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The traditional broadcast journalism formula is changing in a way that will benefit local news outlets — and these two saw an opportunity

Shivani Persad  - November 27, 2020

The traditional broadcast journalism formula is changing in a way that will benefit local news outlets. From the ability to start YouTube channels, to doing interviews live on Instagram, local journalists can take advantage of the ever-changing technology at their fingertips. 

And now there’s a way for local journalists and news outlets to access an in-studio experience, with all of the elements of a professional news broadcast — it’s called Happs

Mark Goldman and David Neuman saw an opportunity to disrupt the traditional paid TV model of news. They created Happs, the only platform of its kind where freelance broadcast journalists can create their own shows, with news studio capabilities. Through the creation of the first online, cloud-based broadcasting studio, journalists have complete autonomy over subject matter, direction and production of their broadcasts. 

Using Happs, journalists broadcast simultaneously to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Reddit and Periscope to reach the maximum number of viewers. 

“The visual medium is far and away the most powerful medium for shaping public opinion,” says Goldman, co-founder and CEO of Happs. Goldman is no stranger to broadcast journalism, having worked as VP of business development at Universal and president & COO at Sky Latin America, launching television networks for them around the world.

Almost 20 years ago Goldman was approached by Al Gore to create Current TV, a new network that would democratize the visual experience. It was the precursor of user generated content, an open-source news platform allowing reporters to use their own equipment and cover any stories they wanted. They brought on Neuman, a news executive veteran who had been president of Walt Disney Television, and chief programming officer at CNN.

After the sale of Current TV, Goldman and Neuman wanted to continue empowering people to tell their own stories through visual media. “[Present day broadcast journalism is] geared towards politics and division because that drives ratings, but it’s not relevant to younger people. On a creative level they’re headed on a precarious path in terms of longevity,” says Goldman. He explained that news media companies used to be built on bureaus around the world where they could get to breaking news and events before anyone else. Now, most news is covered on social media before news stations can go live, rendering that infrastructure expensive and of little value.

In 2019, they started building a new platform that allowed any journalist to report on the news using just a smartphone. The first version of Happs garnered about 80 hours of incredible live news coverage a month. Happs journalists were inside the Hong Kong protests and amidst the rubble in Northern Syria after the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. They were in places Western media couldn’t reach. Now, Happs is being used by local journalists from Oklahoma to Lagos, to innovate their reporting in a way they could not replicate without this game-changing technology.

Mary-Ann Okon is a reporter in Nigeria who has been extensively covering the #EndSARS movement in Lagos on Happs. “Happs has helped me to bypass all the hassle, restrictions and suppression in the Nigerian media space,” she says. “I’ve been able to break stories faster than normal and I get a conversation going on a matter arising, even without being in a studio.” 

Towards the end of 2019, Happs wanted to use technology to transform the journalism industry entirely. “We realized that the opportunity was not to make Happs a media entity where we were choosing the stories and using the tech to tell those stories more effectively,” Goldman says, “Instead it was to make this an open platform that let anyone become a broadcast journalist and use those professional tools, speak to a broad audience, monetize their journalism themselves.” 

The team spent the next six months re-architecting the platform, to make it completely run by the journalists themselves. The full iteration was finished just a month ago. Alex Mohajer is one of Happs’ most successful journalists since the new iteration. “Happs allows individuals to be their own media apparatus, that’s the benefit, you’re not constrained to a corporate culture or the talking points of your organization,” he says. Mohajer started with a few hundred views and he now receives almost 5,000 views per broadcast of his show The AM Report, a show giving a progressive take on political news. 

Happs is also transforming the traditional paid advertising model of cable news networks. The platform itself operates independent of any advertising. “At Happs we believe that journalists should receive financial support directly from their viewers so they remain free to pursue their craft without the influence of intermediaries or advertisers,” says Goldman.  Viewers can make payments through monthly sponsorships to their favourite journalists, and awards that can be given during each broadcast. The platform receives a share of the payments. Goldman says it’s “a similar business model to other creator platforms.”

On Nov. 3, Happs did a total of 41 broadcasts averaging over 1,000 views per broadcast. Pablo de la Hoya, community manager for Happs, says it was local journalists that allowed Happs viewers to get the best understanding of how cities across America, and the world, were reacting on election day. “It was great to see a community of journalists come together from so many different parts of the country. We saw broadcasters joining in from Arizona to Florida, from Chicago to D.C. and from Vietnam to Europe to discuss the elections,” he says. 

Goldman says the goal is to “put these tools in the hands of independent journalists and local media organizations all over the world and let them do broadcast journalism at a scale that we would never be able to replicate if we were acting like a large media corporation. That way of producing news is on it’s way out.”

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And one more thing… 

We’re thrilled to share that yesterday, Indiegraf was awarded $100,000 in investments from the 2020 Impact Investor Challenge. 

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