“Ideation” fodder (some ideas for ideas…)

Here are some topics that I hope provide inspiration for your project ideas or the Ideation exercise – think about these categories/topics/ideas and see if there’s room in that space for something new:

– The intersection of technology and customer service;

-Geofencing, like the UT scooters;

-Combining services, like Netflix and DoorDash;

-Partnering with or complementing an existing service;

-A new twist on an old thing, like Blinkest reads; Octopus rideshare games; duo-drunk rides home along with your car;

-Food, drink and anything: Virtual travel, video games, movies, sports, healthy eating;

The Pet industry is huge – half a billion $ a year and growing – including pet food, grooming, services (walking services), technology (pet toys that interact with your pet when you’re gone), fitness and health; https://thenextweb.com/podium/2019/09/01/the-rise-of-pet-tech/

-Peer to peer services, like Uber, scooters, Turo;

-Replicate but improve on good ideas that you already use;

-Think about ideas at the intersection of time versus money, or effort versus money

-National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Innovation Challenge winners


-Think digital, simplicity, scale, viral…-An addition to or new twist on startup finance models, like equity share (you trade part ownership of your idea for investment); revenue sharing (you promise to share future profits – clearbanc does this, gambles on your success instead of taking equity, or a piece of your company);

-Subscription/rental industry growth (clothes, gourmet food delivery, movie tickets, games)

-Think “future”




Diffusion of Innovation

Diffusion of Innovation

Bryce Ryan and Neal Goss, ~1930 in Iowa

Everett Rogers, 1962, Agricultural Research Bulletin

During the great depression, in an effort to make it cheaper and easier to feed a whole lot of people, the government invested in agricultural research. A lot of universities and state agencies had extension agents who would drive around the countryside and advise farmers and ranchers on how to improve their yield.

A couple of researchers, Bryce Ryan and Neal Gross, came up with an idea to study and innovation.

Iowa agricultural researchers had developed a new hybrid corn developed in a university lab. It was different in three really important ways:

First, it grew a better crop every single year;

Second, it cost more than other corn seed;

Third, you couldn’t keep some of the corn at the end of the year to plant the next year. You had to buy new hybrid corn from a distributor every year.

So even though the extension agents told a lot of farmers it was better – and it was better – almost none of them bought it.

So how did extension agents get around that? Convince a few farmers to try the new corn then let them tell and show their friends how good it was. And that’s exactly what they did, starting in the 1920s. Within a decade, almost every farmer was using the hybrid corn.

Steps one takes in adopting a new innovation:

Relative Advantage
Compatibility with existing systems

Final Project Details

Hi, all! Below are a bunch of sample projects from the Fall 2018 semester of the DMI Capstone Innovation class. About half are websites; half are apps. Remember, creating an app is optional but IF your idea IS an app, you should definitely mock up what some pages would look like, even if you don’t use an emulator like Proto.io or Adobe XD – you could draft app pages in anything you’re comfortable with, like InDesign, PowerPoint, Word… (Note – a link to an app we can try with our phones, though, is extra cool). We’ll have open lab late in the semester for you to work on these.

Your final project must include:
Some evidence of research (Lean Canvas, business plan);

-Must have a logo, and should include appropriate photos and links.

Here’s the rubric for your final project: Some of these are from Dr. Royal’s rubric and some are mine – I’m listing IN ORDER what you should emphasize in your idea site, so 1) is most important (although everyone must do #5 and #8!):

1) Clear: make sure we know what your idea is on the home page and relevant links;

2) Creative: make it inviting and attractive;

3) Usable: think about the “user experience” of someone perusing your site or app;

4) Solution: tell, somewhere, what problem you intend to solve (this might be on your home page);

5) Sustainable: include prominently that you gave some thought to a business model, a lean canvas, a source of startup funding and how you plan to make your idea survive and grow, including advertising, subscriptions, memberships, events, foundation support, investors, social media marketing, door-to-door marketing; opinion leaders; early adopters…

6) A description of features: Imagine this as a guide for new users AND for me, so I don’t miss anything;

7) Marketing video (optional!): A “hype video” or demo, if you want to do one;

8) Personal statement: Note that this is your work and that it was done for a class.

