Graduates from San Francisco-based accelerator Matter are striving to change media for good. Will they succeed?
"What if you tried to build the next great media institution from scratch?"
That's the challenge Jake Shapiro, founder of Matter, a start-up accelerator based in San Francisco, gave his inaugural class five months ago, which so far seems to be paying off. The start-ups, which each received $50,000 and were nurtured from birth through the early stages, presented some excellent ideas in New York last week and could change the way media companies boost profits, draw readers, and tell stories. Here's a look at six audacious start-ups transforming the newsroom.
Will Mayo is on a mission to "bring voices back to storytelling." His start-up, SpokenLayer, already generates revenue thanks to partnerships with titles like The New Republic, Fast Company, andTIME. With SpokenLayer, publishers can submit any article and have an audio version on the site within 26 minutes. "Text, words and language have sound embedded in them, but now the Web is on mute," Mayo said, adding his job is to "un-mute that content." Later this year, SpokenLayer will release an app that creates a personalized podcast by tracking which publications, topics, and speakers you listen to. "Everyone has a pair of headphones," he said. "Give people the content they want where ever they are."
Created by hackers for journalists and watchdogs, OpenWatch, a cloud-based, opensource platform, lets users share videos of under-reported events. So far, the free app has over 100,000 users. Founder and CEO Rich Jones hopes OpenWatch will "help ensure police accountability, report violent crimes and expose corporate predation," and there's a good chance it might. Once a user uploads a mobile video, the app synchronizes into a high-definition -- and broadcast-ready -- version, which is then distributed worldwide. The app is especially useful for editors, who can track reporters on a map, send assignments, and receive footage.
Gunning for inbox zero? You may want to try Inkfold, the iOS app by Daniel Davis. Inkfold takes all the links you've ever received over Gmail and compiles them into the ulitmate reading selection, a la Instapaper. Inkfold hit the Apple App Store on Tuesday, but editors may want to look into Inkfold for publishers, which tells them how their stories are doing long after they "disappear into email threads," said Davis.
The problem with online video is getting viewers to watch. With Mixation, every website can import its entire video library from YouTube or Brightcove and turn it into a 24-hour online television station that loads automatically. "Everyone is watching the same thing synchronously, just like television," said founder Jon Labes whose program is currently in beta on several prominent news sites. Thanks to a clever design, users can browse uninterrupted and pop the video onto their desktop.
ChannelMeter is an analytics platform that tracks which YouTube videos people are watching. "Getting views is hard, there are over 100 hours of video content uploaded to YouTube every minute," co-founder Eugene Lee said. ChannelMeter provides easy-to-read data including user demographics, how users find content, and which content gets viewed the most. "We take your data from YouTube, slice and dice it, and make it easy to consume," he said, adding they can also determine true audience size. Currently, he serves over 2,000 clients, tracks 50,000 YouTube channels per hour, and over 10 million videos per day. ChannelMeter is developing metric platforms for Vimeo, Daily Motion, and private websites.
Zeega is the social media platform where users make, edit, and share interactive music videos, explains co-founder and CEO Jesse Shapins. Both the mobile and desktop app let users pull content from Giphy, Flickr, SoundCloud, and more. "It is a perfect format for mobile consumption habits today," he said, noting major outlets like The Atlantic and Mother Jones are already using the service. "We love touching our devices, constantly scrolling. But we also want an immersive experience."
WILL YAKOWICZ is a reporter at Inc. magazine. He has covered business, crime, and politics at Patch.com, and his work has been published in Tablet Magazine and The Brooklyn Paper. He lives in Brooklyn, New York. @WillYakowicz