Knight News Challenge: Team NAPP (the News APP)

Team Name: NAPP: “News App”

Students: Carlea Hazzard, Kirsten Ho, Levi Stroud

Title: NAPP: The News App Playlist

Requested Amount: $50,000

Expected Amount of Time to Complete Project: 6 months

Describe Your Project:

Our idea is to make an app or database that makes a “playlist” of articles. For example, when driving, currently your main choices are to listen to music or news radio. But, what about reading those articles from the news sources your love most? What if articles from The Wall Street Journal, National Geographic, and the New Yorker could all be audibly accessible to you while in transit? The product would recite these articles out loud so that you can listen to your favorite news stories of the day from a diverse database of news outlets. All of this would come from one simple app. You could easily navigate the topics from “today’s news,” “international,” “Kim Kardashian,” “Climate Change,” and add them to your favorites. You could customize what news sources your playlist will have and what topics. The point is that, instead of having multiple news apps from BBC, ABC, and CNN, you could have all the news filtered into one application. You can customize it. And it can play continuously. You can get top stories of the day, recommended stories, and stories based on your location using GPS. Also, you can search a “#topic” of your choice and stories will appear. Based upon your settings, you can filter out what news sources you do and do not want to read. And, if you really like an article, you can “favorite” it and share it on your many social media platforms. You would be able to link any magazine or special news subscriptions to this application as well, all in the effort of finding your news in one place. In addition, this would be a good application to search archives of relevant news stories as well.

The strongest advantage of our application is that it is convenient; it saves and tracks your news interests, links with your social media, and allows its buyer to receive news from many sources. It also is very convenient for consumers because it reads information out loud, can be voice activated, and requires very little digital storage space. As our lives continue to get more and more fast paced, an application like this is relevant for the need people have for fast and easy access to quality information or entertaining information. The app model goes very well with this product because it allows the consumer to receive the information anywhere without needing any other product besides their smartphone. Not only would it be perfect for those in transit, but it would also be perfect for those desiring information without having to read it themselves.

This app is applicable to all age groups, but would specifically target ages 18 to 60 due to the news’ likeliness to attract adults and also because of its technologically savvy base.  From this, you can see that the app has a very wide potential market base, making it very sustainable for many years.

“Think Kindle meets Spotify meets Newspaper.”

 What unmet need does your product meet?:

It provides guided news search that is easy to use and that is tailored to your interests. It brings news from all sources (even linking to your current magazine subscriptions).

Right now, many are not able to listen to news sources outside of the major news radio networks. This app would increase accessibility to the news because you can listen to it anytime instead sitting down to read the paper. Not only does it allow for audible news, but it also creates a diverse database for news distribution, which is important for those wanting to receive multiple perspectives on important issues. Our app would seek to be unbiased and would incorporate a wide array of publications rather than forcing our own upon a consumer base. The app does not only serve needs for entertainment, but it also serves educational needs and could be used for school and university purposes. In general, the app would seek to meet the consumer’s need for a more convenient way to stay informed on the world rather than using their technology to only distract them from it.

Interview Evaluations:

User #1:

Gabriel Aguilera, 21, Computer Science Student, Hispanic, Male, gabrieag@umich.edu

Would possibly seek a source to read the multiple magazines he receives in the mail on one easy to reach application on his phone. Digital is just easier.

User #2:

Trebecca McDonald, 22, Civil Engineering Student, Black, Female, trebecca.mcdonald@gmail.com

Being able to listen to the news or podcasts on the bus, or while driving is useful.

User #3:

Anna Ceen, 22, Women Studies Major, White, Female, annacful@umich.edu

Pre-packaged excerpts of news delivered daily would be more convenient. I don’t particularly like to read full articles, it takes too long.

User #4:

Karen Doh, 21, Communication Studies, Asian-American, Female, karendoh@umich.edu

I don’t have the time to read the news. There are other things that I prioritize over reading the news. When I do read the news, I don’t like to read the whole articles. I would prefer headlines that sum up everything.

Potential Market for idea? Statistics?

The market base for this application is very diverse. An estimated 128.3 million people commute to work in the United States(1). 26.2 million listen to NPR every week (2), and 1.75 billion people worldwide have a smartphone(3). Because of the diverse database that this app will provide, there will be news material that is fitting for everyone with a smartphone. While there is already a clear market for audible news, this app will only expand that market by bringing a greater diversity to what is accessible. Even those that do not currently listen to audible news while in transit will find niches for themselves within this app that will make their days more productive and enjoyable.

[http://www.statisticbrain.com/commute-statistics/]

http://www.npr.org/about/press/NPR_Fact_Sheet.pdf

[http://www.emarketer.com/Article/Smartphone-Users-Worldwide-Will-Total-175-Billion-2014/1010536 ]

How is your idea innovative? What are your closest competitors?

Our idea is innovative because it takes advantage of the current market searching for ways to digest information while multitasking.

Google News would be a close competitor. Google news has a similar idea of being able to “harvest” the news of the day into one area to make it manageable and there are topics suggested to look up articles as well. Our product would utilize this idea to compile the news outlets into one location, large or small, and customize your ‘new s playlist’ based on what you want to read. In addition, the voice feature to listen to the articles of the day would be a great feature for those on-the-go everyday people.

