Knights Challenge Idea: News Network

Sarah Clayton, Katie Shaw, Stephanie O’Neil, Alissa Cravens

Knights Challenge Idea: News Network

Requested Amount, Expected Amount of time to Complete Project. Describe your Project: 500 words, What unmet need does your product meet? 200 words 

We propose a news app, hereby known as News Network, that integrates social media and regional location technologies to bring top quality news articles to the users globally. Recently, there has been an influx in apps and websites that concisely provide users with updates from peers in your area. The now prominent use of Yik Yak across college campuses has not only united universities but also has allowed students to peek into the minds of peers while simultaneously assuring those worried about their well being that they are not alone. This regional technology has built a strong foundation of community on many campuses. This same technology has the power to unite communities through regional news as well.

News Network will allow users to select from a compilation of the top news stories being reported globally. These stories would be listed based on the amount of viewer traffic each story was receiving. Most major newspapers already have the technology to track how many views stories are getting on their websites but this app will take that technology a step further by ranking articles in relation to other news outlets. This would allow users to cross-reference major publications in one place. This app will also provide a search feature to allow users the option to filter for specific subjects or topics of interest (ie. health, politics, entertainment, etc.)

In addition to providing a digest of the top news stories globally, News Network would use regional location to provide the top trending stories in a 100 square mile radius of the individual. This will provide a valuable look at the current trending news stories in the local vicinity of the user. Many people enjoy local news and prefer to use community built publications to stay in the loop on regional happenings. Much like the trendy new app Yik Yak, users will also have the ability to look at the top trending news stories in other regions. Yik Yak has capitalized off of college campuses and allows viewers to see what other colleges are talking about. News Network will offer a search by capital and major cities of states option that will allow users to read the top trending news in other cities. This is perfect for students who are attending an out of state college and cannot easily access all the top stories happening in their hometown.

News Network will also link with social media sites in order to purvey trending articles with friends on various platforms. For instance, you will see which articles your Facebook friends are viewing on the app and in turn have the opportunity to share your favorites with them. The app will allow users to ‘like’ an article, which can help boost its viewing numbers and push it further up the list of top stories. This feature is very relevant when reading and sorting local news. In addition, the app also has the ability to ‘file’ away stories you really enjoyed so you can revisit and reread them later.  All sources used by News Network will be pre-checked for legitimacy before any article is posted so you can trust the information you’re being presented.

According to Kinvey, it can take about 18 weeks to design and create an app. Therefore, we estimate this project taking about 24 weeks in total to perfect the design and the technology to sort the sources and articles that will be used in it. Based on this site’s estimations,, we anticipate the cost of the app will be about $11,500 to create (database app plus share capabilities.) We chose an App platform due to its high growth nature. Also, according to Business Insider, roughly 22% of the global population has a smartphone and 17% has a tablet ( Smartphone ownership surpassed personal computer ownership in 2012 and this trend is estimated to continue on in the future. Our App is the new face of news and will have the power to reach and inform more people than any news site before.

Interview four potential users of your product about this unmet need. Do not tell them about your idea. Just explore their need. What did you learn? Include names and contact info for interviewees and a few words describing each — age, gender, occupation, town where of residence. Go for variety. 200 words

Kaitlin Hall- Female, 20 years old, student; Office Support Staff (University of Michigan Dining Office)- Ann Arbor, MI

Like so many of us, University of Michigan Junior Kaitlin Hall is always on-the-go. Dual majoring in Spanish and Neuroscience while balancing a job doesn’t exactly leave time for staying up on even national news stories, let alone regional stories of merit, so she often turns to social media for her news. On a typical day, Kaitlin uses Buzzfeed, the New York Times, the Michigan Daily, Twitter, and Facebook as her primary news stories. In general, she uses mobile apps and sites to view this news content, which she prefers for their conciseness and the way they allow her to quickly access articles and social media information quickly when she is on-the-go (such as during the time in between classes, when walking, or on the bus). She tells me she prefers apps like Twitter, Facebook, and Yik Yak to the mobile websites of the Daily and the New York times because the articles tend to be longer in the latter and sometimes newspapers’ mobile sites tend to be lacking in user-friendliness.

