People in the Reese News Lab have developed a habit of shouting, “What’s next?”
This cry comes up when we’re excited. It bears a hint of sarcasm when we’re overwhelmed, and it drives the energy and the passion of everyone in the Lab.
“What’s next?” interns asked in August at the beginning of this semester.
The answer came in the form of several different problem statements:
What’s a good use for FilmSync technology? How do we fight corruption? How do we engage college students? How do we help local news organizations? How do we use public records?
The Lab then spent the past four months teasing out solutions to these problems.
Before a full house of media industry professionals, venture capitalists, research contacts and friends, Reese News Lab Executive Director John Clark kicked off the Lab’s fifth Pitch Day.
On Friday, November 14, seven teams pitched seven products. Each product went through intense desirability, feasibility and viability research.
In order to prove desirability, teams must show that real people are interested in their product. For feasibility they must prove their product can actually be created. Viability demands that the product be self-sustaining.
Teams came to Pitch Day ready to present their findings on these three principles. The audience, made up of venture capitalists, media professionals and other entrepreneurs, was provided with scorecards to rank the teams.
Up first was TourSync, a product aimed at moving museum tours from clunky technology to your smartphone. TourSync uses second-screen technology developed by Steven King, a faculty member at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. This technology allows for a smartphone app to pick up on sounds inaudible to human ears. These sounds tell the app to open up extra information on the phone.
This technology has been used in King’s Filmsync which gives viewers extra information about the movie they’re watching by embedding the signal sounds into the film.
In August, King came to the Lab and asked for other ideas for how to use this technology.
Lab interns Pamela Brody, Lincoln Pennington and Justina Vasquez got to work on an idea that used King’s technology to enhance walking tours. This idea evolved into an app for museum tours.
With the installation of signal-emitting speakers, museums can create a tour experience on their patron’s smart phone. Museum-goers download the app and as they enter an exhibit or stand near a piece of art, additional information will appear on their phone.
The second team to pitch proposed an alumni mentoring service called Tar Nation. Designed for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Tar Nation connects students to alumni through an online database. Tar Nation also encourages student-alumni relationships through dinners and other meet-up events.
Team members Emma Lockwood, Hannah Jessen, Ana Jones and Ashley Roddy came up with this product after hearing the prompt: How do we better engage with college students?
Tar Nation was modeled after alumni networks at the University of Wisconsin, the University of Minnesota and Stanford University. Through their market research, Tar Nation determined that students were willing to pay a $30 registration fee and a $10 annual renewal fee for this service.
The third product pitched was Teacher Talk. Teacher Talk aims to help teachers pass personalized information about students to their colleagues as students move up in grade levels.
Teacher Talk also evolved out of the ‘how might we engage college students’ prompt. The product started out as spin on the popular website Rate My Professor which allows students to share information about their professors through a rating system. The student team wanted to give professors the chance to rate their students.
The Teacher Talk team consisting of Margaret Croom, Pierce Conway, Jordan Mathews, Rachel Morris and Haemi Won determined that this service would be more effective for K-12 institutions.
Their product makes use of encryption software to protect students’ rights under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. Teacher Talk allows teachers to pass on information about the kind of environment their student works best in.
Audience members asked if this service would perpetuate bad behavior by students if their teachers label them as troublemakers. The team said no, in fact Teacher Talk will do the opposite. It will help teachers share stories of breakthroughs with troubled students.
Stuff Share was the fourth product pitched. Unlike most of the other products, Stuff Share is not based online. It is a physical store that provide people with a place to rent their stuff, and to rent other people’s stuff.
The team, Anisah Jabar, Ryan Smith, Jennifer Tietnguyen and Andrew Wood, used the example of a suitcase to explain Stuff Share.
One person they say, needy Ned, is going on a long trip and he doesn’t have a suitcase. Suitcase Sally on the other hand doesn’t travel much and she has a suitcase lying around from a trip a year ago. Stuff Share provides a physical location for Ned to rent Sally’s suitcase.
America Media Corps
The America Media Corps team started the semester with the prompt: How do we help community news organizations?
The team initially began by researching a way to use the Teach For America model to place recent journalism graduates as fellows with local newspapers. They ran into a number of viability problems after talking to local news organizations.
The team was made up of Elizabeth Bartholf, Hannah Doksansky, Cheney Gardner and Amulya Uppalapati.
They found that many community news organizations could not afford to hire a fellow. After talking to community journalism experts, the team decided to look into a mixed model for the program. They found that many communities are in need of journalism teachers for their high schools. The America Media Corps team then proposed the idea of having the fellows teach journalism part-time and work for the news organization part-time.
With this model, the school and the news organizations could split the cost of the fellow’s salary. But, the team said, this mixed model would also present viability and feasibility challenges.
The Kinethics team began the semester by seeking to solve international corruption. In its market research, the team found that many companies are engaging in corrupt practices because they don’t understand the consequences.
The team Kinethics team is Pooja Kodavanti, Hrisanthi Kroi, Abby Reimer and Hannah Wang. Kinethics is an interactive compliance training system that heavily emphasizes the cultural practices of the nation that employees are working in.
By making compliance training interactive and culturally relevant, Kinethics hopes to reduce the corruption practiced by international companies. Kinethics training hopes to demonstrate that the consequences of corruption outweigh any benefits.
Kids’ Table began as a project to help customers with allergies find restaurants that cater to their needs. The team discovered in their research, however, that restaurants prefer not to serve people with allergies at all.
The team then moved on to a new idea. They were committed to addressing the serious problems that people with allergies face and they didn’t want to leave that market behind just because restaurants were choosing to.
At Pitch Day, they proposed the idea of camp-like sessions for kids with allergies that teach kids what they can eat as well as proper cooking techniques so that they can stay safe. The team proposed the camp would be broken into two parts: one part traditional teaching and one part actually teaching kids how to cook.
The seven ideas were well received by the audience. At its fifth Pitch Day, it was obvious that the Reese News Lab is starting to get the hang of pitching crazy ideas and proving that they are desirable, viable and feasible. After another successful semester, all you can do is sit back and ask, “What’s next?”