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Dan Pacheco: A toolkit for assessing and making decisions on emerging technologies

Dan Pacheco is the Peter A. Horvitz Chair of Journalism Innovation at the Newhouse School at Syracuse University and author of the upcoming book, Experimenting With Emerging Media Platforms: Field Testing the Future. Speaking at FIPP World Media Congress 2023, Pacheco doubled down on the need for media companies to experiment, keep on experimenting, and then…..experiment some more.

“Our entire media ecosystem is built upon links … links might actually be on the way out.”

Attended by more than 400 delegates from 43 countries, the FIPP World Media Congress 2023 kicked off with a look at the innovation occurring in the face of severe media disruption.

During his keynote session, Dan Pacheco emphasised the need for publishers to step away from thinking that the internet is ‘just a bunch of rectangles’ and instead realise it is an interactive ecosystem where constant experimentation and innovation are a necessity.

Pacheco has a long history as an innovator in major media companies, and here he shares a toolkit for publishers to assess and make decisions on emerging technologies.

Here are a few key insights from the session:

1. “We always have to be experimenting”

“Very recently, Apple introduced the Apple Vision Pro. If you think back a few years ago, people were talking about the future as virtual reality and putting things on your face. Facebook created a product that really did put something on your face, but then you’re socially isolated. 

“And now Apple is basically saying, in 10 years, this tech will replace the iPhone. You can sort of see the evolution. So we always have to be experimenting with new technologies, and we have to make bets. We don’t have any choice over that. 

How do we predict the future? Most recently, virtual reality was sort of like on the way out. And then Apple completely changed all that.

2. The internet is becoming more interactive

“The internet got better and more social. And now what we’re seeing is it’s becoming more interactive. Stop thinking about the internet as being just a bunch of rectangles. And regardless of what you think about virtual reality or augmented reality, or what Apple calls spatial computing, all of the fabrics to make that work is already here.

“You’re probably already seeing more of this kind of content. It’s just getting more interactive, more and more immersive. But how do you as a media professional or media company decide what to do with that? And where do you put your eggs? 

When it comes to AI, I think this is the big question right here. How does my content work when AI generated answers are valued more than links to content? Our entire media ecosystem is built upon links. I think links might actually be on the way out.

3. “Innovation is … being a little bit ahead of everybody else”

“20 is basically the number that you need just to get a data sample that means anything. It shouldn’t be your friends and family. It shouldn’t be people you work with. It should be people in that target market. This is what tech companies do all the time in the background. You just don’t realize it. 

“They call that a pain point. So you find some pain that somebody has, and then you want the pain killer for that pain. If you can do that, you have a solution that’s going to have some longevity to it. What you learn by going through these experiments, sometimes you discover something that you didn’t even anticipate. And that becomes the true innovation. 

That’s actually where Twitter came from by the way, it was a little like side product in, I think a gaming company. If you’re 10% ahead, well, that’s innovation. Innovation is not, we’ve invented something totally new. It’s just being a little bit ahead of everybody else.

We have made Dan’s entire presentation available to view here: