Impact That

Impact That

November 10, 2015 16:52 ET

Local Software Developer Wants to Change the Way We React to the News, and She's Making an Impact

VICTORIA, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwired - Nov. 10, 2015) -

Editors Note: There are three photos associated with this press release.

The news has always inspired us in some way, whether it is anger or concern, sadness or interest, surprise or joy. Sharing stories that affect us on social media has become a key way of communicating our opinions and reactions to news.

However, just sharing those stories is not enough anymore. Today's online-news readers want to feel empowered to do something about what they read. They want to be able to make an impact immediately, see the results of their actions, and share the news and the action they took within their community.

And when they can't act in a meaningful way, they may disengage from the news source.

Christy Jackson is one of those readers. She had given up reading most news, not because she didn't care about what was happening, but because she did care, deeply, and had grown frustrated with the inability to respond in a meaningful way.

Last summer, the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri left her with such feelings of anger and helplessness that she knew she had to do something-and she did.

Jackson is a Victoria-based IT professional with a background in usability and interaction. Together with her partner Ed Manero, a senior software developer, they have created Impact That.

Impact That is a media tool that engages readers to act. By working with news media, the team at Impact That can create a customized, interactive application that allows news media to remain impartial, but at the same time, take a leadership role by giving online readers a choice of actions in response to the stories they are reading.

For readers, clicking the Impact That button gives them options, such as supporting charities, participating in surveys, and contributing to causes.

For Jackson to achieve her goal of empowering readers, she needed the support of the news industry. As it turns out, Impact That is exactly what the news industry wants-and needs.

Vincent Peyrègne, CEO of WAN-IFRA, the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers, is quoted as saying: "The news industry's future is about how citizens engage and participate in their society."

For the news industry to be viable, it needs ways to gain the support and respect of loyal, invested readers. Of particular concern is the Millennial demographic, who are seeking news sources that share their values and give them the choices they want-choices that allow them to act.

To gauge the level of interest in Impact That, Jackson and her business developer, Rebecca Kirstein of Business as Unusual, met with a major Canadian media corporation in Toronto. The reaction was overwhelmingly positive. Suggestions were offered on how to make Impact That even more appealing, including demonstrating the product for charitable organizations. Again, the reaction was overwhelmingly positive and provided Jackson with more feedback on how to refine her idea.

Meanwhile, Impact That had drawn the attention of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers. In October, Jackson was invited to Hamburg, Germany to present her concept on a global stage at the World Publishing Expo, the leading exhibition for trends, technologies, and solutions for the newspaper and magazine industry.

While about half of the exhibits at the conference related to printing, exhibits on virtual reality, content management, and monetizing legacy content had a significant presence. Her area, reader engagement, drew considerable attention.

"It was amazing," she says. "People came by just to look because we were in the startup area. A lot of people were interested in engagement and the new concept and sought out my booth and wanted to see what it was. People were very excited by the idea."

In addition to receiving encouraging comments and suggestions, Jackson made some promising connections.

"It was really helpful and valuable. It's what you want as a startup because you want to learn what people want," says Jackson. "It was also interesting how people from different countries in Europe react to the idea."

"We were concerned that it was too early for a startup to go to something like that," says Kirstein. "After having gone, I don't think so. The feedback we got and the connections we made were well worth our time."

Other exhibits at the conference addressed measuring reader engagement, but Impact That was one of the only ones offering a way to help increase it.

"Impact That is a very different spin on reader engagement compared to the other tools that were there and I saw how it fit into the puzzle," says Kirstein.

"Engagement is such a hot topic because the industry is looking for a way to reinvent itself-to benefit from the online marketplace," says Christy. "They feel an urgency to do that because they know that the current model can change and be improved."

Attending the conference was also reassuring for Jackson.

"I found it exciting and validating to see so many people were interested in the same things I am interested in. They felt audience engagement and giving readers a voice was important," says Jackson. "Impact That excited a lot of other people and I was glad to see that."

For the next few months, Jackson and Kirstein have their work cut out for them.

"We're plunging forward. We've got lots of good ideas and future plans. It could go in a variety of different directions, depending on where the traction is," says Kirstein. "We've now validated interest globally."

For more information on Impact that, including a video and interactive demos, check out http://www.impactthat.org.

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