Voice Reading is an app that can read aloud the words of any text, file, or data from another app. However it must be sent to the Voice Reading application directly. Our product would be a built in feature of reading aloud; therefore, our market would merely need to access the app to receive audible news.

Flipboard is an app that gathers news stories based on your preferences and allows you to flip through and choose which you would like to read. Our product differs in two ways:  it is voice activated and has a voice option that can read the news aloud to you; it also allows you to customize and search whenever you want.

How will your idea be financially sustainable?

We would seek financial assistance from news outlets seeking to feature their news stories on the application. It’s a benefit for all the news articles from a variety of sources to be part of this new model of news communication because the more accessible their articles are, the more of a consumer base they will develop. In addition, we would consider advertisements to sponsor the application. Just like radio, we could include the intermittent commercial break. We could also incorporate a small payment for the downloading of the app or a small monthly payment for it. There is also the possibility of having a free version of the app as well as a premium version that requires subscribers to pay. Most likely, the model we will use will be based on the amount of interest from investors that we receive.

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

We have an engineer with the technical experience to maintain the app. Her rigorous work with engineering gives her crucial abilities while in the app’s technical designing process. We also have a multi-media expert that can serve as creative director for marketing, sales, and design purposes. Our other teammate specializes in economics and could handle the business/financial aspects. Together, our team has great potential for creating, marketing, and distributing this new and exciting technology.

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4 Responses to “Knight News Challenge: Team NAPP (the News APP)”

  1. Would you be the ones to develop the audio content? I think this is a cool idea, but I think it’s lacks the substance and personality that makes actual radio stations and podcasts so popular. People don’t listen to NPR and other radio stations for the news so much as because they trust the programming in place and the hosts who deliver it. If anything, I would put more focus on making this a body for news outlets to develop their brand and character in the realm of podcast and radio rather than just regurgitating their content. Similarly, people will read papers and digest various other mediums because of a sense of empathy towards certain story tellers, and if you give the ability to re-create that uniqueness and style for each of the outlets you work with, then this could be a great idea. This, of course, would also take a substantially larger amount of funding and project time, and a great team of people who understand the industry, marketing, advertising, and so forth.

  2. Hi! I agree with some of the things Joseph had to say. The automated voice is not always smooth, and it doesn’t have the character of an experienced radio host. However! Two of your potential users indicated that they are interested in listening to headlines. In my opinion, that would be a good focus for the audio piece of the project. On the other hand, I can see your project being great for written news. It’s a good way to compare different news perspectives easily, in one app. As far as I can tell, it would be the only one of it’s kind. I think your project would have a lot of potential in the market!

  3. Hi guys! Great idea. I think it is creative and also a realistic endeavor. An audio-news outlet is something that is lacking and would be a great innovation. I would for sure focus on the audio part of your news app the most, as I think this has the most potential, and I would save the more social media aspect of the app for after you have developed a solid foundation. My biggest suggestion is that if this app is to get more people to read the news, I think that it needs to reach out to the younger generation. In my experience, I’ve gotten the feeling that younger people tend to consume news much less than older people. And also, I don’t know many of my peers who listen to audiobooks or NPR very frequently. So while I think that your app has the potential to be a smash hit for people who already are used to listening to news in the car, I think that in order to really take-off, you have to make the app more appealing to younger users. I think that some of that could be incorporating aspects of social media, or intermixing hot music in-between articles, as younger people love to listen to music. Overall, I think it’s great, I would just suggest that you really consider how to make the app appealing to younger people.

  4. Hi, Team NAPP. Nice work! I particularly like the way you use analogy to describe your idea in one phrase: Kindle meets Spotify meets newspaper. That’s easy to understand, and interesting. Bravo.
    I also appreciate the way you use statistics about commuters to establish the size of that part of your potential audience.
    I think the previous comments have given you some thoughtful, on-target feedback. I especially want to highlight the notion that well-produced audio stories are much more than someone reading the news. I think your competitors include podcasts produced by many news organizations, which can be stored and played during a commute. Broadcast radio news stations such as NPR and AM all-news/talk stations as well as satellite news stations also are competitors — and they already are providing a lot of coverage, particularly during commuter rush hours. Note that traffic news is a big component of all-news radio during commute times — you know, those helicopter reports about backups and crashes. There are lots of traffic-related apps that compete with those helicopter reports; google maps, for example. So, you don;t have to match that aspect of commute-related news but at least think about that and have a good reason why you’re not going to give people traffic-related info while they’re commuting.
    It’s not ideal that you’re aiming at a commuter audience but none of the people you interviewed speak about commuting.
    You also should give some more thought to how you’re going to make your product financially sustainable. I’m not really understanding what incentive news organizations have to share their content with you. They need clicks, or some other measure of audience brought to their product.
    Again, good job thinking creatively about how to mash-up the best aspects of some existing products to come up with something new and useful. Keep listening to feedback and thinking about how you can improve this idea. I like it.

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