Urbs Media is an editorial agency that combines human-authored data journalism with automation to deliver data-driven stories daily and on a large scale. We mine open data to provide stories and leads across a wide range of topics, and use natural language generation technology to enable mass production at low cost. The Global Editors Network asked us a few questions for their Startups For News competition, ahead of the sixth pitch battle we will be taking part in next week. To vote for Urbs Media, please do it here!
GEN: What problem are you solving?
Urbs Media: News publishers face the challenge of delivering compelling, verifiable content in a time of dwindling staff and resources. While technology has transformed news consumption its production remains largely based on traditional sources and human effort, now unaffordable for many. Urbs Media plugs this gap by exploiting the growing supply of open data to uncover strong local news stories, then combining journalism with technology to deliver these stories on a scale that could not be achieved through human effort alone.
GEN: What is the solution you are offering?
Urbs Media: We believe that data-journalism needn’t be limited to longer term investigations but can provide a daily source across many beats. With the addition of natural language generation technology this can be done at large-scale to serve multiple regional, local and hyper-local news outlets at low cost.
We take a data first approach, mining large datasets to uncover multiple stories that would otherwise go un-noticed. We work across a range of topics including health, transport, crime, environment, finance and lifestyle.
We focus on datasets that can be segmented geographically so are easily aligned with local news outlets. We use data analysis and journalism to uncover the stories and our skills with natural language generation to build a story template for each dataset to generate unique stories for hundreds of local news providers.
GEN: List 3 reasons why you are better than your competitors
- Urbs has recognised the ignored potential of open data. We have developed the skills and methodology to take that source and exploit it in a daily production process. We have a first entrant advantage.
- We have taken that further by helping to develop natural language generation technology (through a beta programme with Arria) to give journalists the tools to produce multiple stories from a single data set. We have a technological advantage.
- We have tested monetisation approaches. These include our prototype city site for London (used as our test bed) an agency model with partners and a branded model with corporate clients. We have a market knowledge advantage.
GEN: How does your company make money?
Urbs Media: Payment from publishers — we have achieved this via revenue shares with agency partners for distribution to national and local titles in the UK.
Payment from brand clients — we have matched data stories with brand clients looking for thought leadership in certain sectors. Brands receive credit for commissioning a piece of data analysis or supporting the work across a topic more generally.
GEN: What are your next steps?
Urbs Media: We are developing pilot projects with local news publishers and we are working with a leading news agency on building a distribution platform for thousands of local stories, to make content directly available on a subscription or micro-payment model. We also wish to explore brand supported areas of content to provide free to publish, high quality data journalism via the platform.