Meet the Makers: Q&A with Jim Spencer, CEO of Newsy

Nov 5, 2010
Tech

Newsy is an online video news service that monitors, analyzes and presents news coverage from all over the world. It has brought this technology to smartphones across all platforms, so we sat down and chatted to CEO Jim Spencer about the company, its development process, and the future of mobile news. Location: Columbia, MO Notable […]

Newsy is an online video news service that monitors, analyzes and presents news coverage from all over the world. It has brought this technology to smartphones across all platforms, so we sat down and chatted to CEO Jim Spencer about the company, its development process, and the future of mobile news.

Location: Columbia, MO

Notable apps: Newsy for iPhone, Newsy for iPad, Newsy for Android

Platforms: iPhone, iPad, Android, Blackberry, Intel Atom-equipped netbook

Specialty genres: News (specifically, video news)

Company size: 12 full-time employees

Short description of company: A news analyzer, not an aggregator, Newsy is the only video news service producing daily video news that highlight the nuances in reporting. Through 2-3 minute multisource videos available on mobile devices and the web, Newsy accelerates the understanding of how a news story is reported from sources around the world.

How did you and your firm get into the iPhone/mobile app development business?

When we built the first prototype of our content, we had mobile firmly in mind and soon afterward Apple launched the App Store. We gathered together some good ideas and the talented winners of an iPhone app contest (sponsored by Apple and the Missouri School of Journalism) and launched our iPhone app to great reviews. Building on that momentum, we developed Android, iPad, Blackberry and Intel Atom apps.

Explain your decision to headquarter the business in Columbia, Missouri.

The first and one of the finest journalism schools combined with the cost structure were the two driving factors. We have access to a smart and driven talent pool, and the support of a university community that values innovation. The result is a remarkable newsroom that produces high quality, economically viable content.

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In your opinion, how is the iPhone and application-based media changing the news industry?

The iPhone is a transformational device – when combined with the App Store – it is creating a revolution in media. Mobile is the next big wave in media. Similarly to search and social media – it is almost hard to remember what life was like beforehand. It has quickly become essential.

What impact does this have on news consumers?

News consumption on mobile devices is driven by convenience – it really is the “anytime and anywhere” experience. News consumers will benefit from greater and easier access to news combined with the ability to easily communicate their thoughts and media to the global news cycle.

How do you make money?

We’ll have a couple of mobile monetization strategies in place this month including in-video advertising and additional banner advertising. We are looking into the idea of charging a small monthly or annual amount for an ad-free app.

Describe the differences between developing apps for the iPhone, iPad, Android and other platforms.

There are great differences. The iPhone and iPad have dramatically different usage patterns, and the greatest distinguishing characteristic between the two is the size of the device. Though you are designing an app for the same operating system, you have to keep in mind that people use their iPads in different ways than they use their iPhones. The larger screen on the iPad means you can do more with the interface real estate than you can with the iPhone, and you can introduce more features without making your app feel cluttered.

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Android presents its own challenges in being distributed over a wide range of devices with different performance specifications, screen sizes and operating system versions. Where for iOS you’re able to design for the specific device, with Android you’re most effective designing to the strengths of the operating system.

In terms of news coverage, what features in your app exist today that were not possible before the advent of smartphone apps?

Rich mobile video. The screen size, processing power and bandwidth that smartphones brought to consumers really make for an ideal video-viewing device. For the first time, video is accessible anywhere and reasonable performance can be expected.

How do you envision mobile news reporting to evolve in the year ahead?

I think we’ll see much more location- and notification-based reporting. Smartphones are giving media companies the ability to target news like never before.

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Brad Spirrison

Brad Spirrison is the managing editor of appoLearning and Appolicious Inc. In this capacity, he has sampled and evaluated thousands of iOS and Android applications. He also holds an M.A. in Education and Media Ecology from New York University.

Spirrison worked in concert with appoLearning Expert and Instructional Technology Specialist Leslie Morris while curating and evaluating educational applications.

A longtime media and technology commentator and executive, Spirrison is also a regular contributor to ABC News, The Huffington Post, TechCrunch, Bloomberg West and The Christopher Gabriel Program.

Spirrison is married and lives with his wife and young son in Chicago. As his son was born just weeks before the debut of the iPad, Spirrison takes his work home with him and regularly samples and enjoys a variety of educational applications for young children.

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