Christian Hanke: The maturity of digital editorial

A slightly nervous Christian Hanke got on the stage and after telling us about his student days in Chicago, he confidently jumped to the meat of the presentation which was nothing less than an impressive overview of what he has been building the last few months in Edenspiekermann.

Photo © Sebastian Weiß
His speak revolved around the theme of the long form storytelling, so it was natural that he started by showing us the origins of this form, the New York Times snowfall article. This piece of web design excellence demonstrated the opportunity for editorial potential similar to that of print magazines, in the web medium where up that point long articles consisted of boring essays, stitched short stories or feature stories.

The first sample of his work at Edenspiekermann was the Red Bull #Givesyouwings campaign site. A failed demo, beside serving as a painful reminder that conference wifi is never to be trusted during a presentation, didn’t bring the crowd’s expectations down as different “spreads” of the campaign’s different key person sites demonstrated the variety of styles created in each long form article. Beside building a different brand identity of each of the site’s athletes to be used in their pages, the designers and developers also created a story builder tool which gives the content creators better editorial control.

“Be grateful and establish a proud-free curiosity”

Next project in line was the Schweizer Illustrierte relaunch which was a good warmer for the next big media project release, the Zeit Magazine. The same principles as with the other long story telling projects were followed here too but this time we got a deeper insight of the process of creating these products, together with the client. My favourite part of these slides was a picture of the agency team working together with editors, community managers and other members from the client side, to define an initial product vision. Christian stated “we expected 11 to come and 28 people showed up” showing that the importance of an involved product owner is imperative to the success of a product and a crucial part of the scrum process, which is the way Edenspiekermann approach their digital projects.

Lessons from all the above include:

  • “Fight the myth of control”. With so many devices in the wild, it’s obvious now that there is no control over how we “want” our site to display. The sooner we realise that we have no control over that, the sooner we’ll move on to more important digital problems.
  • One of which is the advertisement issue. Up to date there is no great solution to showing responsive advertisements on the web and web professionals, designers and developers, need to step in and lead the effort of finding one.
  • Build from the core. The basic piece of content of a site that the users interact most with is the article page, so why start designing from the homepage?
  • Spec docs given to the client are a waste of time in the digital era and in a frame of collaboration like the one that exists in agile and scrum relationships. A clear direction by the agency and trust between the two sides make the need for spec docs redundant.
  • An article’s life doesn’t end on publish. In the old times, an editor would submit her article, it would get printed and life would move on. Nowadays, when there is a need for building a community around a media brand, following up on comments and tweaking details post-publish is crucial for the content’s success.

Finally, “be grateful and establish a proud-free curiosity”. There is no need for explanation on this mantra: ego does prevent development — but there is no need for Christian not to feel proud for what he presented this afternoon to the TYPO crowd.


Christian Hanke

Christian Hanke is a Creative Director and Partner of Edenspiekermann’s Berlin office. He has built a reputation in the fields of media and brand  experiences, innovating products and teams. His clients ranges from media outlets like The Economist, Zeit Online, NZZ and ProSiebenSat.1 to global brands like Mercedes, Red Bull and their Red Bull Media House. He has won several funding from Google’s DNI Innovation program. Christian also regularly talks, writes, and teaches on how to bring innovation to brand and product teams.
Text — Spiros Martzoukos