Hillary, Donald and a dinosaur stalk DMA16

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Ahead the tomorrow's Digital Media Asia conference opening, a handful of workshops tackle hot topics... and oh, there's an election going on.

So the battle being waged for the US presidency is a recurring theme, as, it seems are the supremacy of another American institution, the New York Times... and Google.

A neat graphic on NYT's The Upshot giving readers the opportunity to analyse the 693 paths that delivered Clinton an 84 per cent chance of reaching the White House... or did 17 minutes before Kevin Anderson included the page in his presentation.

But hey, it's interactive, so let's look of the impact of The Donald winning in Florida, or Ohio, or Pennsylvania, and so on. Right up to the time when it all becomes academic, which may be when you're reading this.

We're on the role of data journalism in engaging audiences, and part of the point of this is to show how things have changed. Not just "how fast America changes its mind" - though this data graphic from Bloomberg prompts thoughts of the presidential race - but how fast tech is delivering new opportunities to engage. And more of that later.

More NYT examples flow, including a detailed analysis of the 57,000-word award winner Snow Fall during a discussion of long-form journalism. Length is less important that how the elements link together, he says, citing the dynamism of the NYT's violent A weekend in Chicago, and quoting Quartz on the "valley of death" of 500-800-word stories which separate long and short form's chance of social media success. "It's not about length, but about story choice," says Anderson.

A couple of dozen specialists are in the room for his day-long workshop, which condenses topics to which he normally devotes much more time, wanting to know what works, how to get it and how long that might take.

Building skills including the data visualization which "delivers the punch" behind many examples, hiring fulltime developers and creating a team structure takes time, he says, maybe as long as ten years if internal priorities get in the way.

Over lunch, the former Gannett staffer discloses how he took a buyout after hearing talk, "yet again" about shutting down the website, "and they still do".

What's needed, of course, is management commitment, and that's exactly the message the president of Deseret Digital Media, Chris Lee is espousing in another workshop on generating new digital revenue in the afternoon.

A study eight years ago of factors differentiating successful digital newsmedia operations identified separate location, direct sales, content production and tech teams, and separate management and profit reporting as the common denominator: "DDM has all of these," Lee says, adding a checklist of statistics to show whether you have transformed your business to a discussion on disruptive technologies.

And a reality check on the figures which show 85 per cent of every new dollar and 73 per cent of transitional dollars - those from advertisers moving from radio, TV or print - going to Facebook or Google. A meeting he'd had with Google last week was cordial enough, "but I know they're not really going to help us".

Sleeping with the enemy is a dilemma for everyone in newsmedia, and when I catch the end of the media freedom programmes taking place on the floor above - funded by the more altruistic Danish and Norwegian governments - Canadian volunteer trainer Ali Rahnema discusses being a Google reseller: "Sure you're helping the enemy, but otherwise you're not making any money," he says.

It's a harsh reality which precedes our evening trip to a location in Singapore's Maple Tree Business City which our host tells us "doesn't exist until Thursday".

Yes, it's Google - a willing partner in the WAN-Ifra conference programme with more time booked for tomorrow's conference - ready to tell us how the search giant is helping publishers.

The focus is NewsLab and the tech with which we've "gotta keep up"... followed by a bite of supper to compensate for your lunch they've eaten. The new Singapore centre is impressive - but no photographs, remember this place doesn't exist - and we are checked in and shepherded around by security staff; amazingly, no-one got lost in the lift.

And yes, the technology is amazing as well. Former investigative journalist Irene Jay Liu - on staff for just three weeks - tells us about training, trends and the collaborations with publishers (most recently Fox News) and half a dozen new tools which could make reporters' lives easier.

Programme manager Sean Vann has flown in from the US to demonstrate VR visualization tools including Tango, which delivers floor lamps, puppies and a roaring dinosaur to interact with his audience. And partnerships specialist Monisha Varada - who obviously hasn't been adequately briefed about her audience - to tell us what most already knew about Google AMP, and introduce PWA... progressive web apps. The latter is a partly open source solutions to deliver the best features of a mobile app through a website... and there's more (as the man with the steak knives would say) including simplified sign-ins and checkout, plus content caching for an improved experience on flaky connections.

And what, you wonder, is in all this munificence for Google? Don't even ask.

The conference part of Digital Media Asia continues tomorrow and Thursday, and includes presentation of this year's Asian Digital Media Awards.

-Peter Coleman

Pictured: Dinosaurs stalk Sean Vann's Google presentation

On our homepage: Deseret Digital Media president Chris Lee

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