Introducing the Walkleys Media Incubator and Innovation Fund shortlist

Just over a month ago, we announced 100 or so projects had made the longlist and were accepted into the Walkleys Media Incubator. Today we can share the 28 projects that have made it onto the shortlist.

So many of the projects entered in the incubator have grown tremendously over the incubator program (check out the week one recap and the week two recap). We had set out to find and support a wide range of projects, and that’s exactly what we got.

Our judges — Jacqui Park, James Kirby, Niki Scevak and Ramin Marzbani — had a very difficult time selecting only 28. The shortlist are a diverse group, including such projects as fake news bots, hyperlocal newspapers, data visualisation platforms and a parenting site (with a twist).

The shortlisted projects will attend workshops next week led by Stanford’s Yvonne Leow and pitch to the judging panel for funding from the Walkleys Innovation Fund, much of which comes from our inaugural program partner Google.

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Yvonne Leow will be leading the two-day workshops for the shortlised projects.

Leow will be joining us from the United States. She is the national president of the Asian American Journalists Association and founder of Tangy Media, a digital media consultancy for tech and media companies. She was the senior Snapchat Editor at Vox.com and a John S. Knight Fellow at Stanford University — the youngest in the program’s history — from 2014–2015. Prior to that, she was the senior associate at North Base Media, a venture capital firm investing in journalistic enterprises in emerging markets, and the director of video at Project Thunderdome, a digital news startup within Digital First Media. She was also a regional video producer for The Associated Press and a video journalist for The Seattle Times. She’s a proud UCLA graduate, and was an adjunct professor at ASU’s Cronkite School of Journalism.

The teams will have the opportunity to pitch for up to $35,000, but perhaps more excitingly, they’re also going to take part in the two-day workshops.

The grant recipients will be announced at the Walkley Foundation’s Mid Year Awards on 26 July, 2017.

Sign up to be notified when applications for the 2018 program open.

This program would not be possible without funding and support from our program sponsors: Google Australia, and also the Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund, iSentia, BlueChilli and Legal Vision.

And without further ado, here is the shortlist. You may notice there are a few names that appear twice, as they are involved in multiple projects. Here they are in no particular order and in their own words:

Article Intelligence by Andy Ball

A newsroom Siri for Google Docs to help journalists easily complete all the administrative tasks they are expected to perform before they submit a story for publishing.

This text editor extension is a tool enabling journalists to add location and relational metadata to their stories. Specifically it extends the functionality of Google Docs and other web-based text editors. As the journalist types a story they are prompted to clarify key geographical and relational details contained within it. Once this metadata has been collected, it is saved as a JSON object. The metadata can be used by news organisations to sort their content based on geographical parameters. Ultimately the readers benefit because they would get lots more content that is geographically relevant to them.

ABS Data Explorer by Kaho Cheung

There’s no shortage of data in the world; the big problem is making it easy to for anyone to understand. Enter the ABS Data Explorer. The tool allows users to visualise data instantly, creating easy-to-read line and pie charts to show the most important trends in Australia. This tool would be of greatest use to journalists, economists, commentators, teachers, researchers, policymakers and students — anyone with an interest in evidence-based information.

The aim is to allow users to easily select and filter dimensions per dataset. For example, the ‘Fertility, by Age, by State’ dataset can be filtered to compare fertility between age groups (15–19, 20–24, 25–29 etc.) and state (NSW, VIC, QLD etc.). This provides valuable insight, cementing what we already know (such as how fertility among the older age groups is rising). Users can then save their custom chart or embed their it on their own website.

Story-Shuffle/Birdz and Beez by Anna Klauzner and Drew Ambrose

Updated every fortnight, this multimedia news site for young Australians will use a range of video, audio and interactive data to deconstruct one difficult current affairs issue or awkward question that parents struggle to address, such as the old classic “Where do babies come from?” Think Playschool meets Panorama.

Young Australians want to know about the world around them, but they usually consume bite-sized articles or videos with little context on social media platforms. Current affairs journalism isn’t really appealing to them because the content is too long, isn’t relevant or is curated in an unappealing way. Existing explanatory journalism aimed at this audience like “Behind the News”, “Vice” or “Hack” is old-fashioned, linear and passive in its presentation.

