Froelich, Juliano to team up in new mobile reader engagement initiative

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It could radically change the ‘conversation’ between newspapers and their audience: Industry veterans John Juliano and Jo Ann Froelich are teaming to bring publishers a new app-based mobile tool which engages readers and recruits them as exclusive contributors.

And as you’d expect, it runs on iOS and Android.

Through his JJCS business – in which he is joined by industry analyst L. Carol Christopher – Juliano has been working on the project since leaving Tera Digital Publishing following its acquisition by Miles 33. It’s very much his ‘baby’ and – as was evident during an hour-and-a-half-long presentation via Skype – one of which he is intensely proud.

But from March 1, he has a new sales partner on board, in the form of Froelich, whose newspaper systems pedigree – 19 years with DTI, three years with Atex (where she was chief executive), Brainworks, and most recently EidosMedia (US president) – is substantial.

The product is a carefully thought-out solution to what are seen four of the recurring problems facing today’s news publishers: Engaging readers (he likes to call them customers), obtaining good video footage (and retaining ownership of it), communicating on a demographic and location-specific basis, and developing new revenue streams.

“I believe publishers need to stop being just broadcasters of information, and prepare for a two-way engagement,” Juliano says.

An initial offering, dubbed JReporter – currently in beta, with community and professional-user versions to follow – ticks a lot of boxes. Though described as a ‘breaking news’ mobile app, it’s predominantly an engagement tool.

Readers get headlines and other information – including news tips and coverage requests – and can send still, video and audio coverage directly to the news publishers’ CMS. There are key advantages, in that the contributor has signed the footage over, is still on the spot for interview… and you have their phone number.

“Instead of scraping YouTube for potentially suspect footage that everyone has, it’s exclusive to you, geo-tagged and time-stamped,” Juliano says. “Not easily spoofed”.

A byproduct of the relationship is that the system can broadcast advertising, targeted according to interests, demographics, locality and time of day… or related to the nature of the story they have just submitted.

“We’re selling this as a profit centre,” Juliano says, and while there are clearly wider applications including for political parties, adds, “and we’ll keep it to newspapers.”

The next stage (KReporter) adds GPS and 2D code facilities to create an application which might be used by those at a sports or music event, including a wallet for coupons gained for specific activities. HTML5 coding means the system works fast, with messages and links fulfilled within the app.

Juliano envisages this community-centric ‘super set’ version would be sponsored by a promotional partner such as a national sports franchise or team. Users might contribute player sightings, contribute off-field footage and learn where the best action was.

Development starts in May, with the intention of bringing it to market before the end of this year. A further version, ProReporter provides reporters with professional-level tools to file content including close-to-live coverage, seamlessly into their newspaper’s system.

It’s not for everyone – a presentation at one major metro publisher elicited the information that they “always send three people out to a story, a reporter, videographer and producer” – and long may they continue to do so.

Elsewhere, however, Juliano says the general response has been very good, “fairly remarkable, in fact”.

• Juliano says he is thrilled to have Froelich join JJCS, where she will be executive director: “It is very much like having a small, but very talented football club and then having one of the World Cup players notice you and decide to join,” he says.

Apart from leading the sales effort for products such as JReporter, she will deliver consulting services setting the direction for media companies.

• John Juliano is a GXpress Magazine columnist. His most recent contribution is here



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