Google is funding an innovative scheme devised by a former City student to provide interactive “fact cards” on news stories.
Jeremy Evans (Broadcast, 2013), along with cofounder Matt Morley, are using funding from Google’s Digital News Initiative – a grant of up to £50,000 – to launch Explaain, a plug-in for news sites that adds interactive fact cards to stories.
The cards create a personalised experience that allow the reader to access further background information, explore what else has been written about a topic or see extra quotes, without leaving the webpage.
Evans, who was listed in the Forbes 30 Under 30 Europe: Media selection in 2016, explained: “The cards are designed to become a kind of ecosystem of building blocks – the Lego bricks of news.”
“I used to be a journalist and I got very frustrated by the fact that all of the other industries around me were innovating and getting disrupted by technology … In news, none of that has happened,” he added.
“We’re reading news online but it’s still in the same format that it was in a newspaper hundreds of years ago.”
Over the next four to six months, Evans will be working with publishers to add the Explaain cards to their news stories.
The information is written either by journalists at Explaain or by the publishers. The cards can be relinked to other news stories, which Evans hopes will save journalists from rewriting the same information for different articles.
Evans is also working with a City-led consortium, which has funding from the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme, to create a version of Explaain for journalists’ content management systems.
He said: “We’re trying to join up the workflow and open up the reporter’s notebook so that the readers can see the same research that the journalists are investigating.”
Evans added: “There’s been a lot of input from City.” In 2015, Explaain was awarded £3,000 and a place on FFWD (FastForward) – a six-week interactive accelerator programme run by industry experts and mentors – after winning CitySpark, City’s enterprise and innovation competition.
Evans said: “If you can use technology to make the experience of news easier for the user, I think it could turn around how engaged people are with what’s going on in the world.”