The target user of “Story-Shuffle” is a child with approximately seven minutes of free-time- allowing content to be consumed on public transport or at recess. The project will tell a number of deconstructed stories in first person.

SoundTrails by Hamish Sewell, Helen Wilkinson and Jeanti St Clair

You can’t know a place until you know its stories. Soundtrails is a place for audio journalists to take their stories to the streets — and even make a buck through cultural tourism.

Radio journalists today are on hard times and high-calibre reportage is under threat. This project will afford Australian radio documentary makers and journalists — who now have fewer publishing outlets due to cuts in recent years — a new format and platform in which to build their creative portfolio and generate income.

Soundtrails is currently a closed platform where we create immersive experiences of communities and places through high quality, geo-locative audio storytelling. We want to open it up for journalists interested in producing stories with integrity — the lesser-told stories connected to places and communities — in ways that capture the imagination and promote the craft of good storytelling.

Newscloud.io by Mike Nicholls

Newscloud is a platform and API that summarises millions of stories and solves a few problems. Given the millions of sources from Twitter, Facebook and Google, it’s really tough for users to identify fake news or to be able to easily see all the news about particular topics or stories.

Newscloud tags all new stories from more than 200,000 sites with 5 million topics, and makes them searchable in real time. Newscloud.io is trying to solve for two problems. The first is how do you discover real time news stories and writers from sources you don’t know about specific topics or collections of topics. The second is how do you assess the trustworthiness of news sources.

It uses machine learning to determine sentiment and readability, and allows the user to build a filter that shows them all the news about topics, people and sites that they care about. Its a great tool for keeping a watch on topics or stories that you are researching or working on. It also introduces a trust ranking algorithm, which allows the reader to assess how trustworthy the publishing website is.

Tiny Moguls by Sheree Joseph

Tiny Moguls is community hub for young people from three main age groups (teens, twenties and thirties) to collectively take action, speak truth to power and learn more about the world through solutions journalism. These younger groups feel powerless, hopeless and alienated, but they know that through technology and social media they have power and a voice.

Tiny Moguls is a platform that will amplify that voice and communal power to tackle issues around systemic oppression, injustice, financial insecurity and inequality. Young people in Australia want a creative media outlet and community that puts them first and empowers them, but especially those from marginalised backgrounds who are currently unrepresented in the media landscape.

It’s a combined business model of media, user-generated content and services connecting people. It will generate revenue but be lean and agile with a small team.

Burn the Register by Jackson Gothe-Snape

Burn the Register is a permanent solution to create searchable, sortable and visualisable data on politicians’ conflicts of interests.

It crowd-sources the transcription of PDFs from the Register of Interests of Australian MPs, and celebrates and rewards the contributors in preparation for more investigative journalism. Burn the Register makes it easier to do investigative journalism that meets the expectations of discerning audiences, at a time when the media is under pressure to demonstrate value.

Writally by Cas McCullough

It takes between 3 and 6 hours, on average, to write a quality blog post. Writally enables independent journalists to create original, compelling blog posts in half the time by providing customised structural frameworks (aka Writally recipes) that are matched to the user’s content creation needs via an algorithm. They then use the recipe as a guide to write their own original content. In fact, a recent user reported doubled engagement as a direct result of using a Writally to create her blog posts.

Writally is on a mission to empower independent journalists and bloggers to create better stories, faster whether they be for social engagement, information or entertainment.

Pitchmi by Saman Shad and Matt Sharpe

You know how the pitching process can be frustrating, time-consuming and laborious? Pitchmi.com is a new service for writers AND editors that automates, shortens and simplifies the pitch to payment process freeing everyone up to do what they do best — create and discover the best content!

Pitchmi is a two-sided marketplace to bring together editors and freelancers. Commissioning editors are typically subject to competing demands on their time. Pitchmi allows an editor to create a profile, put a call out for articles and easily curate and respond to pitches. Writers can create their own PitchMi profile, directly pitch to relevant opportunities and highlight their writing credits and areas of expertise. This allows the editor to quickly view a writer’s profile and see if they will be a good match for their call for pitches.

