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Helen Bohorquez

Inside a Demo Night For Media Startups

media startupsPizza, soda, and the business of journalism were the glue and motivation behind the media startups demo night organized on March 20 by the Tow-Knight Entrepreneurial Journalism program at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.

With diverse styles and methodologies to the world of publishing, five local startups showed off their latest innovations and projects while briefly talking about the current trends seen in media.

“It is kind of an amazing time to be doing anything related with content, whether you are a journalist or a marketer,” said David Spitz, President and CEO of RebelMouse, an online platform that allows users to combine social media content into their websites. Some of its clients include Time magazine, NBC news reporter Ann Curry and General Electric, among others.

Although demo nights are usually used as platforms to launch new startups and pitch their ideas to investors, this particular event highlighted the work of these young media companies, who are experimenting with business models that are quite different to those used by traditional media.

“Even if people don’t necessarily have to pay for content, if they understand what you are doing and like what you are doing, they will be interested in supporting,” said Thomas Rhiel, founder of BKLYNR , a two-dollar-a-month, subscription-based online publication that creates in-depth and interactive stories about underreported topics, communities and areas of Brooklyn. “People can read about Brooklyn, but I think we have established a voice that people are responding to, ” he also said.

Besides the novelty of these economic models, originality and resourcefulness in regards to content distribution and design were also common traits among the exhibiting startups.

Two of them were: 29th Street Publishing, a magazine publishing company that develops simple-yet-attractive mobile applications for small and freelance writers and independent editors and Howler, a crowdfunded magazine about soccer that is published only four times a year, but that has increased its popularity thanks to its artistic illustrations, a modern design approach, and the use of well-researched articles about the history of the most popular sport in the world.

The innovations presented in areas such as content creation and distribution, businesses and design were also of key interest to those who attended the event.

“It’s amazing how these small startups are using all these modern tools to create beautiful and interesting projects,” said Giancarlo Castiglioni, a graphic design student at Queens College. “Journalism is not my major, but you can really see how these new mediums are working harder and harder to innovate and change the industry. I think it’s somewhat of a revolution.”

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