Sample sites:


Sample Apps:


Product Management, Week 13

Lecture Week 13 Product Management, DMI Capstone, April 15, 2019

Around 2016, some people who work in digital industries started thinking and writing a lot more about how digital items were “products” – even if they are services. When you order a new synch cable from Amazon for your phone, that’s clearly a product – but you can also think of Spotify as a product, even though it’s a streaming service; the newest song from Cardi B is a product, even though it’s delivered through a service; r/news on Reddit, political analysis from the FiveThirtyEight blog, a data interactive on Texas universities’ athletics programs and news about Brexit in the New York Times – it’s all “product.”

So one of the biggest areas of growth in hiring in digital media is project managers.

 “Product Management” is a catch-all term for everything from launching a new travel rating app to shepherding a multimedia Texas Tribune package to completion. And the best project managers are digitally “multilingual” – they have excellent written and oral communication skills; are at least familiar with HTML, CSS and Javascript; they know content management systems, like WordPress and Bootstrap; hosting channels, like BlueHost and Web; can take creative photos, produce compelling videos, and know how to target, measure and build a relationship with an audience through social media. There are LOTS of current job postings for digital project managers and even blogs oriented around the idea.

You all already have the skills for these jobs – what we’ll concentrate on this week is just clarifying the concept of Project Management, including how it developed and has evolved.

Dr. Royal wrote an extensive book chapter AND co-taught a massive open online course (a MOOC) on Digital Project Management. Before Monday’s class, I want you to read her chapter:

And I’d like for you to look at three of her videos from the Product Management MOOC, which she co-taught with Aron Pilhofer (formerly of the NY Times and Guardian, now at Temple University in Philadelphia) and Becca Aronson (the first-ever product manager at the Texas Tribune).

Product Management MOOC Part 1, Introduction to Product Management

Product Management MOOC Part 2, Details About Product Management

Finally, Dr. Royal published a study in 2017 about her research into project management: she talked with a bunch of people working in digital media about this emerging idea and has some great quotes.

Your assignment is to read and watch a bunch of this and then go to our Slack #general channel and just list a favorite digital “product” of yours and why you like it. Remember, just about anything you use can be a product. Here’s an example: My car came with an app, which lets me find my car, tells me if there’s a recall or it needs maintenance, lets me call for roadside assistance and schedule dealer maintenance, and has a social media section for owners of the same car. I wouldn’t have had any need for it but it’s actually pretty cool now that I’m used to it.

News Sources for Story Pitches

Here are some sources where you can go look for story ideas to pitch today:




A great resource for Texas politics and policies, including education



From the “current” link below, scroll down and, under Student Life, click Campus News and Info for links to the University news service where you can browse news releases







Portfolio reviews

Alright, first, I want you to look at this document: You should look at the website of the student whose name appears BELOW yours! So, Madison will review Alee’s site; Alee will review Trey’s site… some have multiple links – please glance at both or all three if there are multiple links under the name below yours.

Most are links. A few got turned in as folders and if your assigned student – the name below yours – was a folder, I emailed that to you, so check your email, download and uncompress that whole folder and look for the Index.html file to open it.

You aren’t grading these and PLEASE be polite and constructive! Here’s your rubric:

1) Is it a good site to get you attention from potential employers? Would it get you hired? What could this student do to make it MORE likely to get them hired?

2) Appraise the design, the style of the site – is it nice typography, colors, layout, use of photos? Is the site nice to look at? What might improve that?

3) Are their portfolio pieces showcased well? Do they have good content – articles, photos, videos, a resume, a biography? Are they easy to find? Are they previewed or “hiding” with just links?

4) Look for any coding issues and, if you can, make suggestions for fixing them.

Don’t SCORE or GRADE these; just politely write what you like and what you’d suggest might be improved. You should email your student (from TRACS email) and copy me on the email. Remember, your review is a graded assignment.