Speed Pitch by Libby-Jane Charleston and Sarah Moran

Speed Pitch is Tinder meets The Shark Tank, matching journalists with PR reps or business owners pitching stories hoping to be published in the media.

Journalists receive hundreds of pitches every day. Most pitches are rejected because they get lost in the crowd. Speed Pitch helps journalists get great stories or scoops and gives people a forum to pitch to the media knowing they’ve got their attention. Speed Pitch is exciting news for journalists as it does away with having to trawl through hundreds of non-targeted pitches sent to inboxes. It’s also exciting for PR people and business owners who have an ‘all ears’ forum — journalists who actually want to be pitched to. I also foresee Speed Pitch being expanded to include other businesses — screenwriters pitching to producers, mentors pitching for people to mentor, startups pitching to investors.

Publishthis.email by Nick Drew and Matt Way

Publishthis.email is the fastest way to publish a web page, article, or blog post — by sending an email to page@publishthis.email. We reply in seconds with a link to your new page. Free. No account or sign up needed.

We are trying to take the barriers and frictions associated with publishing content online to their extreme minimums, as well as potentially promote transparency of communications. Publishthis.email allows anyone to quickly and easily publish from any device that has access to email. This means that people with limited technology skills, or limited access to technology can easily publish online. The service also sets up a unique interface for sharing emails and email communications online, which could benefit any group that wishes to promote transparency. Truthfully we don’t yet know all the people who will benefit from this.

The J-Project by Ivan O’Mahoney and Nial Fulton

The J-Project will employ journalists in documentary production and help documentary producers find talented production staff by removing barriers that work to the detriment of both professional groups.

Although Australian broadcasters and newspapers develop talented young journalists, most of them are employed on news programmes and magazine-length pieces. With the exception of Four Corners and Australian Story, it is almost impossible for them to work on longform stories within a broadcaster. To make documentaries, their only choice is to team up with independent production companies. But these producers face the opposite problem. Screen Australia and other government agencies do not invest in “current affairs.”

This disconnect results in many important stories never told and journalists’ careers are unnecessarily limited. Longform producers struggle to find production talent with strong investigative and journalistic editorial instincts (not a key focus in Australian film schools).

Our project aims to break down the barrier by offering a pathway for journalists to make more documentaries.

TrueBloom by Peter Fray and Darren Burden

A journalism-driven site that showcases the work of researchers and enables readers to donate money to fund that research. Imagine a mixture of Kiva and Statnews.

Researchers spend considerable time (up to 60 per cent) applying for government grant money. Truebloom aims to expose their work to private sources of funding that can tide them over as they wait — or kickstart their projects. The site will boost science reporting.

Taking Australian Research to the World by Damien Williams

This project is primarily for researchers who want to bring the fruits of their work to an educated general audience. Listeners, viewers and readers will benefit from having a greater public understanding of pure and applied research, which will bolster the status of researchers as custodians of expert knowledge. In turn, the public will benefit from having more research-trained experts and their work made better known to policy makers, journalists and other influential people in civil society.

Anyone who has spent any time around researchers from universities and institutes will be aware of this problem: Most research is published in journals that are only available to paid subscribers. This severely limits the extent to which researchers can engage the wider public in their research, which in turn diminishes the potential of their work to shape public policy. This project overcomes those boundaries by using video to bring concise, engaging stories of research to an audience beyond the academy.

On the Collar by Rosie Dalton

On the Collar is a storytelling platform dedicated to accessories that subverts overconsumption by inspiring genuine connection.

There’s a lack of quality, accessible publications for young aspiring fashion journalists and photographers in Australia today, as well as very little truly democratic fashion journalism to help consumers wade through a highly complex and oversaturated global fashion industry. Armed with better information, we can all become better consumers. On the Collar seeks to achieve this through an authentic approach to fashion journalism.

