I recently received feedback about various lean media concepts from faculty at the Media Ventures program at the Boston University College of Communication. Jodi Luber, who teaches media entrepreneurship at BU, had a great idea: A one-page template for producers/creators/entrepreneurs based on lean media concepts. Her class already uses the lean canvas one-pager to develop business models using the lean stack framework. A easy-to-use planning document for lean media projects–a lean media project planner–could be similarly useful to students or anyone else interested in leveraging lean media concepts to develop new ventures, programs, or other media content.
It was clear to me that the one-pager would need to bring out the key elements of the nascent framework, especially audience identity and feedback cycles. I also considered working in a timeline so producers could segment their projects into the four stages (idea, prototype, soft launch, hard launch). Here’s an early version:
But as I thought about it, I began to see some flaws. Chief among them:
- Applying a timeline to a project from idea to hard launch would be problematic, especially for projects still in the idea stage.
- The prototype stage is where most of the feedback and learning takes place, yet it appears as an equal component to idea, soft launch, and hard launch, which may have relatively limited feedback cycles.
- The team changes over time, as the project moves to more advanced stages of development.
A new iteration of the Lean Media Project Planner
After a few iterative cycles on my own, I came up with a new model, which I am calling version 0.5:
I stripped out the elements that I thought were unnecessary. For instance, anyone using this template probably has an idea already, so it’s not necessary to include it as a dedicated column — it can just appear in the description area.
I also reasoned that the prototype stage would involve multiple prototypes, starting with wireframes/sketches/mockups and working to functioning models. I left open the option of having the last column be prototype #4, or a soft launch.
As for the hard launch, I did not see much use in including it. This tool is really targeting the prototyping stages. In addition, it’s possible that the project may pivot to something completely different … or it will be abandoned. And that’s not a bad thing– why waste time on media products or ventures that are likely to fail?
One of the most important elements of the lean media project planner is “target audience(s)”. In my long experience working in various media fields, creators/producers are sometimes very fuzzy when it comes to determining who their audiences are and what they want (see this example relating to launching an English-language TV newscast in Taiwan). The project planner forces creators to really think about their audiences, not only in terms of who they are but also how feedback can be gleaned from them.
Is the lean media project planner effective in its current form? In true lean media fashion, I am turning to you, dear readers, to let me know what works and what doesn’t. Please share your comments below!