The seventh annual Global Editors Network Summit did not only gather notable editors and media professionals from all over the world to Vienna in June, but also worked as a platform to introduce these professionals to the most relevant and interesting startups within the field of journalism. Organized as a part of the GEN Summit since 2012, the Startups for News competition looks for the most innovative and daring solutions to help news rooms on their mission to produce high quality articles. At the beginning of the year 100 international startups were chosen for screening, from which eight startups were invited to the finals in Vienna. On the 23rd of June, UK-based Flourish was crowned winner.
Flourish is an easy-to-use platform for creating interactive visualizations of for example data, maps and explainers. After the founders, journalist and publisher Duncan Clarke and mathematician and developer Robin Houston, had been working a few years on visualizing data content for bespoke projects, they realized that there was a hole in the market for a product like Flourish: a platform that allows the user without the need for coding skills to create good quality visuals and stories to be featured on for example news articles.
“It is a great startup that can help newsrooms of every size, with various levels of skills. Their platform is a tool that journalists can use to include data in their stories whether or not they have worked with data before,” says jury member Catalina Albenau from Journalism.co.uk about the winning company.
To prove the usability of their product during their final pitch, the Flourish founders made a visualization live on stage of the participants of the GEN Summit which, in the words of Clarke, “was a bit risky but helped show that it was a real tool that worked.”
According to Evangeline de Bourgoing, the Director of Programmes at GEN, the easy usability was one of the key features Startups for News looked for in the competitors. The goal was to find a product that convinces the users with its usefulness for the newsrooms instead of glitz and shiny gadgets that are fun to play with. The other valued feature was the simplicity of using the product, so that even the most technophobic journalists could find using the product as something that helps with their job instead of causing them any additional hassle. As simplicity and effectiveness are essential elements of the Flourish platform, the Startups for News jury was convinced that Flourish should be chosen as the winner of the 2017 competition.
Even though Flourish managed to impress the jury and the audience at the GEN Summit, the founders know that their work is nowhere near done yet. Clarke says that up next for Flourish is getting the product to the point where it’s ready to launch for public use. After that it is time to focus on learning from early users which features work and which ones still need improving. “Making a product that works is one thing; making a product that is easy to use without any hand-holding is much harder,” Clarke concludes.
Both Flourish and the runner-up Urbs.Media, an editorial agency, are startups encouraging data-driven journalism, which can be seen as good news to those who are afraid that fake news and unreliable journalism are taking over fact-based reporting. By providing an easier access to the data of the news, these startups function in their part as the solution of giving the audiences trustworthy information, truly making the news great again.