On Tuesday, journalists, investors, and technology enthusiasts gathered at WNYC’s Greene Space to meet Matter One: the first graduating class of startups from business accelerator Matter.
Based in San Francisco, Matter supports media entrepreneurs by giving them $50,000 and five months to hash out ideas, develop prototypes, and test them with audiences. The company is headed by journalists Corey Ford, Jake Shapiro and Jigar Mehta, and it’s sponsored by the Knight Foundation, public radio marketplace PRX, and NPR’s San Francisco affiliate, KQED.
At the Tuesday event, successful teams presented their work at a media showcase that emphasized innovation and creativity.
“Technology has been disrupting the storytelling institutions we rely on,” said Ford, managing partner of Matter. Media is in flux, Ford said, at the crossroads that Clay Shirky described four years ago in “Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable” : “If the old model is broken, what will work in it’s place? To which the answer is: Nothing will work, but everything might.”
Six ideas that might work were the startups Matter presented:
—Spoken Layer seeks to “unmute the Web,” turning articles into audio read aloud. One in five people stream audio from their smartphones to their car speakers, said Will Mayo, Spoken Layer’s founder, and last month six billion hours of audio was streamed on various devices. Yet most of this content was music. “Spoken Layer is adding voices to your stories. The content you’re creating every day,” Mayo said. The company partners with news sites and publishers to match voice artists with articles, creating content people will have the time to listen to, if they don’t have the time or the desire to read.
—Created by software developer Daniel Davis, Inkfold is an app that creates a personalized reader from the links you receive from friends and family via Gmail. Link sharing is “the spark of conversation, and it’s what makes your content go viral,” Davis said, so publishers should take every opportunity to boost it. Inkfold highlights links people receive from their contacts and encourages them to read by displaying URLs as full articles—complete with headlines and pictures.
Davis was funding Inkfold with his own savings before Matter invested in the company. He felt the experience of collaborating with other entrepreneurs helped push him forward. “We hold each other accountable. When you work alone, you don’t have that camaraderie to see you through to the finish line,” he said.
—OpenWatch relies on a network of journalists around the world to produce original, on-the-ground, investigative content, often with an activist edge. Founders Rich Jones, David Brodsky, and Chris Ballinger collaborated with reporters whose work was suppressed in Turkey, translating the site into Turkish in just 24 hours to better accommodate Turkish protesters.
“Our audience is young, political people who care about changing the world,” said Jones. “Mainstream media doesn’t always reflect what people are perceiving on the streets.” OpenWatch will eventually lean towards more citizen reporting. “I’m interested in making sure that we’re a platform that will allow people to have that independent voice,” he said.
—Mixation, co-developed by Jon Labes and Christy Gurga, lets companies create their own television stations online, compiling content from video sites like YouTube, Vimeo, and DailyMotion. News sites can broadcast their videos, their partners’ videos, and live press conferences—all in one continuous stream.
—Like Mixation, ChannelMeter also focuses on Web videos, helping media sites measure and improve the performance of their YouTube content.
—And cofounder Jesse Shapins introduced Zeega, a new form of interactive media that allows users to fuse together photos, music, videos, and GIFs. “We love touching our devices [and] constantly scrolling. But we want an interactive experience,” he said. “GIFs are the emotional currency of our time,” and Zeega allows people to express themselves through popular culture.
Applications for Matter Two close on July 28.