In terms of what she is not satisfied with in her current news accessing situation, Kaitlin tells me she is often overwhelmed by the amount of articles on the average news website, as the organization of topics tends to vary greatly from website to website, sometimes leaving her unsure of what to read first. In general, she says she looks to the homepages of these websites and their most popular articles, regardless of whether they are really tailored to her interests or not. For this reason, she says she would prefer to see a news site with a homepage that is more tailored to her own interests before she moves on to other local and national news stories. In addition, she would like to access more news sites, but typically sticks with the same few because she feels they are credible and thus don’t require her to fact-check the news she is receiving.

Levi Smith – Male, 21 years old, Industrial and Operational Engineer, Statistics, Student (University of Michigan) – Ann Arbor, MI

In a world that is constantly on the go, news hungry individuals frequently turn to media sources that fulfill their desire to stay up to date on current events while fitting into jam packed schedules. Students, such as University of Michigan Senior Levi Smith, are enrolled in rigorous courses, work jobs, and are involved with campus organizations. Sitting down to read a newspaper is not conducive to their busy lifestyles. In order to combat this problem, Levi often turns to the internet to seek out current events. He uses several major newspaper online sites in addition to social media. While he enjoys the lengthy articles of Time Magazine and The New York Times, sometimes he doesn’t have the schedule to sit and read them. On especially busy days he turns to sources such as Reddit, Twitter, or Facebook, which tend to provide shorter comprehensive articles.

Even though Levi primarily uses online sources to get his news, he would read newspapers more often if they were available on campus. A major barrier to reading a traditional newspaper is the difficulty in access. As Levi said “I’m not going to go out of my way to get something that’s only a click away online.” Finding traditional newspapers on a college campus can be difficult and costly. Online news is usually free and offers abundant information and innumerable articles.

In general, Levi also indicated that he prefers to read local news. National news can be good for some issues, such as looking at financial stories covered in the Wall Street Journal. More often than not, Levi finds that national news can be sensationalized while local news tends to be more relevant to him.

James Bonnici – Male, 19 yrs old, student, Lake Orion, MI.

James said he would like different options in a news source -something that would allow him to search, but also filter. He would prefer to find his news on his phone because it’s right there and it’s easy to get. This would be most efficient for him because he always has his phone on him. He likes using Yik Yak and Twitter because it keeps him in contact with the world around him. Sharing things he sees online with his friends is really important to him as well because he likes to see what his friends think of it. James says he doesn’t check the news enough and thinks checking it every day is time consuming. He also thinks there’s a lot of stuff on the internet that pops up that is fake news and it’s really not worth his time to sort through what is real and what isn’t or do any sort of background research to find out if it’s legitimate. One thing James thinks is needed in the news world today is a sorter between “good” and “bad” news and that it should be more simple to find the stories.

Alyson Mcadams Female 21, student, Ann Arbor Michigan

When asked how Alyson reached most of the news stories she reads, Alyson said that Twitter was probably the number one place that links her to different articles. When asked what platforms she reads news she said that she reads more “serious and long articles on my computer” and used her phone less, but still browsed and read on it, but shorter periods.

In terms of sources, she said her favorites were NPR  and the New York Times, but she also found she happened upon more articles from more broad and networked sites such as the Huffington Post and Buzzfeed.

Her most used apps were social media ones (Facebook, twitter, and Instagram). She said she is most drawn to news stories related to public health and food systems because that is her area of study. She said she doesn’t often share and link articles on social media, but if she does it is on twitter, not Facebook. She did say a downside to receiving so much news through social sites is that it is often tiring to see people’s personal opinions engulfed around every post. When asked if she has a place to “save” articles in any one place to access later she said she normally does not unless it’s something she shared publicly, but said she would if there was an easy way to do it.  

How big is the potential market for your idea? Mention sources for any statistics you use. 100 words

We believe that any app user in the world could benefit from this product. Our market is as large as that of people owning smartphones, tablets, or any other device that supports apps. Anyone wishing to be provided with a complete and legitimate list of news will be glad they have this app.

