Why Mega-Publisher Hearst Ditched "R&D Labs" And Opened Up Its Data Instead ⚙ Co.Labs ⚙ code + community

Posted on by Brandon Klein

Instead of one R&D group, Wiser decided to decentralize his company's experiments with new tech. So he opened up Hearst’s data to a select pool of developer partners--many of which have already surprised him with new ways of viewing magazine content.

Last year, Hearst partnered with a magazine at another publisher, Hachette Filipacchi Media's fashion magazine Elle, to create the first magazine optimized for Google Glass called Glassware.

"We felt that doing that would give us insight into how we would develop content and products with the next generation of wearable devices with different form factors and much more real-time interaction with the consumer," says Wiser. "It’s a strategy where we have key domain experts that drop in and partner with other brand’s teams to develop prototypes based on where we think the market is going and where technology is going.”

In addition to internal collaboration, Wiser says the company has been experimenting with colleges. Recently, a Parsons student presented an image-based navigation tool that is now in serious development at Hearst.

"It will let users look at all the images across Hearst Magazines and let them browse using a mediated trail to find content of interest,” Wiser says. “It's a very different approach than going into a branded destination site and looking at that information as a way of re-aggregating the content that works really well on mobile devices."

With the success of projects coming out of such collaborations, Wiser says the company is in the process of creating an even more public API.

“With our hackathons and development to date, we've found some experimentation and we haven't really taken it to an external party yet but we expect to do that this year. What we're trying to do right now is create the right framework so that when a third party develops against these APIs, they can develop something that can be useful in the marketplace.