Organisation: Mic (United States)
Publication Date: 05/06/2017
DescriptionByUs is an embeddable widget chat-bot tool that connects readers with journalists. The widget lives on individual article pages and invites readers to share story ideas, offer to become sources, or volunteer to become involved in the reporting process for future stories. ByUs is powerful because it is customizable. At the end of an article, the chat-bot will prompt readers with a question that the author has specifically tailored to that story. For example: “Do you, or someone close to you, have a pre-existing condition and fear losing health insurance coverage? Tell me your story.” Or, “Are you a physician working in an area that will be negatively impacted by this new health care bill? Would you like to volunteer to become a source for future reporting?” This reader input will be sent directly to the reporter’s inbox. If the lead seems promising, the reporter can choose to engage the reader directly. Our goal is to make readers feel more involved in the storytelling and reporting process. By offering the public the chance to get involved, ByUs will help rebuild trust in the news media, at a time when only 32% of people have a great deal or fair amount of trust in the media (Gallup, 2016). First, ByUs allows for targeted audience engagement. ByUs questions can target specific readers who might have special access to a story (Do you work at XYZ Inc.?) Reader input gets sent directly to the reporter, rather than a generic newsroom-wide tipline that frequently goes unread. Secondly, it is relevant. Questions will pertain to the story that readers just completed, so it is more likely that responses will be on topic. Thirdly, by being present at the bottom of the article, the ByUs widget instantly shows readers that the website/news organization they are reading cares about including them in the reporting process. This has the immediate effect of increasing trust between the reader and news site. ByUs want to reach platform readers who are left out of newer crowdsourcing techniques on social media. By embedding this tool on news websites, we aim to reach new groups of people (those who do not visit off-site platforms like Twitter and Facebook). More broadly, ByUs wants to engage the approximately 68% of people who do not have a great deal of trust in the media. ByUs is monetizable. Our widget can carry sponsorship logos, such as “Powered by IBM.” ByUs will allow brands passionate about new technology, sustainability and democracy to show their support for a platform that helps rebuild trust between the public and journalists. The revenue from these sponsorships could also be split with publishers and ByUs in order to make the platform an even more attractive addition for media organizations. ByUs is a resource-light tool that is scalable in newsrooms around the world, and has applications everywhere from local/college news sites to international media organizations.
Technologies used for this project:We are using the Twilio Programmable Chat software development kit (SDK) to develop the ByUs widget as an element with an HTML form. We will then host the widget on our domain. Reporters will register by setting up an account at ByUs.com. This will lead to a reporter dashboard, where they can customize the questions that their widget will ask. On the dashboard, the reporters will also be able to set up time limits for responses. (For example, setting a 48-hour window to solicit reader input before a deadline.) These settings can be updated at any time from the dashboard. ByUs uses an inline frame embed code to make it easily integratable on all HTML websites. The widget will be hosted on our own domain, making it easy for publishers of all sizes to link to it using a single line of embed code.
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