Noah Ainsworth


Madison Baker


Alee Briggs


Trey Brooks


Courtney Castillo


Kyle Coker


Hallie Colbert


Ericnisha Coleman


Silvia Contreras


Mattison Ditter


Samantha Dunn


Sarah Fairweather

Missy Grollnek


Alejandro Hendricks (No)


Alexis Higgins


Michael Kopp


Bethany Lebeau


– and –


Giselle Mancha


Denise Marrufo Cruz


Devon Matheny


Evan McCabe


Farran McCawley


Eric McKeefer


Andronica Owens


Quin Palmer


– and –


– and –

Taylor Parks


Andrik Powell


Nikolai Press


Josue Reynoza


Veronica Rinaldi-Tierno


Michael Rodgers


Michael Sagor


Zach Smith


Isaac Thomison


Diana Tuiran


Troy Vita


Breanna Word

Lean Canvas

Monday, March 25, Entrepreneurship

Hey, all! I hope you enjoyed spring break and had some fun. We’re going to ease back into work in the DMI Capstone class Monday night.

I’ll introduce you to the Lean Canvas, created by Austin entrepreneur Ash Maurya. He was inspired by the Lean Startup ideas of entrepreneur Eric Reis and a venture capital investor, Steve Blank, and got a front-row seat to a bunch of startups. He saw some patterns in successful companies:

  • A minimalist start;
  • Laser focus on their customer;
  • Instant, constant customer feedback;
  • Reiteration (meaning a willingness and ability to make changes)

That led to Lean Startup and Lean Canvas, tools to help entrepreneurs succeed from the very beginning.

First, I want you to read Chapter 2, Create Your Lean Canvas, from the book Running Lean (only Chapter 2, pages 37 to 76).

Here’s what the Lean Canvas looks like and I’ll send you a link on Slack Monday to access Lean Canvas online.

Also, read these 2 short features I stumbled across in Entrepreneur Magazine:

Sometimes the right move for a startup is to take a collaborator, like a supplier or customer, and make them a partner, instead. These three women entrepreneurs did just that.

And this article is about the importance of clear, well thought-out goals: Funding, audience, collaborators – a clear, well-researched plan.

EVERYONE needs to be in attendance this Monday night in class, because you’ll do three things:

1) Take half an hour, or so, to evaluate and critique one classmate’s portfolio site (I’ll share the assignments and site access in class);

2) Listen to me introduce Lean Canvas for a bit;

3) Apply the Lean Canvas to your group projects.

Freelance perspectives

Dave Forstate, Videographer/Producer, CBS News/KDKA-TV Pittsburgh

For perspective, Dave is in his 60s and is retired from KDKA-TV and CBS Network, where he worked for 3 decades. A few caveats to keep in mind as you read his narrative:

  • The East and West Coasts are unique when it comes to freelance opportunities. You can freelance from everywhere, especially via the Internet, but for video or film production, there are a LOT more traditional opportunities in L.A., New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Miami, Pittsburgh…
  • He started at a time when film, then videography, was a really specialized skill (remember “barriers to entry?”). Now everyone carries around a video camera;
  • He also worked in places (New York, Pittsburgh, D.C.) with strong union traditions, which get weaker by the year and which were never very strong in Texas.

Just keep that in mind for perspective as you read Dave’s description of freelance:

Dave Forstate, videographer, CBS News and PBS:

I actually started freelancing when I was 18 working up and down the streets in the film district of New York doing whatever I was allowed to do. I have found that there are four different categories in the workforce.

1) The first is “Full Time” which I did for 36 years at KDKA-TV here in Pittsburgh. This is pretty self-explanatory.

2) The second is “Part Time”. This entails being committed to a particular company where you are given so many hours a week up to the limit where you might receive benefits. Right now this seems to be the most popular way of doing business.

3) The third is “Casual”. You are a part of a company with no set schedule and no benefits. At local (Pittsburgh) PBS, I consider myself casual. I may work 10 days and then not work for two weeks at that company. As a casual, I have a connection with that company and, in this case. I am a part of the union and paid union wages.

