The objective was straightforward, if not easy to achieve: Help media organizations devise solutions to business problems and enhance their likelihood of long-term success.
Five teams of graduate students from the University of Missouri’s business and journalism schools accepted that challenge at the start of the spring semester, and they pitched their solutions Friday at the annual Media of the Future Symposium hosted by MU’s Center for the Digital Globe.
They served as consultants for five organizations: The Associated Press, Bloomberg BNA, GroundSource, New America and PolitiFact.
The group that worked with New America won Friday’s competition, which was scored by a panel of three judges from the Columbia business community. The Associated Press team finished second, and the PolitiFact team took third.
The team consulting for New America, a Washington-based think tank, devised a platform for expert authors to write investigative and explanatory books with the help of MU journalism students. The system was designed to provide valuable assistance to authors while helping train young journalists and address a gap in investigative reporting in non-coastal regions of the U.S.
Fis Malesori, a second-year MBA student and member of the New America team, emphasized the impact that his group’s solution would have on investigative journalism in the middle of the country.
“Now, Missouri can pump out these articles with these students regarding the Midwest,” Malesori said.
Part of the team’s proposal was to produce printed books designed to reach and influence important decision makers.
“Hopefully that will change their perspective,” Malesori said.
The team working for The Associated Press, the New York-based wire service, developed prototypes for products designed to enable users of voice-activated smart devices like the Amazon Echo to access the organization’s news, datasets and other proprietary information.
Tara Hanusa, a second-year MBA student and member of the Associated Press team, said the growing popularity of those devices represents an opportunity for The Associated Press, which faces declining revenues.
“This is their opportunity, with very low risks, very low costs, to not have to do anything new or make any new changes other than take what they have and deliver it in a different sense,” Hanusa said. “The demand is changing, and in order to keep up in a market like this, they need to do something now.”
The team working for PolitiFact, a St. Petersburg, Florida-based media company that specializes in fact-check journalism, proposed a plan to generate revenue with a new event series. The events would bring PolitiFact’s audience together with politicians and business leaders in cities around the country.
“We’re able to charge (for) tickets to the event, we’re able to encourage more membership sign-ups, and we’re able to just spread the name as community outreach,” said Matthew Fleissner, a first-year MBA student on the PolitiFact team.
The judging panel consisted of Kathleen Bruegenhemke, senior vice president of Hawthorn Bancshares; Collin Bunch, entrepreneurship coordinator at Columbia’s Regional Economic Development Inc.; and Scott Christianson, a technology entrepreneur and MU business professor.
Among other things, Bunch said, the judges were looking for sustainable solutions.
“In media, it’s easy to have something that works for a little while,” he said. “But does it solve a problem long-term?”
Bunch walked away impressed by how well the teams understood the scope of their clients’ problems.
“They had a really good understanding of very complicated industries,” he said.