26 May 2016
There is more than one side to every news story and now readers can get these different views thanks to a new app called Perspecs News. Perspecs is a news aggregation experiment launched earlier this year by Trinity Mirror. Its specificty is that it gives the reader three different perspectives on a piece of news or a topic. The project was created during the third season of the Editors Lab, where Trinity Mirror team won in the “Surprise” category. They are now trying to expand the project further thanks to a grant from the Digital News Initiative.
We have asked Darren Sher, Head of Product at Trinity Mirror, to tell us what happened after the end of that hackthon and how they arrived from that first concept to a working app available for everyone on iTunes and Google Play.
The project arrived in your hands when the original team got back from the Editors Lab hackdays. What happened then?
After the end of the Editors Lab, the team came back and I was keen to explore the idea further. So Grant Maskell, a developer, and I built a proper working prototype that we could actually release to the public. We mostly worked on the project in our free time and it took about two or three months. We built it using Corona SDK (software development kits) and launched it in January.
What changed from the original idea to the new version?
The final project is slightly different from the one that competed at the Editors Lab. Initially the team wanted to give the readers a pros and cons perspective on specific political issues. Now, instead, we have broadened the range of topics covered and try to offer the reader two different perspectives on a subject, but not necessarily focusing on positive against negative.
Here how the app looks like
And how is it going?
It's going really well. Interestingly, we seem to have our biggest audience in the US. I think it might be because of the presidential campaign and the fact that some of the content we published is around Donald Trump. It also seems to go down very well with journalism students, who are quite interested in seeing how different media sources report on news and different opinions. So it seems to have been adopted by a lot of lecturers at journalism universities in America, who are trying to show how the media can report things differently.
What's next for the project?
We submitted the idea to the Google News Initiative and we won the grant. So, the plan now is to hire a bigger editorial team and to launch a fully native app, and possibly to have even more content in the app on a daily basis.
How long do you think it will take to release the new version? A year? Six months?
Hopefully it will be closer to six months than a year. We are planning to get something built and released in six months, even if maybe not with all the features we’d like to have: just a more stable app than the one that we have now. Within the next 12 months we will have social media content and everything in there as well.
Will you wait for the new version before you think about how to monetise or are you already looking for some solutions?
It's something we are already considering. We're thinking about different things, from native advertising to maybe a premium subscription offer. We'll have to do something, but we also need to think carefully about what that means for the publishers that we include.
The name of the project has changed since the end of the Editors Lab hackdays: from Perspex to Perspecs
Do you think that this is a product that can interest millennials?
I think so, we've got a relatively young audience using the app. Generally, Trinity Mirror attracts 35 to 55 year-old readers, while a quite a big portion of the app’s audience is made of people aged between 20 and 35. I think it just captures a broad audience and it seems to attract all ages. Also we do hope, with the next version, that we'll bring in social media a lot more and that, maybe, will bring in a more millennial audience.
How did the Editors Lab help you?
I think that the GEN’s initiative gave the original team the chance, time and breadth to experiment. Thanks to Editors Lab, they had the opportunity to transform an idea into a more tangible project that they have been able to pitch to their managers well enough to convince them to explore it further.