NPR’s digital team works on a bold schedule: Programmers work on two-week coding cycles to encourage rapid development. These so-called sprints encourage both failure and innovation. It’s what allowed NPR to develop its iPad app in one month, or two sprints, just in time for the iPad’s launch in April 2010. (That app just surpassed one million downloads.)
I asked Wilson, who used to run digital operations at USA Today, why it can be so difficult for other large organizations to churn out new projects — and how he’s able to do it now. “From my perspective, it comes from long, hard experience doing it badly,” he said. “Resources are always tight and so there’s probably a fear of burning too many cycles on something that…doesn’t go right.” But he said the rapid-release schedule encourages unconventional projects like I Heart NPR, and very few ideas are swatted down.
“The digital media staff here is about half the size of the one I had at USA Today and probably produces twice the output,” he said.
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