had a film crew with us to record interviews. (Here’s some we did in 2007.) Adweek would build a microsite, and we'd operate a separate blog. Not this year. We’re starting from scratch with a site called Real-Time Cannes. The idea is to take a page from Twitter, Facebook and blogs to create a site that gathers the news and flavor of the event in short bursts, while aggregating the content others create. It's meant to be the hub of what's happening that week. We’re Tweeting, blogging, shooting videos with Flip cams, posting photos to Flickr, etc. The whole thing is built on Typepad. Of course, we’ll also create some more traditional content, including a magazine story and straight news pieces. Check out the site.
What interested me was how it came about. Basically, my colleague Ellie Parpis and I got together on our own and hatched out how we’d want to cover Cannes. We thought of how so often in the past we’ve been forced to make material fit in containers of the past. A few interesting remarks at a seminar were either a 500-word news story or something that remained in our notebook. An hour and a half meeting would end up yielding a quote in the magazine story. So we figured out how to change that. We work for a big company with lots of resources, but the site was built and is managed by an editor, Tim Nudd. IT wasn’t involved. I’m not sure if it’ll work out – we’ll inevitably have snafus, particularly with the video content – but it showed me how news organizations need to let reporters and editors create stuff on their own without the layers of approvals and “help tickets” that are stifling innovation.