News for Kids: A YouTube Initiative

20161208_110344Team members: Katie Pak, Megan Williams, Sahar Gowani

Requested Amount: $10,000

Expected Amount of time to Complete Project: Six months

Describe your Project: 500 words

 

For our project, we would like to create a YouTube channel that delivers news to late-elementary and early-middle school age students. In the wake of the recent election, we have come to the realization that an informed society is more imperative than ever. We believe this starts with young students—and yet, there is a gap in the demographic here when it comes to news delivery. We would like to fill this gap, and we believe YouTube is the best way to do this.

YouTube is popular with the millennial and the Z generation, and it also permeates across social media platforms. It can reach people on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, over text, via email, etc. Teachers can play short segments in classrooms, students can watch them on their phones or computers. With short, digestible videos written and packaged specifically with students in mind, critical and balanced news can hopefully reach one of the most impressionable and vulnerable demographics in American society.

The channel should take great care to be nonpartisan, thought this should not mean it strays away from talking about political issues. Its coverage of politics should be modeled after news outlets like BBC, New York Times, etc. However, it must be emphasized that balanced does not always mean equal coverage (e.g. equal time and weight wouldn’t be devoted to climate-change skeptics and climate change scientists). The channel should also not be “dumbed down,” because the point is not to make news simpler—short length discourages complex discussion of important issues—the point is to make it targeted toward preteens.

We believe a channel like this can be useful to parents or teachers looking to add discourse on current events into their children’s day, or even enterprising students looking to become more informed themselves. The channel should have a main 2-3 minute ‘headlines’ segment, and other categories such as ‘Sports,’ ‘Science,’ ‘Health,’ ‘Entertainment,’ etc. This way, the format is a sort of deconstructed news show where participants can feel like they have agency to pick what kinds of things they want to know about, and it can be tailored to whatever students have time for. Vlogbrothers is a good example to model after, though this channel is not really news-oriented as educational and pop-culture driven. This channel would in no way be competition.

A mainly preteen age range of 9-12 seems like the right age group, because any younger and students would need the news to be much less complex and any older students would be more likely to consume mainstream media outlets.

 

We envision a small, cheap set that looks somewhat like a newsroom, with one anchor for the headline news and perhaps recurring anchors for the other segments. These could be recruited as volunteers, or be paid on a part-time, as-needed basis. A good example is BBC Newsround, but much cheaper. Videos could be released on a daily or weekly basis, and segments on a regularly recurring schedule as well. BBC Newsround is also not competitive with our channel, as our channel will be oriented towards American students.

 

We do not anticipate much competition at all, as most news directed toward student audiences are in print format. There are next to no news-related YouTube channels, and they are too specific—kids travel news, animal news, etc. Ours would be the first initiative to be a comprehensive visual news network, but entirely marketed towards preteens.

 

What unmet need does your product meet? 200 words

 

There is definitely a gap in the market for news delivery to young adults. Kids are consuming more media than ever, and yet, almost none of it comes from the news. Most news is targeted towards not just to adults, but to adults who usually have a fundamental understanding about the context of ongoing stories or how certain political, economic, or social concepts work. Some of this has been addressed by organizations like Vox, whose purpose is to “explain the news,” but students need to be able to think critically about news and what is happening in the world—and hopefully, this sort of YouTube channel can address this and start building the critical foundation. Especially after the recent election, it seems crucial to educate students about the news and current events in an unambiguous and nonpartisan way.

Currently, many schools make their own news with student participation. However, schools without these resources could benefit from this service, as well as homeschooling parents, and any teacher or parent/guardian who is also looking for their students to have an understanding of national and global news rather than just local to the school or community.

 

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

 

Amsal Khimani (847-208-9114)

Age: 13, male, middle schooler, Naperville, IL

Amsal mentioned that at school they watch CNN Student News. Although targeted to middle school/high school students, Amsal admitted that he couldn’t understand a lot of the vocabulary that was used. He also talked about how he would like to see more current events in the student news, especially after this election.

 

Huma Khimani (847-208-9719)

Age: 37, female, stay at home mom, Naperville, IL

Huma, Amsal’s mother, believes that the regular news is absolutely inappropriate for kids to watch. She believes that when kids watch the news at school it’s hard for parents to answer any of their questions when they come home. Huma suggested that news should be presented to kids so that parents can go back and refer to it in order to further explain certain topics.

 

Zehra Gokal (773-971-1144)

Age: 22, female, teacher, Chicago, IL

Zehra, a teacher in the Chicago Public School system, believed that news for kids should be somewhat filtered because kids can only take in and contextualize so much information. She described an incident the day after the election where a couple of her third graders asked what would happen to their families if Trump was elected president. She blamed the news media for instilling this fear in them.

 

Zahra Lalani (zlalani29@gmail.com)

Age: 25, female, teacher, Indianapolis, IN

Zahra described how different the methods of receiving news have become, especially for her fourth grade students. She pointed out that most of her students aren’t necessarily tuning in to the news every night, but they are checking their Snapchat, Instagram, etc and are exposed to news this way. It was also mentioned that almost all her students have a favorite Youtuber that they follow, so having some sort of kid-friendly outlet on these platforms would be beneficial.

 

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

 

The market potential for our project is exceedingly large, and would potentially be used everyday in school. There are countless articles on the internet with titles such as “How to get your kids into news”, and we aim to bridge that, and be an easy way for this question to be answered. Any child within the potential age range and beyond could be an audience, but also teachers and parents who are looking for a way of learning news at a level for children could also be considered part of our target audience.

