The Lenfest Local Lab

The Lenfest Local Lab is a small standalone product innovation team empowered by the Lenfest Institute, embedded within the Philadelphia Media Network and working in the open for the local news industry. The lab is focused on experiments that reinvent the daily news user experience, exploring techniques or features that can apply to the majority of the journalism already being created by local newsrooms. Of course, the lab wants to build products that are worth paying for in order to drive sustainability for local news. But it’s most interested in testing products that are worth supporting, through consumer revenue or other means, because they provide value to communities and create sustainable connections — not because they become addictive or play into the attention economy. The lab is committed to this type of experimentation because it doesn’t think that journalism and storytelling is broken; but that sometimes, the product is.

Journalism today is combination of the story being told and the product it’s delivered in. What if we realized that journalistic storytelling is thriving, but that our products are lagging behind? What if our product development efforts were equally devoted to maintenance, optimization and innovation? What if we had even better tools and systems to create journalism, support connections with each other and our community, and knew more about what news products are valuable to people? Would that unlock one or many more sustainable business models for local news?

Because for journalism to have its intended impact on communities large and small, it needs to reach people. It needs to be shared and talked about. It needs to fill an actual need. But if people don’t see it, or the need for it, then we’re playing to an empty room. The lab wants to change the course of local news product development, and explore how journalism can fit into the lives of the people and places we cover, instead of asking our audience to fit us into their lives. How can we adapt to their commute? How can we fit into their community events? What role can we play in civic engagement? How can we become more visible in general? The lab wants to build products that are crafted around people’s needs, that arrive without friction and are in a form people enjoy and understand.

Learn more about the Lenfest Local Lab on Medium.

Lenfest Local Lab Team