Month: March 2014

Intersection spotlight: Kiva

Intersections are important (See previous blog post for more on this). There are many examples of great ways people all over the world are using different ideas and skill sets to benefit journalism. However, I also think it is beneficial to look outside any one particular field for further inspiration. When I am not exploring journalism topics, I often find myself exploring non-profit innovation. In particular I read about social entrepreneurship, and organizations that focus on teaching people skills in entrepreneurship so they can build their own sustainable communities. This week I spent hours reading a case study about one of my favorite such organizations, Kiva. Although the non-profit is technically outside of the journalism realm, a lot can be learned about the way Kiva uses intersections between technology, charity and entrepreneurship.


What Kiva does: 

Kiva is a non-profit organization that has established a unique model of “charity” through its creation of person-to-person micro lending. Kiva allows online users to lend impoverished people around the world as little as $25 to help them in entrepreneurial ventures they would otherwise not have access to. The organization works with microfinance institutions in 73 countries, and has, to date, provided nearly $550 million in microloans with a repayment rate of 99 percent.

What makes Kiva unique:

Person-to-person micro lending essentially didn’t exist before the creation of Kiva. Micro finance institutions functioned to support entrepreneurial ventures in other countries, but they had difficulty tracking loans and impact to particular people. Kiva essentially saw an opportunity to fundamentally change the “charity” model. Instead of encouraging giving money to a generic cause, Kiva emphasizes loaning money to people around the world who are actively working to create and grow a personal business. Kiva also makes these loans social and addictive through its online platform.

Intersections that matter at Kiva:

  • Traditional charity mission + accountability of a traditional business
  • Recognition of international differences + acknowledgement of problems every entrepreneur faces
  • Encouragement of donations + public social profiles to track donations
  • New world online platform + familiar charity feel
  • Giving money to people in need + accountability and purpose with money received

If you’re not as passionate about social entrepreneurship and micro lending as I am, Kiva still may not seem to stand out to you. However, I would argue that Kiva has made an impact far beyond the non-profit realm. For example, Kickstarter and Indiegogo use a very similar “funding” model to that of Kiva. The sites allow users to create a profile and then explain a need for funding. From there, numerous donors all contribute online to that user’s cause with the expectation that the money will be used to accomplish a specific task. This all happens with a focus on social engagement that journalists can especially learn from. Journalists should always be looking for intersections and untapped interest in ways that Kiva did. For instance, journalists should examine how technology can be used to engage an audience in a new way. Journalists can also focus on the importance of person-to-person interactions in trying to engage an audience. I try to look to my interests in technology, entrepreneurship and journalism to consider new, innovative ways to impact the journalism industry. Just as Kiva valued intersections that hadn’t existed before, journalists, too, can benefit from consider of innovation and application in a variety of different fields. Also, side note, working at Kiva or somewhere like it is my absolute dream job. I would love to combine interests in international studies, entrepreneurship and journalism.


Five great tools for searching social media

Google is and, for the time being, will always be my go-to search tool. Mostly out of habit, I visit Google for my every web search need. However, I am slowly discovering more search tools that give Google a run for its money. Google is great for searching web information or for finding quick and relevant information. But Google and similar search engines are particularly bad at finding valuable information on social media. As social media sites increasingly become the first place everyday people go to share breaking news and niche opinions, there is a great need for social media search tools.

Here is a list of five great social media search tools I tried this week. I discovered most of them from an article called “20 tools and apps for digital tools.”

1. Topsy– Search Twitter topics, trends and links by time and relevancy.


One of my favorite guilty pleasures is watching terrible dating reality TV shows such as The Bachelor. Every week, I waste an hour watching the show, and then I migrate to Twitter to read hashtags about what happened. Although Twitter allows you to sort through topics and hashtags to some extent, it has a fairly limited ability to sort with any great amount of specificity. In the future, I will be using Topsy for all of my social media/Bachelor needs. Topsy allows you to select a date range, sort by relevance and sort by category. This is particularly useful for actual journalism needs, such as finding information from a past breaking news event or sifting through a person’s tweets.

2. followerwonk– Learn about Twitter profiles by searching bios, followers and more.


