“The amount of innovation that happens out of Bergen just makes you realise that something special is going on there”, founder and president of Reality Check Systems, Andrew Heimbold said at the NAB Show, the world’s largest media and technology conference and expo in Las Vegas, last April.
When visiting NAB in Las Vegas, nobody knows where Scandinavia is, let alone Norway, but “everyone” has heard of Bergen, Anne Jacobsen, CEO of the Norwegian Centre of Expertise in Media (NCE Media), told the World Editors Forum. Headquartered in Bergen, her organisation is the “innovation engine” of the cluster. Its 80 members include national broadcasters TV 2 and NRK, two regional media houses, five local newspapers, four niche media, six universities, the Norwegian newspaper association, and a lot of tech companies that offer solutions from visualisation to immersive journalism, animation, streaming solutions, graphics, 3D, VR/AR, sensors, big data, IoT, analytics, game developing, and several other areas.
The Norwegian media innovation scene
The level of media innovation in Norway is that high, that the small country’s commercial broadcaster TV 2 managed to become one of only two TV stations in the world allowed to set up a studio at the Olympic campus in Rio next month, as opposed to using the media centres. “While the Norwegian network may be small on an international scale, it can bring totally new and innovative experiences to the public,” said Anne Jacobsen. The on-site studio will be stuffed with the latest technologies and tools, such as cameras run by robots from Electric Friends; brand new cloud based, easy to use services for online publishing from Vimond Media Solutions; workflow systems delivered by Wolftech; all kinds of graphic and immersive systems from Vizrt; design solutions from Sixty, and the list goes on. “It will be an exhibition of what the Norwegian media cluster can do together,” said Anne Jacobsen.
Collaboration, collaboration, collaboration
“Together” is the keyword, as the level of collaboration established within the Norwegian media scene over the last years is impressive. Commercial broadcaster TV 2 generated seven startups even before the cluster was set up – among which Vizrt, that creates content production, management and distribution tools for the world’s leading media companies. “When all that can happen without any established organisation, what could happen if we create a system for collaboration?,” Petter Ole Jakobsen, Chief Technology Officer at Vizrt, told the World Editors Forum.
Media City Bergen will do just that: collaboration will be further intensified in August/September next year when the majority of its members will move in one space together. The physical proximity is likely to increase “accidental” meet-ups which often lead to new ideas, but there will also be many systematic initiatives to encourage members to collaborate, such as Show & Tell´s and matchmaking events where companies, research facilities and student groups can present their work, innovations, ideas, problems and challenges to each other to find and initiate innovation projects with relevant partners.
Different perspectives to generate ideas
A lot of good, even brilliant ideas just die because nobody sees them or gets to try them, Ole Jakobsen said, explaining that a lot more, different viewpoints into media production become available when you add more people into the game: public broadcasters, newspapers and… students. The University of Bergen will move in as well, offering six new degrees within journalism, television production and interaction design, making entrepreneurial and business training a substantial part of the educational program. “The totality of this is unlike anything else I have seen or heard of,” Anne Jacobsen said.
Its 220 students will be under the same roof as the media industry, which has the most modern IP-based TV-studios and newsrooms in the world, an in-house media lab for innovation and research, access to facilities, platforms, software, studios, API´s, mentors, accelerators, facilities for testing and prototyping and so on. Vizrt and other members will share software with the students in the hope that they will come up with new applications or additions that Vizrt may never have thought of. There will also be a greenhouse for startups, which benefit from the members’ established commercial systems. Members will bring them along on trade shows and introduced their clients to the startups, as a rush of visitors is expected. “It’s like going to a shopping street where there is only relevant stuff for you, instead of going from city to city to find each piece,” Ole Jakobsen said.
What innovation projects can we expect?
The focus of innovation at Media City Bergen will be to develop storytelling tools that allow journalists to tell important stories in new ways to the right audience, the right way and in the perfect context. “There has never ever been a more profound need for good journalism,” said Anne Jacobsen, “we just need to make sure that it reaches the audience in ways that are relevant, and that we – in this world where meaning and likes seems to be all that matters – can ensure an enlightened and engaged public.”
Projects are set up to give new powers to newsrooms by building systems that make editorial environments more efficient – hence making every journalist able to dedicate more time to journalism, according to Anne Jacobsen. This consists of developing easy to use tools for publishing, analysis, automation or for editorial workflow, to enable newspapers to publish, share, communicate and develop their stories on the fly, to all media channels including social media publishing and sharing. Several additional innovation projects are focused on finding new revenue streams, monetizing, creating advertising platforms, big data, programmatic, audience engagement metrics, and graphic tools.