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NewsPix: Local News That You Can Use

December 08, 2015

By Engagement Lab (Roma Dash)


When people open their browsers, be it on their laptops or the desktops, the first thing they see is either a blank screen for a new tab or their customized version of “welcome to a new day, here’s some financial headlines you selected to view once but surely aren’t interested in anymore, so let’s start working.” What they rarely see is information from their local areas; news they would want to see, want to know about.

NewsPix, a Chrome browser extension, attempts to meld that gap between tabs full of empty spaces and news people would want to discus with their coworkers when they look up from their screens.

> > What it is:

NewsPix is an open source tool that is a collaboration between Catherine D’Ignazio, a Research Fellow at the Emerson College Engagement Lab, and the Future of News initiative at the MIT Media Lab, run by Matt Carroll. As Catherine puts it, the extension is the “digital equivalent of going everywhere and seeing a newspaper, which we see less and less.”

> > Who it is for:

The local news organizations, (“the client here is the news organization,” says Catherine), and the audience that they cater to. The benefit of having NewsPix, she explains, is that “it would be a nice way to drive digital content for organizations that can’t necessarily afford their own R&D departments.” NewsPix is a free-to-use app. “Part of this is an experiment to see — will news organizations want to use it to drive engagement on their websites?”

> > Why would people use it:

This nifty little browser extension removes the annoying hurdle that local news services face: that of less-than-targeted level of engagement. It makes sure the news being researched, captured, and published for the readers reaches them as well. While there are other news sources that make good use of social media by Tweets or shares on Facebook or links on Reddit; those websites are also known to be quite the distractions, and therefore easily allow for the news item to be forgotten or even glossed over.

NewsPix reels in the people by the way of a photograph and a short headline. It allows the smaller, local papers to thrive and connect to their audience in a way that is both engaging and not heard of by being in front of the users’ screens.

> > How it works for the readers:

All they need to do is add the extension to their browser, and every time the users go for a new tab, they’ll be greeted by a piece of local news that they can choose to view by clicking on. The users can also browse through the different pieces of news available to them with the help of a carousel.

> > How it works for the clients:

The news organizations have a simple backend where they manage which stories users see. At the moment NewsPix is being piloted with the Keene Sentinel Source, so they are the ones determining the content. Select the story they want to see go up on the extension, upload the news piece by the way of the admin panel, choose a headline and an image to go along with it, a time range for the news article to be displayed between, and hit submit. That is all the newspaper needs to do from their side.

The website admins can make use analytics to see which of the stories were a hit among the readers and which lay floating in the doldrums.

> > What next:

The future involves creating a mobile app for the news organizations to use, especially for the ones who don’t have a lot of custom digital engagement tools. NewsPix is also expected to join multiple organizations in the future. “We have a couple of other people who are interested,” Catherine says. But Catherine and Matt will, first and foremost, be working with local news organizations, as the goal of NewsPix is to be able to help the news organizations that are local and small, and are looking for new ways to reach their audience.

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