Every week I gain a couple Twitter followers that are seemingly random until I read their Twitter bios. Their Twitter bios often include words like “journalism” or “entrepreneurship.” As if by magic, these people of the world, who are also interested in journalism and entrepreneurship, find me on the web. Most of the time, I am interested in their profile too, but I always wonder how they found me. Followerwonk may be this tool. It allows you to search through keywords in Twitter bios, follow users without leaving the page and view user analytics. The tool also provides extensive analysis of a Twitter user’s followers and follow habits in the “Analyze followers” and “Compare users” tabs. This tool is awesome! Any journalist can benefit from the endless sourcing opportunities here.

3. Banjo –View photos, tweets, posts and more by topic and breaking news.


More and more news websites are starting to use social media photos and first-hand tweets to add context to a breaking news story. We saw this in coverage of events such as the Boston bombing and Sandy Hook. However, a news website typically only selects a limited number of photos and tweets about a topic to show in a stream on its website. Banjo, on the other hand, provides a seemingly endless scroll of photos and posts about topics and breaking news events. This week, I took a look at photos and links Banjo had grouped surrounding the New York building. I scrolled through endless pictures posted by originally by Instagram users on the scene that day. This tool is really unbelievable. Instagram and Twitter make it difficult to sort and filter through photos of a news event, often grouping photos ranging in quality under the same topic. Every photo I saw on Banjo was extremely relevant to the news event, and since they were user posted, they were photos I couldn’t find anywhere else. A description really doesn’t do this tool justice.

4. Storyful – Search topic across multiple social platforms at once.


Storyful takes a topic that interests you and searches across multiple relevant platforms at once. Instead of limiting search results to a list of links, the tool actually opens new windows on various websites with your query already entered for you. This tool is only available as a Google Chrome app, but it is well-worth trying out the browser if only to try out the tool.

5. Leap2 – Generate visual search results from websites and social sites.


Leap2 is a search engine tool that was developed in my hometown of Kansas City. The founders have a workspace at the Kansas City Startup Village, and I saw the tool in action at an open house there last summer. Kansas City has a booming entrepreneurial scene at the village and city-wide, but more on that in a later post. The search engine is designed to be a new-age search engine. While most search engines mainly provide a list of web links, Leap2 searches websites and social media platforms around your search and presents results in a visual way. I particularly like that a click on a result generates a small pop-up that doesn’t immediately take you away from the page. Leap2 rethinks the way a social audience wants to receive search results.

What other uses did you find with these tools?

Vlog tips from a first time vlog-er

Video blogging is one of those skills that at first seems easy but turns out to be very difficult. On YouTube, any number of Internet stars make their popularity look as easy as having a functional camera and 20 minutes of free time to film a short video. I had never really thought much about the work behind a video blog until professor Jim Flink, also Newsy’s vice president of news, talked to my Emerging Media class. Flink had a number of great tips for video blogging:

  • Think conversation not presentation
  • Real emotion works best
  • Authenticity is key
  • Every motion that is small will look big
  • Emotions are magnified
  • Move your eyes as you would in a conversation

Shortly after Flink came to talk to my class, we found out we would have a one time opportunity to film a mock “talk show” in the RJI studio. Overall the taping was a very exciting experience. It was particularly valuable to consider what makes a news video blog successful. After my experience I have my own list of tips to add to Flink’s list:


  • Be knowledgable on the discussion topic
  • Stay conversational and natural
  • Glance bank at the camera occasionally
  • Dress and primp accordingly
  • Match the feel of your audience
  • Provide value
  • Avoid overly colloquial speech
  • Avoid overly formal speech


  • Forget the camera completely
  • Touch your face excessively
  • Slouch
  • Monopolize the conversation

Most importantly, DON’T forget your medium. A video blog is very different from a TV broadcast. A YouTube audience looks to vlogs for niche information or conversations that the 5 p.m. newscast can’t provide. As a video blogger, it is your job to provide valuable information the viewer cannot get anywhere else. For news vlogs in particular, content must be of especially high quality to attract viewers away from other entertaining online videos. To me, the value you bring is the most important part.

What do you think is most important in a video blog? How can news sites engage viewers on YouTube?

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