Hack the Comments by Molly Glassey, James Healy and Sunanda Creagh

Ever read a great article, then got to the comments and thought: “Bleurgh”? We all have. Poor commenting culture is a problem for all media organisations. And worse, there’s evidence to suggest that disinformation and misinformation in the comments section of an article can undermine the main article, and influence commenters to write ever more prejudicial comments — even when the main article is a balanced piece authored by an expert.

As media workers, we have a responsibility to address fake news and disinformation not just in the articles we produce but in the comments we foster underneath them. We want to promote a constructive commenting culture. We want to experiment with new interventions to bring the expert voice to the fore, promote civil debate and Q+As in the comments — and share our hits and misses on our blog, so others can learn from our efforts.

Gendersplit by Sarah Taylor, James Healy and Sunanda Creagh

Do we want to live in a world where men and women’s voices are equally heard, equally respected, and of equal influence? We do. But that’s not happening right now. Media are far more likely to publish men’s voices than women’s — on our own site, The Conversation, we found that some sections were publishing up to 70 per cent men and only 30 per cent women.

That’s partly because keeping track of this stuff is hard. But we’ve found a way to systematically track of the gender split of authors and voices being published on our site. Our prototype tool, called GenderSplit, uses Python and SQL code to synthesise data held by The Conversation, with results from a publicly available API called Genderize. The tool uses author-nominated gender data (where available). It then provides the most likely gender match for remaining names. Our tool could be integrated into our CMS, and perhaps one day used by other media organisations where possible.

Why Thank You, I Made It Myself by Kath Dolan

Why Thank You, I Made It Myself is a digital interview series with Australia’s best makers, designers and artists about how they do business. It gives emerging, aspiring and established creative business people the hard-earned insights and connections they need to solve their problems. It comes with a social media network of fellow users to lean on, learn from and collaborate with.

Creatives share stories and strategies memorably through video, audio, specially commissioned infographics and photographic portraits. It’s visual, honest, funny. Immediately useful stuff.

Bloc Boost by Geoff Orton, Katerina Bryant, Liam Pieper, Elizabeth Flux, Daniel Farrugia and Raphaelle Race

Bloc Boost is a service for freelance writers, editors and publishers. We take the pain out of the pitching process by listing up-to-date submission dates, open calls and pitching details for a wide range of publishers; ensuring publishers and editors are presented with the most exciting, relevant and well-crafted pitches; and setting up writer portfolios to showcase your work and editor profiles to ensure payment terms, publisher expectations and timelines are fair and clear.

We have attracted just under 1,000 subscribers looking for freelance work and opportunities since December 2016,. We’ve also had institutions such as the Walkley Foundation, Sydney Writers’ Festival, the NSW Writers’ Centre, BuzzFeed and more add jobs to the platform, looking for the best candidates from our community.

The Podcast Expansion and Recommendation Project by Kristofor Lawson

Podcast listeners love to try out new shows — with one in three people listening to a new podcast each week (according to ABC research data). However despite Australia having some of the best audio producers in the world, a lot of the top podcasts are dominated by US media organisations. And it’s often difficult to discover new podcasts in a style you might enjoy.

There’s room for an Australian company to create a Netflix-style experience for podcasting — producing high quality and engaging podcast content that’s sustainable and profitable. I’ve identified some gaps in the current podcasting market and plan to target a new series of shows at those market gaps, expand our current podcast offering, and build a podcast recommendation bot to help people find and discover new podcast content.

#Bethefilter by Rachael Bolton

If consumers are now the publishers — and we all know they are — then the only real way to truly combat fake news is to make sure these new publishers know what fake looks like and choose to filter it out.

The #BeTheFilter project uses video and photo meme-based content as well as plain English articles and explainers to engage everyday social media users in debate around the values of “quality information”.

Basically, it’s a pop-culture crash course in what the “truth” looks like and how to be critical in what you read. The project is apolitical, nonprofit and as broadly focused as possible.

Stone by Austin Mackell, Aliya Alwi, Mohamed Sami and Cassie Findlay

Our product records and logs the research work of a journalist on an unfakeable blockchain index, and allows them to open it, wherever safe and appropriate to do so, to user review.

