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Barcamp News Innovation / Events / Hackathons / Media

What 6 teams built at news business hackathon Church&State

Organized by and the Local Media Association, the weekend event drew more than 60 attendees and produced a half-dozen projects.

Disclosure: This event was organized by, including the author of this report.
If publishers want metrics that better quantify deeper engagement over wider reach, then start collecting them. When a trio of local technologists met at a news hackathon this weekend, that’s the problem they aimed to address.

The “News Influencer Metric Survey (NIMS)” was the winning project at Church&State, a weekend media hack event organized by and the Local Media Association, which is holding its annual conference in Old City this week, at WHYY.

From just an idea Friday night, to team development Saturday, to full build Sunday, the NIMS team aimed to collect more qualitative data.

First conceived by software developer Yuanlong “Dylan” Yang, he was joined by his colleague Angel Rivera and freelance web developer James Foley, who worked on MilkCrate at EcoCamp. Since hackathons are better at understanding problems than solving them, it’s fitting that their project doesn’t solve the question of giving publishers more meaningful metrics, but it starts the process.

NIMS started as a simple coded survey that lets a reader vote on how important the article was for her — see an example here. It’s more nuanced than a Facebook “like” and could in the future ask questions like: “Will you do something because of this article,” said Yang.

The event was aimed at mashing up technologists and those in news media, both on the editorial and business sides. It’s an evolution of the hackathons that were once part of our annual Barcamp News Innovation unconference.

Kicked off by nearly 50 attendees at a Friday reception, the event had 30 for its Sunday presentations.

Here is a complete list of the projects:

  1. News Influencer Metric Survey [First Place] — The aforementioned tool could be a starting place for newsrooms to collect engagement-focused data beyond page views. The team was made of Dylan Yang, Angel Rivera and James Foley.
  2. Tracking Story Sources [Second Place] — Using the AlchemyAPI, this team’s product scans published content and produces a report of “entities,” including people and organizations, that were included in articles. The use case is for a media company’s sales team to inform their lead list. The team included Greg Treece of Swift CommunicationsChristina Kristofic of Calkins Media, developer Daniel Barbella and others, included early help from NBC News developer Brad Oyler.
  3. Reducing Subscriber Churn [Third Place] — Inspired by tools like Preact that predict software subscribers who are more likely to drop a given service (RJMetrics uses the tool, said team member and RJ UX designer Matt Monihan), this team aimed to create a “health quotient” for newspaper print subscribers by highlighting warning signs, like logged service complaints and changing delivery frequency. The team featured Calkins Media Director of Corporate Development Myra Cortado and Bucks County Courier Times reporter Jim McGinnis.
  4. Twitter Fan Report — Built in JSON, this tool produces a daily report of Twitter accounts that shared a publisher’s links to determine frequent supporters. The team was led by Webjunto developer Jedi Weller and WHYY Marketing Manager Elyse Poinsette.
  5. Philly Now augmented reality — Young developer Adebayo Adejare and hackathon junkie Faye Anderson used Wikitude Studio to trial an app that newsrooms could use to supplement written content with geolocation-specific multimedia that would enhance reader experience.
  6. Branded Video Content — Former Penn videographer Kurt Sensenig, who is a member of the latest Project Liberty class, outlined a process for distributing his client video content to news organizations to supplement newsroom multimedia.

Projects around growing user-generated content and a sync between WordPress and Salesforce data that had been previously begun by civic hacker Jim Smiley were not presented.

In addition to and the Local Media Association, the event was sponsored by Calkins Media, Swift Communications and Tradyo.

The judges were Calkins Media Chief Digital Officer Guy Tasaka, Chief Content Officer Jonathan Cooper, Local Media Association President Nancy Lane and Local Media Association Training & Development Director Amie Stein.

Companies: Calkins / WHYY /

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