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In today’s Q&A, Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute staff visit with Newsy President/Founder Jim Spencer and Alexandra Wharton, vice president of marketing and community at Newsy, to learn more about the news service and its successes so far.

Alexandra WhartonJim SpencerWith an abundance of news sources, and ever increasing demands on our time, many citizens pick a single source, usually one that reinforces their own thinking. While this may be a comfortable process, it doesn’t expose one to multiple viewpoints that might provide a richer learning experience. Jim Spencer, a 1991 graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism, saw an opportunity and pursued it: a multi-source, mobile video news service — Newsy. Partnering with the Reynolds Journalism Institute and the Missouri School of Journalism created benefits for all involved.

What is Newsy?

Available on the Web and mobile devices, Newsy is a video news service that allows users to compare news sources from around the world to see how a story unfolds.

What does or will success look like?

Success includes growing our audience — views of our videos continue to increase month over month. We listen to our users’ feedback closely and take our ratings seriously. Success also includes keeping our partners at a high level of satisfaction so that we can continue to grow these relationships.

Describe the audience(s).

Our audience ranges in profile depending on platform. For example, our iPad app users skew older, male with high incomes; users of our Android app tend to be under 25 and female. Our audience varies from those who are passing a couple of minutes at the bus stop by watching one our entertainment videos to a user who wants to spend several minutes watching a science video — and then digging deeper into each of the story’s sources.

Our audience varies from those who are passing a couple of minutes at the bus stop by watching one our entertainment videos to a user who wants to spend several minutes watching a science video — and then digging deeper into each of the story’s sources.

How has the audience changed and/or grown since launch?

The audience has grown incredibly since we first started. There has been a technological change as an explosion of mobile devices has taken over in the marketplace — new technologies to master including the iPad, Kindle Fire, Androids, and the iPhone to name a few. There is a ton more video being watched and online, mobile video is the fastest growing category to date. There has also been a sociological shift, many are realizing that we live in a global society, and having easy access to news reporting from around the world helps them be smarter, faster and more informed.

What has been the audience response?

The audience response to Newsy has been very favorable! As the highest-rated, video-centric mobile news app in the world, Newsy continues to score a 4 to a 4.5 out of 5 stars across all platforms. On a daily basis, we are contacted by viewers who thank us for providing an unbiased balanced report on a topic that matters to them. Our viewers also appreciate that Newsy finds stories that are frequently underreported – in turn, these types of stories tend to be the most shared via social media.

What has been the partner/client/channel response?

With nothing but positive responses, Newsy has dozens of partnerships with leading global news media and technology corporations and plan to continue growing and expanding these.

By creating opportunities for smart, motivated people, we have realized that an innovative place like Newsy is all about the team.

What lessons have you learned thus far?

There have been so many, but I’ve focused on three.

  • By creating opportunities for smart, motivated people, we have realized that an innovative place like Newsy is all about the team. The quality put out is directly related to the quality and the access to resources that are put in to our product.
  • If the right opportunity is created, it can all be done right here in Columbia, Mo. You don’t have to be in New York, San Francisco or Beijing to have innovative success.
  • You have to be enormously persistent and patient – there are exciting things to be done!

What do you need to get to the next level?

We need to do more of what we’re already doing here at Newsy. We need to continue to lead the online and video mobile marketplace by constantly innovating our product. Newsy has integrated more infographics into our videos, which engage users from beginning to end — providing content that is both insightful and easy to consume. In addition, we are experimenting with shorter videos on trending topics — these quick video news bites serve as primers for more in-depth pieces later in the day on Newsy.

How did RJI help you in your quest?

RJI has helped Newsy evolve by functioning as a global magnet, attracting people interested in the future of journalism from around the world. RJI’s entrepreneurial vantage point has allowed itself to be open to perspectives from the industry that have led to such great innovation. Newsy is trying to create a model and a success story showing how RJI and the Missouri School of Journalism are instrumental in determining the future of journalism.

RJI has helped Newsy evolve by functioning as a global magnet, attracting people interested in the future of journalism from around the world.

What needs did you see in journalism coverage that inspired you to create Newsy? ‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

The need for multi-source journalism and the rise of video was apparent. The demand and consumption of news content has only gone up over the years and continues to rise.

‪‬‬‬‬‬‬‬What motivated the decision to relocate from California to the Midwest, and specifically Columbia?

After obtaining my master’s degree from the Missouri School of Journalism, I spent a great amount of time in California working with a number of startup companies. My experience there showed me that some of the most interesting innovations were coming out of top universities — for example, Yahoo and Google came out of Stanford. It was obvious to me that this type of success, in the journalism realm, could only be found in the center of the country, where the best journalism school can be found. It was a bold move to base my business in Columbia, Mo., but it was a strategic move with logic to back it up.

It was obvious to me that this type of success, in the journalism realm, could only be found in the center of the country, where the best journalism school can be found.

How do your online, mobile, and tablet audiences compare, and how do you target them individually?

Tablet users tend to watch Newsy in the morning (breakfast and commute times) and before bedtime; mobile phone usage surges during meal times — so bumps during the breakfast, lunch and dinner/ commute home hours. Desktop usage is consistent with more of a 9 to 5 weekday work schedule. We are constantly adjusting our marketing techniques. For example, to reach desktop and mobile web users who are searching for a story, we’re focused on how our videos rank in search engines and on YouTube.

Mobile ads have been effective for driving downloads of our apps. And of course we have benefited from social media, which became mainstream around the time we were rolling out Newsy.‪‬‬‬‬‬

What marketing techniques have you found most successful for your product?

Maximizing our reach has been the most valuable marketing technique for Newsy. Word-of-mouth on a mobile device is extremely powerful. Sharing features on apps is important — by posting to Facebook, Twitter, email a friend, etc. This provides multiple links back to the story.

Producing original content is a very important tool we use and reiterate through our marketing techniques. We write, research, produce and edit each of our stories.

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