Jashin Lin, Rachel Moten and Ryan Huber, three seniors majoring in convergence journalism at the Missouri School of Journalism, worked with 2009-2010 Donald W. Reynolds Fellow Clyde Bentley on the Voices from the Past project. Voices from the Past is a mobile audio tour meant to enrich the Columbia community.
More importantly, however, the project was also aimed at proving non-push advertising works and exposing a unique branding and money-making opportunity for local media outlets.
The three students sought to test this simple question: “Will people ... be curious enough to engage in and continually return to ‘non-push’ advertising?” To implement this, they searched for stories about twenty-seven memorial and heritage benches that run along the MKT trail. They then designed and purchased the signage and promoted the finished product by installing the signs on the benches.
The team’s goal was to aim at the largest audience possible. This meant not relying on a high-tech means of conveyance, but on the simplest, most ubiquitous gadget in order to let people listen to the stories – the ordinary cell phone, also known as the “simple” or “dumb” phone.
On the signage were a simple phrase, “Want to hear this story?” and a phone number. Those who wanted to listen to the stories about the people for whom the benches were engraved could call the number and the audio story would play for them.
To gather data effectively, the students worked with Columbia Parks & Recreation to examine the MKT trail for a stretch that saw the most foot traffic, as well as the listed names and contact information for each bench. After the signs were installed, the students collected data of incoming phone calls for the ten benches via a statistics report provided by the audio tour system.
The students successfully proved that with viable content, people engage with non-push forms of advertising. As of Wednesday, May 11, 2010, there were nearly 150 calls that had come into the system in a month’s time. This was accomplished with hardly any PR and no advertising, and without being given any prime placement for signage along the trail.
The students' full report can be downloaded here.
Senior Convergence Journalism Students who worked on "Voices from the Past" and what they learned:
“What I learned from this project was how to really place our journalism skills to application to a device used daily. Completing this project showed how a little curiosity can be explored and investigated through the skill of reporting.”
“Current enriched environment technologies involve smartphones at the very least. But for this project, no exotic gadgets are needed, just a so-called simple or light" phone and a curiosity about the name on the bench in front of you. That is the simplest manifestation of an enriched environment."
“We as journalists must think in the current technological setting with an eye for the future. We must try to make our applications or mobile interactions with the intent to reach the most amount of people."