4) The last is “Freelance”. In freelance you might have a connection to a particular company or even a production house, but for the most part you stand alone. Now there are guys out there that have created a production house, but I consider them a company. A freelancer, for the most part, is a hired gun. They might work on a project for a few hours or a few months. A freelancer might own their own equipment and/or rent equipment. Most freelancers do have regular clients, but they are always waiting for the next call even when they are working. There is a subcategory to freelancers that I call “Stringers”. I worked my way through graduate school stringing for several stations in different markets. A stringer usually has their own equipment and covers assignments or spot news a news station can’t afford to or doesn’t want to, like overnights. 

As a freelancer, I worked both for news organizations and production companies. I have freelanced on reality shows like USA Networks “Friday Night Tykes” and HGTV’s “My First Home”. I spent 10 years shooting post game for NFL Network and worked on several documentaries for ESPN and MSNBC. I have worked on over twenty Electronic Press Kits (EPK) for such films as Striking Distance, KingPin, Passed Away, Sudden Death and Warriors. I have freelanced for both CBS and ABC. Many of these jobs require that I be part of a union or pay their union dues. 

Since I’ve set up most of my freelance thru companies that are union, I receive W2’s. I usually don’t make enough from 1099’s to institute a quarterly tax. Local tax is taken out of my W2 as well as union dues. Question to your students: are they willing to work for a union shop? I quit local 6 for movies because they charge $8,000 just to join and you are not assured of work. I have a part time agreement with IBEW and NABET for networking purposes. I am allowed to work s certain number of hours before I have to join the union but they still take out dues. There is also another factor. Who assumes liability? There is liability in renting equipment. Some houses/jobs require you to have insurance on the equipment at your expense.

Freelance can be a really hard way to go, but to someone new to the job market it may be their only option. It is a lot different today than in my time. I have seen freelancers go out on jobs with a DSLR and charge a couple of hundred dollars. This sets a really bad precedent since the equipment package I use can cost a minimum of $500 and go up from there for 4k. My biggest suggestion is to try and get ahead of the curve and master the newest tech. Try to avoid making any large purchases as tech changes quickly and the value goes down making your investment upside down. Always have a plan B. 

Lillian Stone, a freelance comedy writer based in Chicago

1) Tell me about essentially starting right after graduation as a freelancer. Is it insecure and scary, or is it superior to a full-time gig? How so? (Also, a few details about just what you do for work.)

  • Right now, an average month’s income looks like 60 percent food writing and lifestyle journalism (city magazines, digital publications like Allure Magazine and HelloGiggles, etc.), 30 percent copywriting for private clients and 10 percent comedy writing (which is my ultimate goal).
  • I worked in magazine journalism and nonprofit communications for two years after graduation. I officially went full-time freelance in June of 2018, but I had been working my way to full-time freelancing for about a year prior to that. My magazine job after graduation was what really got me started – I started as an intern, then worked my way up to become the editorial and digital assistant. When I left the magazine to work at a nonprofit, I was offered a few freelance pieces here and there until I eventually took on 2–4 larger pieces per month.
  • The initial leap to freelancing was a little intimidating, but I secured one copywriting client that enabled me to make up my full-time income almost instantly.
    • A NOTE ON COPYWRITING WHILE REPORTING: For me, this is a matter of personal ethics. I don’t ever report on my copywriting clients, and if I happen to be assigned a piece using one of them as a source, I disclose that to the editor and let them make the call. If I were involved in local newspaper journalism or investigative work, I would likely not engage in any copywriting as a matter of ethics. It works for me, but it’s not for everyone.
  • For me, freelancing is totally superior to a full-time gig! Obviously, there are downsides – health insurance and 401K benefits being a big one – but making my own schedule and working remotely is completely worth it for me. I’m also able to prioritize the kind of work I want to be doing. Additionally, I really enjoy the freedom to work with different publications so I can develop my editorial voice.

2) How much time do you spend reporting versus looking for work, billing, etc.?

  • I use Quickbooks Self-Employed, which is a billing software that makes invoicing/tracking mileage/tax time incredibly easy. Billing isn’t the time-consuming part for me – it’s pitching! During an average week, I usually spend anywhere from three to 10 hours developing pitches, sending pitches and following up with editors. The rest of the time is spent reporting, transcribing (bleh) and writing.
  • I also spend a lot of time networking. That’s really the only way to land the larger bylines. You could have the greatest pitch in the world, but you have to get the editor to read it. For me, that happens on Twitter. It’s a really unique sphere where you can be yourself (my Twitter is ridiculous) while making lasting professional connections. I’m also involved in several Facebook groups for female and nonbinary journalists. If you have any students who fit the bill, feel free to give them my contact info and I’ll connect them!