 

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

 

There are lots of viable competitors out there that are already delivering news to children, however often these outlets are out of date, or not quite as informative as we aim to be. Many large newspapers have their own kids network, however they are often outdated, not remotely interactive, and often it seems like the content isn’t actually very child friendly. For example, The Times for Kids has an interface that is difficult to work with, and very long wordy articles that aren’t interesting. For our videos, and our project as a whole, everything will be tailored to making sure our content is up to date, interactive and most of all that it is fun. We want it to be something that is usable, easy to understand, and our main goal is that children are encouraged to be inquisitive themselves, without the need of reminders from parents or teachers.

 

How will your idea be financially sustainable? 150 words

 

Our idea could be financially sustainable, as many people have built a business from the ground up using YouTube. A lot of the budget would be on one-time buys, such as a professional camera and a set to film on. We would also budget in hiring people to help with the video editing, ensuring content is of the highest quality, and also presenters to deliver the news in a professional and also child friendly manner. This would likely be our main source of spending.

 

Income would come through selling advertising spots through YouTube, and also through potential sponsorship and merchandise, however this would change on demand.

 

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

 

We believe we’re the best as we understand how important communication is in the modern world, especially with current events like the elections. These are times when being informed allows the creation of good morals and an interest in what is happening around us. As a team, we are all incredibly interested in the world around us, and all believe that everyone should have access to a news source that is understandable. We are all passionate about providing this source, and believe we have an idea and the drive to provide.

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4 Responses to “News for Kids: A YouTube Initiative”

  1. I think this is such a great idea! I remember that reading the Scholastic Kids News in my 5th grade classrooms was one of my favorite parts of the week. But I also remember being frustrated that there weren’t any other good outlets for me to get news from at the age. I would try to read the newspaper with my parents, but it was too much for me to comprehend at that time. I think choosing YouTube as your platform truly is a great idea, as kids spend so much of their free time on the computer today.

    My only concern is whether or not children will voluntarily choose to watch these videos. Teachers and parents may play the news videos for children, but to maintain a high following, I think you’ll need children to consciously seek out these videos. Maybe you could try partnering with common online video game websites and play your news videos as advertisements on those sites. This, of course, would be a significant monetary investment, but I believe it would help increase your visibility and popularity among young students.

    Another idea could be to have some student anchors in your videos. Grade school children may be able to relate better to students their age and may be more likely to continue seeking out these videos if the people delivering the news are their peers.

    Overall, I think this is a really important issue you’re tackling, and I really like your approach! Great job!

  2. This is a really cool idea! I think one of the biggest challenges you will face besides funding the channel, is gaining popularity. There will have to be a good balance between how informative the content is and how entertaining it is to children.

    Have you thought of possibly incorporating middle schoolers in the news reporting? It would be interesting to have different students from around the country reporting from their schools or have them featured. This could make it more interactive for this age group as kids would like to be featured and show their friends. To gain attention, you could also have popular youtubers that have an audience mainly composed of this pre-teen age range be guests on your channel and have them report the news. This could generate a lot of attention and interest in your channel.

    If you were able to make these key initial partnerships with educators, students, and other youtubers I think your channel could be successful and useful in introducing news to this generation.

  3. I really like this idea. Although there are some YouTube channels for young children, most of these channels are focused on education. I think creating a channel that specifically delivers unbiased news the young children is important since during that period, their worldview are very susceptible to the news they obtained from the media and most of the news from mainstream media are somewhat biased. I think the main challenge of this idea is that it is hard to delivering the appropriate news to the young children, since it takes time to select the news that are appropriate to young people and is changeling to make sure the news are reported in an unbiased way. Therefore, if some people can censored the news cautiously, I think this project will work well.

  4. I’m a big fan of efforts to engage young people with news and generally with the civic life of their communities. So I really like your basic idea. As you note, many other people have attempted something similar, especially from legacy print publications. Some video competitors/collaborators you might particularly want to consider:

    Channel One News https://www.channelone.com/about-us/

    CNN Student News, which you mention http://www.cnn.com/2016/11/28/studentnews/sn-content-tues/

    The New York Times’ Learning Network, which features a lot of videos and contests http://www.nytimes.com/section/learning

    PBS Learning Media http://dptv.pbslearningmedia.org/

    Nick News, which went off air in 2015 after more than two decades https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/arts-and-entertainment/wp/2015/12/01/why-nick-news-with-linda-ellerbee-is-finally-going-off-the-air-in-december/?utm_term=.8b9fa88d4bb0

    It would be great for you to consider the pros and cons of these attempts. How will yours be different and better? How will yours succeed financial when a popular competitor like Nick News could not? This should not discourage you, by the way. This should challenge you. There is a market here. How can you do this better? I know you say that your news will be easier to understand and more interactive. An example would be great. How would you approach a recent story on one of these outlets different?

    Meanwhile, I think your budget is very modest. It takes a lot of effort to produce a news show. You might want to connect with our former student Charlie Engelman, who has done similar work, to talk about realistic costs. Charlie won a National Geographic challenge right out of U of M and spent the summer traveling the country with some friends, making cool videos about trees: https://www.youtube.com/user/WorldByCharlie http://expeditiongranted.nationalgeographic.com/project/get-pumped-about-nature-a-new-film-series-for-a-ne/

    I have not been in contact with him recently, so I’m curious what he’s doing now. If you reach out to him, please say “hi” from me!

    Also, one more point. You assert that kids are consuming more media than ever, but you link to a graphic showing that consumption of media by kids went down between 2011 and 2014. So, you might want to change your wording there.

    Again, great direction here. But some details to work out.

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