We chose an App platform due to its high growth nature. According to Business Insider roughly 22% of the global population has a smartphone and 17% has a tablet (

We also chose an on-the-go style news source based on the successes of The Skimm. While the owners do no provide their current subscription numbers they did make note that they reached over 100,000 subscribers early on in the apps existence. They also note that “around 50% will open theSkimm daily, compared to the industry average for newsletters of 7% to 12% “ (

How is your idea innovative — new or different from something already existing? Name your closest competitors – 200 words

While sites like the Skimm are similar in that they offer content from various media sources, their function is primarily to provide quick snippets and breakdowns of big time stories. Their main function is to provide news to individuals who don’t have time to sit and read long traditional news pieces. Our App will take pre-existing news stories from top news sources and will provide a comprehensive list of the top headlines each day (no matter its original source). Thus we will create a compilation of the most read news stories from all major newspapers. We also will have a regional based top stories section that is unlike any other existing news application.

News Network will also allow the user to create a personal profile where there can “file” articles under topics of their choosing to either to read later or to save for reference or sharing. This allows for a more personal experience in viewing the news.

How will your idea be financially sustainable? 150 words

We plan to have two versions of the app. One will be a free, limited version with ads that we will sell space for to help bring in revenue. The other version will cost $0.99 and will not contain ads, but the price of no ads will secure revenue. To keep the news articles that appear on top fair and unbiased, we will not accept any monetary compensation from news sources. However, for a nominal fee we will offer news sources/companies the ability to access to our data on most read articles which will provide them information on how their articles are holding up against competitors in real time (most currently have the ability to see how their own articles are being read in relation to other articles they are producing. it is harder to make comparisons across newspaper companies at this point).

Why are you and your team the right people to develop this project?  100 words

We feel that our team is right for this project because we are a team of University of Michigan undergraduates with diverse skills and backgrounds. We are part of a generation that experiences over-saturation from the sheer volume of information available at our fingertips. Many studies show that individuals of this generation, and even previous generations, are overwhelmed by the notion that there isn’t enough time in the day to read through every piece of information. We need what’s trending and we need it locally relevant as well as collective.


Prototype for News Network App

Here is a model of what we anticipate the app to look like.


About Sarah C

Hi there! My name is Sarah and I am a medical student at Michigan State College of Osteopathic Medicine (MSUCOM) pursing a career as a physician. I am also a Style Consultant with Premier Designs so I stay very busy. I graduated in 2015 from the University of Michigan with my B.S. in Cellular and Molecular Biology with a Minor in Writing.

4 Responses to “Knights Challenge Idea: News Network”

  1. This is a cool idea! It’s definitely important to have access to credible news, on a platform young people may actually use. One suggestion I have is to add top videos or photos to the app. This would appeal to users, especially college students, who feel they don’t have time to read long articles, or prefer to get their news in other formats.

  2. This is a really great idea. You’re illustration of the prototype, especially gives the audience a good understanding of the application. I would like to see photos and videos linked to this as well. I’m just wondering why someone wouldn’t use multiple different applications of news sources they know and trust. The idea that they will get many different points of view is fantastic, but I think many people are hesitant to leave something they are already comfortable with. Also, will there be links to news articles?

  3. I would use this application everyday. People are often clued into national news headlines, but tend to neglect local news issues. This application could bring attention to some of these stories. One suggestion I have is adding a personal tracker to the application which would help bring relevant news stories to the user.

  4. Hi, News Network Team. Very impressive. Yik yak for news. I like it. I appreciate the depth of the detail in your description of how this would work; your meaty interviews with potential users; and your images of how the app would look. My favorite part is your observation that your app could offer news sites information that they want about how individual stories are competing against individual stories from other sources. The biggest weakness I see with this idea is that you don’t really spell out why news outlets would be willing to give you access to their stories. Maybe the information about how stories are competing is enough — especially if you include just part of the story and entice your users to click through to the news org’s own site for the rest. Please make sure that in your live pitch and pitch video you spend a moment directly addressing a news org executive who is reluctant to give away the content that the news org has spent lots of time and money collecting. Again, great work on this.

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