Tech innovators with “Next Big Thing”

A lot of people talk about the future of digital news. The Paley Center, founded by television executive William S. Paley in 1975, is on the lookout for the real thing.

On March 22, the center brought together tech innovators and journalists for a session focusing on digital innovation. Presenters included BiblioCrunch, Contently, Engagio, metaLayer, NewsiT and Zeega.

Here’s a quick run down of what you should know about each of them:

1. NewsiT — Founded by award-winning journalist Melissa Wittstock, NewsiT is leveraging people’s inherent interest in social sharing to create crowd-sourced news. Whether commenting on unpaid internships or reporting on swag at SXSW, NewsiT provides the on-the-ground reporting journalists need to fuel dynamic news stories. These stories are then sold to major media outlets.

Big idea: At present, NewsiT has two advantages over the traditional news model. First, NewsiT produces news at a much lower cost by leveraging the free labor of individuals on the ground. This requires no paid reporting and no travel budget. Second, and more strikingly, NewsiT offers an avenue to create stories in areas, like Egypt, Libya or Syria, that are dangerous for journalists.

What’s next: At present, participants are not compensated. NewsiT is planning on changing this soon, offering something like FourSquare perks.

2. Contently — Founded by Shane Snow, Joe Coleman and Dave Goldberg, Contently connects freelance journalists with news outlets, providing original content to publishers and employment to writers.

Big Idea: Currently the freelance marketplace has little standardization. Normalizing the freelance process, could make the lives of editors and freelancers much easier.

What’s next: In January of 2012, Contently received $2 million in series A funding from Lightbank, a firm the firm run by Eric Lefkofsky, a Groupon investor. As BetaBeat reported, Contently is likely to use this funding to pivot focus on connecting writers with brands.

3. BiblioCrunch — Founded by Miral Sattar, who previously worked on digital initiatives at TIME, BiblioCrunch helps bloggers, journalists and authors seamlessly publish their work in an eBook format.

Big Idea: Digital editions are widely considered to be the future of publishing. Barnes & Noble already makes more money selling digital editions. Pearson Publishing recently said that they expect profits from digital to surpass print this year. In spite of this industry shift, few people have been able to effectively take advantage of the technology.

What’s Next: BiblioCruch faces stiff competition from eBook publishers like Apple and Amazon. Can the fledgeling startup compete with the big names?

4. Engagio — Founded by William Mougayar, who has spent more than 30 years in the tech industry, Engagio uses technology to bring all of your digital conversations — on Facebook, Twitter, etc. — together in one place.

Big Idea: In the 2009 movie He’s Just Not That Into You, Drew Barrymore delivers a monologue that serves as an apt description of today’s media environment:

“I had this guy leave me a voicemail at work, so I called him at home, and then he emailed me to my BlackBerry, and so I texted to his cell, and now you just have to go around checking all these different portals just to get rejected by seven different technologies. It’s exhausting.”

While Barrymore was lamenting the state of dating, much of her commentary applies to people who are just trying to engage with social media. Staying on top of things no longer means just checking your voicemail or e-mail inbox; it means logging into to multiple mediums multiple times a day.

What’s Next: With the time saved using Engagio, perhaps we’ll finally have time to take on Hoverboard technology.

5. Zeega – Cofounded by Kara Oehler, a radio documentary producer and media artist, Zeega provides an open-source HTML5 publishing platform for documentaries.

Big Idea: Zeega hopes to serve as the WordPress for documentary storytelling, encouraging innovation and interaction.

What’s Next: Right now, outside of YouTube, there isn’t a centralized platform for publishing video documentaries. Zeega does that, but goes a step further by hosting a space for collaboration in multimedia.

6. MetaLayer — Founded by Jonathan Gosier, a designer, software developer and entrepreneur, MetaLayer uses advanced algorithms to map sentiment analysis. Next, it creates smart, real-time visualizations that can be used by journalists or companies.

Big Idea: Clay Shirky famously described the current challenge not as information overload, but as filter failure. When it comes to social data, MetaLayer isn’t just more information; it’s a filter of it.

What’s Next: The digital world loves infographics. MetaLayer provides these in real-time.


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