Today we’re proud to announce that MediaShift received funding from the Knight Foundation’s Prototype Fund to develop CollabMatch, a matchmaking service for collaborators. We believe that media makers and journalists usually collaborate with their existing networks (Facebook friends, Twitter followers, LinkedIn connections), but can create deeper, more diverse projects with qualified collaborators they don’t know (yet). We are building CollabMatch to bring together reporters, editors, designers, techies, marketers and others with a simple, easy-to-use service.

Before we get into details about CollabMatch, with our FAQ below, I want to let you know more about Knight’s Prototype Fund, per the Knight Foundation:

  • The Knight Prototype Fund helps journalists and developers take media innovations from idea to demo.
  • Grants up to $50,000 help test core assumptions so that innovators can learn and iterate before going to the more expensive step of building out a project.
  • The fund is a part of Knight Foundation’s goal to accelerate media innovation so that people and communities get the information they need to make decisions important to them.
  • Learn more at prototypefund.org or via @knightfdn on Twitter.

Here’s what Knight’s Chris Barr had to say about the service and why Knight is funding it.

“CollabMatch is an opportunity to experiment with new forms of collaboration between journalists and others in the field,” said Chris Barr, who leads the Knight Prototype Fund. “Leveraging innovation to forge these connections is important to building better, more diverse stories and helping revitalize an industry that, in recent years, has been in a constant state of flux.”

Frequently Asked Questions

We haven’t actually had very many frequently asked questions about the service yet, but we will! Here are some answers to those anticipated questions. If you have more questions, feel free to leave them in the comments and I’ll answer what I can.

What the heck is CollabMatch (in one paragraph or less)?

CollabMatch is a matchmaking service for collaborators. The service will facilitate connections between professionals who want to find collaborators in the journalism and technology fields, and beyond. This service will be unique from existing online network platforms because it will help people find collaborators outside their existing networks, helping to vet and recommend potential partners based upon mutual interests and complementary skills sets. For example, an investigative journalist covering immigration in Texas might find another journalist covering immigration in Arizona, a tech person in San Francisco, and a designer in Charlotte who could create a rich, collaborative project on immigration that the individuals could not create alone.

Why does the world need this service?

Right now journalists, media makers, and content creators work within their known universe of collaborators, but they don’t have a way to easily find like-minded, experienced people outside of their networks to work on projects together. As traditional journalism struggles with cuts in editorial, more journalists need to collaborate to do deeper work. That was the driving force behind MediaShift launching the Collaboration Central section last year.

Collaboration is needed among journalists, technologists and community members to develop the enhanced level of content that media consumers want and expect. CollabMatch will be an easy way for them to join a broader network, find partners and work together quickly on groundbreaking topics. The service will include a recommendation engine so that after members input their qualifications they’ll receive recommendations of other members who are strong matches for the work they want to do.

Screen shot 2013-06-18 at 4.11.31 PM

We have reached out to partner organizations such as the Investigative News Network, Free Press, Freelancers Union, SAJA (South Asian Journalism Association) and USC Annenberg and they have all expressed a need for such a service to help their members collaborate more inside and outside their organizations. We’ve also been in touch with PBS and the Broadcasting Board of Governors, who are interested in this service for collaboration inside their far-flung networks.

How can you expect people to join yet another network?

We are as tired as the next person when it comes to getting an email saying, “Your friend Joe just joined CoolNet, and invited you to sign up!” Working with the LinkedIn API and log-in functionality is critical to the project. CollabMatch is not another social network. It is a platform to help people use their existing LinkedIn profile information to connect with new people based upon mutual interests. Utilizing the LinkedIn API will allow members of CollabMatch to log into CollabMatch using LinkedIn credentials and upload their LinkedIn profile information to CollabMatch to more efficiently and effectively find other CollabMatch members with similar interests and complementary skill sets.

We’ll also be developing a series of events, meetups and collaborative workshops (as we did with Collab/Space last year) to help spread the word and get people involved IRL (in real life).

Exactly who is going to use this service?

Good question. We expect journalists, documentary filmmakers, designers, tech folks — pretty much anyone in the creative media field and beyond — to use CollabMatch. But how will they find out about it to sign up? We’ll be letting everyone in the far-flung MediaShift and Idea Lab community know about it as we start developing it and add testers. We’ve also reached out to various groups that are perfectly aligned with our mission. Here’s what a few of their leaders had to say about CollabMatch:

Kevin Davis

Kevin Davis

“A service such as CollabMatch, that allows organizations to offer, seek and participate in collaborations across the spectrum would be a great service not only for Investigative News Network (INN) members, but likeminded journalists as a group,” said Kevin Davis, CEO of the INN. “We here at INN would certainly be interested in participating and helping develop CollabMatch as a means of fulfilling our social mission to our communities.”

“In my research on collaborations between newsrooms of all sizes and types, the one constant is the need for trust and communications,” said Josh Stearns, Journalism and Public Media Campaign Director at Free Press. “The CollabMatch project is set up to help facilitate both those elements of successful collaboration in a way that currently doesn’t exist.

Jigar Mehta

Jigar Mehta

The CollabMatch project will help practiced collaborators, who understand the challenges and needs of newsrooms partnerships, find each other, and provide a platform for simple and streamlined communication. This will allow more dynamism, flexibility and exploration, hopefully leading to more and possibly even unimagined and unintended new collaborations.”

“The South Asian Journalist Association would use the CollabMatch platform to bring together members of our community to apply for our Reporting Fellowships (http://www.saja.org/2012srf),” said Jigar Mehta, Board Member, SAJA; Director of Operations, Matter VC. “This program is aimed at promoting a rare element in 24/7-news-cycle journalism — in-depth and follow-up reporting on major events relating to South Asia or South Asians, long after the breaking-news crews have moved on.”

Who’s leading the effort to develop CollabMatch?

Mark Glaser: Project Director
Dan Schultz: Tech Lead
Christa Avampato: Development (Fundraising) Manager
Amanda Hirsch, Outreach & Marketing

We’ll be launching in partnership with Amanda Hirsch’s Good Things Consulting, building support for good things. You can follow them on Twitter @getgoodthings.

We’re also in the process of hiring a project manager, tech associate and promotions lead to help with the project. Feel free to get in touch if you are interested in joining us.

What’s the business model for the service?

We have plans for a variety of revenue sources to make CollabMatch sustainable in the future, including a possible premium version of the service, sponsorships, a white label version of the service, and in-person events and workshops. It could become a stand-alone funding business, or go the non-profit route. Either way, our main purpose for building the service is to serve the needs of media makers.

When we build the prototype, we’ll also be building the business model right alongside the technology.

How can we keep up with progress on the prototype?

We’ll be blogging regularly about CollabMatch on the Idea Lab site, which was literally set up for media innovators to describe their process of building startups. As we begin helping people create collaborative projects, we’ll write about them here on Collaboration Central, serving as an outlet for case studies, best practices and more.

How can I contribute to CollabMatch?

We hope this is a service by collaborators for collaborators. Send along your feedback to us, and we hope to incorporate that into our service. If you have a news organization, association or group that wants to be an early tester of CollabMatch, drop us a line. And if you are interested in sponsoring the service or partnering with us, we’d love to hear from you!

You can also follow us on Twitter @CollabMatch.

Get notified when CollabMatch launches!


Mark Glaser is executive editor and publisher of MediaShift and Idea Lab. He also writes the bi-weekly OPA Intelligence Report email newsletter for the Online Publishers Association. He lives in San Francisco with his son Julian and wife Renee. You can follow him on Twitter @mediatwit. and Circle him on Google+