3) Would you take a full-time job if you could, or do you prefer freelance? Why?

  • For me, going freelance was the only viable option to pursue professional humor and satire writing. If I were to take a full-time job, it would either be with an independent publication (Chicago Reader, etc.), a television writing staff (the dream) or a lifestyle publication (New York Magazine, etc.). I don’t plan to go back to a full-time gig unless it’s in a humor writing capacity.

4) What tips do you have for students to find clients and manage freelance?

  • You have to be organized to a fault. I use three systems: QuickBooks for invoicing, a Google sheet for tracking pitches and Trello for workflow management. You will not succeed without your own organizational system. I know lots of freelancers who spend hours sifting through receipts, etc., and I have no clue how they do it!
  • I would not advise freelancing without spending time in a staffed editorial role. For me, it was crucial to learn the business – everything from managing in-house style guides to editorial workflow.
  • It’s also essential to build up a little nest egg before you take the leap. I had a very specific savings goal in mind. Once I hit that, I felt comfortable taking the leap. There are definitely dry patches here and there, and you need to be able to pay your rent!

I hope this is helpful! Again, feel free to send students my email address if they have further questions. They can also reach me via DM on Twitter at @originalspinstr.

Tara Haelle, freelance writer specializing in health/medicine

Entrepreneurial & design thinking

Here are some concepts – lists, really – that you’ll want to keep handy as you move toward your entrepreneurial idea. These are on three main topics: Diffusion of Innovation; Thinking Entrepreneurially; Design thinking.

Let’s start with how ideas diffuse, or spread. I told you in Week 1 about the groups: Innovators; early adopters; early majority; late majority; laggards. But here’s HOW an idea spreads – here’s what a “potential adopter” thinks about before she/he decides to try something new:

Relative advantage; Compatibility with existing systems; Complexity; Trialability – this is my ability to play with whatever the new tech is before I have to spend money on it; Observability. This was the important part of some Iowa farmers being able to see the new seed and crap in their neighbor’s farm first hand before they had to commit to it. You see why innovators and early adopters are so important.

Okay, thinking entrepreneurially:

First, you need to have a problem that needs to be solved; So think about your daily life and struggles – traffic, parking, debt

Second, do some research. This might be your personal observation, you might interview a few folks, visit a neighborhood, look for some data, and check the historical record – news archives, city repositories, talk with some elders.

Third, start experimenting. Mark up an app, build a website, write and distribute a questionnaire, or tests and messaging – see if your initial idea holds water and then learn from that. The beauty of your training in digital media is that you can map out an idea on paper – which you’ll do tonight briefly – then build a website to test it, nearly for free.

Finally, if it starts to work to solve the problem, build in a culture of focus and innovation around solving that problem.

Some questions to help you “think entrepreneurially”:

Is there an audience for your idea/product/service/information?

How feasible is it?

How would we go about using digital media to try to solve this?

What’s the sales pitch?

Who would I sell it to and in what order?

How would I pay for it?

How might I profit from it?

Is it ethical, moral?

Is it sustainable beyond a month or a year?

Finally, Design thinking. There’s function and form – you want a product or service to DO something important, to serve a need – but if it’s elegant, inviting, friendly and easy to use – if it helps you FEEL better while you’re using it – that’s design thinking.

Steps to design thinking:

1) Learn from people (surveys, interviews, conversations, observations, data);

2) Find patterns (how do people use digital media; where; what device? For how long?);

3) Design principles (how should this be designed; weight; controls; interfaces; work with peripherals, like computers, wireless headphones, cables, wearables);

4) Make tangible (How might we get from here to there? How might our design help solve a problem?);

5) Iterate relentlessly (this just means starting, then taking more steps, then build, then build again, then adopt input from users and data and build again. It’s why smartphones have gotten bigger and more apps use accelerometers, geolocation and the camera; example: Carfinder)