Journalist-turned entrepreneur Eric Ortiz has been working hard to build awareness of his mobile start-up Evrybit.
Although it was initially conceptualized for use by journalists and media organizations, he sees the opportunity for his app to take on a much bigger role in the world of collaborative storytelling by taking it to local communities and enhance coverage of issues that matter to Evrybit users.
In an evolving media industry, where job cuts and shrinking newsrooms are the new reality, Eric, who spent 15 year career as a digital sports editor at ESPN.com and the New England Sports Network (NESN.com), thinks Evrybit is a tool that could help change the way journalists gather, produce and distribute news.
The CEO of Evrybit, Eric co-founded the company with his wife Maria Burns Ortiz and Chief Technology Officer Drew Falkman.
He talked with Media Moves about his entrepreneurial venture, mission and goals with the app.
What is Evrybit?
Evrybit is a mobile-first live storytelling app. It lets users create, edit and post live stories from a smartphone in real time, with audio, video, photos and text.
Once you’re finished creating the story, you can be embedded on a website, distribute it on mobile devices, and share it on social media.
How did the idea of Everybit come about?
I was doing a lot of innovative storytelling and live blogs of sporting events when I was at ESPN.com. This idea was born from being an editor and seeing when our reporters stepped outside the press box there was a problem getting the content from the floor to the live blog. We had to use a lot different apps to create the content and make it live. We had to share it on Twiter, Facebook, Instagram – different social platforms.
I noticed there was a lot of rich media content being left out of our stories. So, we weren’t able to tell the whole story or monetize it. I wanted to solve this problem coming up with a platform that would make it easy for journalists to create content on mobile devices and monetize it.
How did you get your venture started?
Once we came up with the idea, we started thinking: how do we build it? So I applied for Stanford’s Knight fellowship. This was my idea – to build a mobile publishing platform.
We started coding in January of 2014 and on the prototype in April. We tested it for 9 months and launched version 1.0 in 2015. So far, it’s been dowloaded in 20 countries.
What’s your goal with Evrybit?
Our mission is to connect the world through storytelling and our goal is empower mobile storytellers, making it easier for them to tell their stories with the media production tools available on our app.
I want to build a product that could help as many people as possible. That’s why I wanted to build a technology platform. We also want to provide a path to profitability for news organizations.
You have a CTO, but how involved are you in the development of the app?
I built a website from the editorial side, but I had to learn a lot about software development. It’s a slow process, but you need to know how to speak the language. I now do a little bit of everything, except the day to day coding.
I have regular discussions with our tech team and our CTO. I’ve been hands one since day one.
What is your biggest challenge?
Being an entrepreneur is about finding solutions. Everyday has challenges. I’m dedicated to running the company and turning it into a viable business.
Our focus right now is acquiring users and getting discovered. There’s lots of apps in the marketplace and people have lots of different choices. We’re trying to making people aware of what we’re doing. We’re feeling confident of where we are right now. We’re getting more recognition.
What are you doing to get the word out about Evrybit?
We’re talking with media organizations and reporters. The media landscape right now is at a crossroads. A lot of newsrooms had their budget, staffs cut. Due to limited resource, a lot of stories go untold.
We created the technology, and now we’re training people how to use it. We’re going to be doing mobile storytelling training workshops – not just for journalists, but citizen journalists.
We want Evrybit to be part of the participatory effort — creating collaborative and crowdsourced content.
Did you get venture capital funding to get the project off the ground?
It’s difficult to get funded unless you can show you’re live in the market. You have to show evidence of what this product is, that you have users. It’s harder to get funded on just an idea.
We were able to get funding from angel investors. We are looking to raise more funding. We plan to turn on monetization over the next couple of months through custom content campaigns, native advertising, enterprise licensing and individual subscriptions.
How will Evrybit monetize content?
It’s a freemium business model. It’ll be a free app and if people want to upgrade, they’ll be able to upgrade to different pro versions, where they’ll have access to more tools, more storage space, more collaborators.
Version 2.0 is going to allow multiple contributors to a story and we’re also going to license to media organizations. They’re going to have access to all the pro tools and collaborators.
We’re going to have advertising as well. We’re going to have a revenue split with free users. Free users will be able to make money through our advertising revenue share.
We’re also going to have a tip jar. Each person’s content will have a tip button, so people can leave a tip for content they value
We’re going to create a private market place where media companies would have to purchase the content to have exclusive rights and the content creator will be able to get paid for their work.
How would that work?
People would have to create an account – like a wallet. Let’s say you start with $100 dollars in the account. You’ll be able to tip from your account. You won’t be making a purchase each time. You can add to your account as needed.
What are the features of Evrybit’s 2.0 version?
It will have an updated design. We’re building collaboration so you can have multiple contributors on a story. It’ll have a notification system that will allow you follow people, authors and stories.
We want to make it an all-in-one solution, so you can you can produce, edit, consume and monetize a story all in one app.
Right now, Evrybit is only avaialable on iOS. The Android version will be ready in early 2016 and the web version will ready later in the year.
As part of the company’s efforts to increase awareness, in September, Evrybit partnered with New York University’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute to run a collaborative mobile reporting project of Pope Francis’ visit to New York City. Approximately 100 students (in seven classes) used Evrybit to cover the pope’s visit to New York City and created over 600 bits of media in one story.
On Friday October 9, the team kicked off a mobile experiment with San Angelo LIVE!, an online news site in central Texas, covering a high school football game with the Evrybit mobile-first in real time and run the live mobile story on the San Angelo website.
Among the ideas being considered to help the local community news outlet: creating video/audio media ads live during high school games by local business owners, on their phones.
Eric and his team are currently in the planning stages of a project to create community-powered newsrooms, aimed at helping local independent online news publishers make money with Evrybit through the sale of ads, micropayments and tips.