Schreiber Graduate Revolutionizing News World

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John Meyer, founder and CEO of Fresco News, a new app poised to change the news business

There is a new app you may not have heard of yet, but you will. It’s called Fresco and it was developed by former Port Washington resident and recent Schreiber graduate John Meyer.

“Whether you’re just a normal consumer, or someone who’s interested in news, we are providing anybody a way to receive news on a mobile device, ideally, through the eyes of regular people,” said Meyer, CEO and founder.

In other words, the iOS app connects newsrooms with folks who are out and about and armed with smartphones. Think an Instagram-style feed of photos and videos from all over the world capturing the latest breaking news.

Sample of what a Fresco news feed looks like
Sample of what a Fresco news feed looks like

“So you flip through this screen and get a sense of what’s going on really quickly,” Meyer said. “And the other half of the app on mobile allows users to receive notifications of when breaking news events happen near you that actually offer you monetary payment to travel to the scene and take a photo or video of what’s going on using the app.”

The recorded content goes directly into the hands of a local or national news organization and is featured on the air, if it’s a TV station, or in a newspaper or online. The photographer maintains ownership and receives full credit for the content. The news organization simply pays for the license to use it.

The news landscape has changed dramatically over the past several years. Blogging has become an accessible form of citizen journalism. Fresco takes citizen journalism to the next level by adding crowdsourcing into the mix and streamlines the entire process.

Fresco News launched on Sept. 8, having operated in beta for about two months. Right now, their main focus is connecting with local TV news stations and newspapers.

“A local TV news station typically will hear of 10 incidents in their market that they need coverage of each day,” said Meyer. “That’s usually the small things like a local fire, a parade going on, a protest, and normally, they have to physically send a whole van worth of people to the scene. It’s quite expensive and also time consuming, especially in an age when we all have incredible cameras in our pockets.”

Sample of a Fresco assignment alert
Sample of a Fresco assignment alert

Now news organizations have the option to mobilize smartphone-users by offering payment for photo or video coverage of a specific event. The user takes the video through the Fresco app and it is delivered immediately to the newsroom that requested it.

“Our mission is to empower anybody to be a reporter, to some extent,” said Meyer. “We shine a light on world events through the eyes regular people.”

Fresco News also has their own 24-hour newsroom, in which they review content constantly being uploaded and can report on it as their own news source.

In the interest of simplicity, pricing is fixed at $70 for a video and $20 for a photo, but Fresco is working on bringing variable pricing to the table to allow for instances of high demand. “We would want our users to get paid more if the demand is higher,” said Meyer.

Built into the platform is verification that uses the GPS, as well as the metadata in photos and videos, and guarantees the location and ensures the organization gets what it paid for.

Liability concerns are addressed in the terms of service, which users must agree to the first time they open the app. “[We make] it very clear to the user, if they are heading to the scene of something dangerous, they are going on their own, at their own discretion.”

Besides responding to an assignment directly, users can upload newsworthy content they happened to come upon. “You as a user can break that event first by simply taking a photo or video of what’s going on and adding closed caption of what you see,” Meyer said.

Photo taken by a Fresco user of refugees in Hungary
Photo taken by a Fresco user of refugees in Hungary

This scenario occurred on Sept. 8, when a commuter plane at McCarran Airport in Las Vegas caught fire upon landing. “We got great photos from the scene, and we were first to break that because we had mobile devices at the scene and there were no reporters there yet.”

At present, Fresco operates only on iPhones, but an Android version will be rolled out in November. The newsroom tool at the website, www.fresconews.com, is open to everyone.

“We’re trying to incentivize people to go to the news scenes by paying them to do so. However what we learned [during beta] was that all these regular people using the app are actually way more excited about just getting their content used by these news organizations and getting to go and tell their friends, ‘oh my video is going to be on NBC News tonight with my name on it, go check it out,’” said Meyer. “It means we have excitement surrounding this platform. It’s fantastic for our branding and to keep this spreading around. And it also means that these regular people are passionate about being able to report on news and they’re not just doing it for the money.”

Meyer has been developing apps since 2008. He originally taught himself the programming languages required to develop apps throughout high school at Schreiber. Then about a year ago, he and his team quickly developed the first iteration of Fresco. “Our company’s grown so much; we are now 24 people,” Meyer said. “I lead all the different aspects of our company from the product team who does all the development work on the mobile app, and then our website, to our 24/7 hour newsroom, to now also overseeing some of our sales team. It’s quite a lot to juggle now so I don’t really do any of the programming anymore.”

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The Fresco team has grown to 24 people.

Meyer graduated from high school in 2013 and went on to NYU. I decided to leave to focus exclusively on building the company,” said Meyer. “I noticed I was learning more out of school, through experience…I’ve been learning every day and it’s been quite a ride so far.”

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20-year-old Schreiber grad John Meyer

The young entrepreneur credits some of his success with being team captain of the Port Washington Crew Team. “One of the crazy things about building a startup is it is extremely competitive,” said Meyer. “One of the things about rowing crew is that it is such an incredibly demanding sport, one that is often literally considered to be…a pain contest.

“It is all about mental perseverance. Little did I know, it also applied to building a company, where you’ve got pressures hitting you on all ends, and expectations to live up to,” Meyer continued. “There are so many startup founders that end up giving up…for lack of perseverance and the willingness to keep on going through the low points, but it’s those low points that really define the future of your company.”

Visit www.fresconews.com for more information.

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