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June 16, 2015, 5:13 p.m.
Mobile & Apps

The Guardian U.S. has nabbed $2.6 million from the Knight Foundation to launch an “innovation lab” within its New York City newsroom. The lab will focus on news consumption via mobile devices. Per the release:

With mobile audiences now accounting for over 50 percent of the Guardian’s daily traffic, the lab will aim to create new and more engaging ways for people to consume news on their mobile devices. Additionally, the lab will explore the challenges faced by journalists in the mobile age and experiment with new ways of bringing stories to life on smaller screens. It will also look at ways of engaging readers in storytelling in real time and at advancing citizen participation in breaking news.

Lee Glendinning, the new editor of The Guardian U.S., will oversee the project. We asked her a few questions via email. (Full disclosure: Knight is also a funder of Nieman Lab.)

Q: What are the first specific areas you’re going to look at?

A: The purpose of the lab is to explore how the rise of mobile might require the rethinking of journalistic processes across the board, including news gathering, reporting, publishing and citizen engagement.

We’re just getting started, but we expect to test assumptions about mobile journalism by asking questions such as whether mobile lessens the gap between reporter and reader; how the needs of smartphone and tablet readers differ; how we can better bring multimedia stories to life on mobile; and how can mobile workflows be integrated into current newsroom practices.

Q: Is this somebody’s full-time job? How many people are on staff?

A: There will be a dedicated team working full-time on this project, and it will include engineers and developers, as well as reporters, designers, and production staff. It’s too early to confirm exact numbers. We’ll be working through the structure and resource requirements in the initial weeks of the project.

Q: Where do you plan to share the data and lessons learned — social media, Medium, elsewhere?)

A: We’ll aim to share our findings and data through a dedicated blog, similar to next.theguardian.com, where we shared updates about the open redesign of our website. We’ll also work with third parties to establish and test methodologies and to disseminate our findings to the wider news industry.

Q: I know this is new, but what might your workflow look like? Would you take an existing story and see how it could be improved on mobile, with reader input, etc.? Or are you going to create new content and experiment with it?

A: Those are exactly the sort of questions we’re going to working through in the coming days and weeks. The ambition of the lab is to challenge our thinking and to experiment as much as possible, so we’re not limiting ourselves to anything at this point.

However, the lab will also play a critical role in The Guardian’s wider mobile strategy and innovation efforts, and will work with our global teams to integrate the things that we learn from our existing partnerships such as Facebook Instant Articles and the new Apple News app.

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