This means that journalists who use the product will be able to display the quantity (time) and quality (rating) of the research they did beside each story, giving thoroughly researched, serious journalism a visible (and therefore marketable) point of difference, raising it above the churn of fast content and fake news.

Soci by Jake Miller

Soci is a subscription-based social news site that allows users to choose how their subscription money is distributed to content creators.

Patreon almost had it right, but it failed to support creators who have that one single gem in the rough. YouTube and traditional news are now realizing that advertisements degrade the quality of the content by rewarding clickbait just as much as quality content, since a view is a view regardless of how much a user enjoyed the content. Spotify is close, but if I *only* listen to my friends album once per night on Spotify, they only receive about 25 per cent of the cost of my $10 subscription (since payout is based on number of plays at a very low rate). Soci is a fair distribution of funds for content creators.

No Hat, No Play by Erin Riley

No Hat, No Play will connect Australian parents and caregivers with experts through quality journalism, helping them to make informed decisions for their families.

Many new parents find they want quality, reliable information but don’t want to have to navigate horror stories, pseudoscience and celebrity baby body stories that dominate so many parenting sites these days. There is a wealth of information available, but much of it is dated or focused on personal narratives that are not relevant to Australians or aimed at women in traditional relationships. Research has shown that only 13 per cent parents felt parenting websites reflected their values.

No Hat, No Play will address this by focusing on three core principles: being evidence-based, empathic and inclusive.

Coaching Kids’ Sport by Michael Bodey

Coaching Kids’ Sport is a multiplatform, sporting-code-agnostic guide featuring the world’s best practices on how to coach and mentor the hundreds of thousands of Australian children playing sport.

There is a lack of a coherent, accessible resource for parents and volunteers teaching and mentoring kids every weekend. Australian parents gnash teeth about their children’s education, yet hand their kids to strangers coaching sports every weekend. The ability to shape children through sport is crucial, yet thousands of Australian adults do it each week with little or no guidance. Some are helpless; some are arrogant; many teach our kids very bad habits. Many coaches just need tweaks or a helping hand.

Hub for Innovation in Podcasting by Siobhan McHugh and Peter Fray

The vision for the Hub for Innovation in Podcasting is a one-stop shop for podcasting in Australia. With 350,000 podcasts on ITunes, quality and discoverability are what matter.

HIP will be a network, a la Netflix, that denotes quality; we’ll teach, produce and research podcasting there, feeding back all we learn into the next podcast iterations, so we’ll constantly improve. Cross-promotion of all HIP podcasts will help them get discovered. HIP will expand what’s currently on offer in the podsphere by tapping into academics’ knowledge, transforming legacy journalism for digital audio formats, opening up the expertise of our public institutions and giving voice to marginalised communities. It will work because those behind HIP have decades of experience and deep knowledge of the audio medium AND the podcasting genre.

SheHacks News by Sarah Moran, Amanda Watts, Lisy Kane, April Staines, Tammy Butow and Libby-Jane Charleston

SheHacks is exploring sponsored storytelling about women in technology. There isn’t enough money in current media models to fund most mainstream and niche journalism. Stories remain untold, news remains hidden, journalists are underpaid and largely underemployed.

We want to test a new payment model for news created directly for the community it aims to serve — women who aspire to be more technical (from newbies to wannabe CTOs).

Currently, media companies have to pay a heap of salespeople to sell advertising on their news sites, and the money leftover goes to the journos. We want to make the process a little more direct. We aim to solve this problem with SheHacks News: a news portal where the public suggests a story and pays for it to be covered by a journalist.

Stringer Press by Daniel Seed

Stringer Press is an independent, not-for-profit, hyperlocal media outlet for Logan, Queensland. It gives voice and access to journalism to a culturally and linguistically diverse community often marginalised and denigrated by mainstream media.

Parts of Logan have home internet penetration as much as 20 per cent below the national average — including via mobile phones. How do they get to participate in the media conversation? Are they being talked to, or just talked about? This is why Stringer Press content is delivered online, but primarily, in print — taking the conversation to an households who may not have the resources to go find the conversation themselves.

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