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News Release

April 24, 2014

Algorithm for social media analytics earns Scripps Innovation Challenge top prize 

The second annual Scripps Innovation Challenge, a media innovation contest sponsored by the Scripps College of Communication and open to all students at Ohio University, concluded Monday, April 21.

Team E.G. 501 took home the $10,000 first prize for its pitch to monetize a large central Ohio newspaper’s 190,000 Twitter followers through identifying communities on social media and customizing tweets to better serve existing followers. The team, comprised of Ehsan Ardjmand, Naeem Gul and Enakshi Roy, called their innovation CATS - clustering, audience targeting and shooting. 

“This system will help editors craft the tweet, help marketing to match the content of their tweets to advertisers and help the data analysts focus on emerging trends in real time,” said Roy, who presented the team. 

Ardjmand, a doctoral candidate in Industrial and Systems Engineering; Gull, a graduate student in International and Development Studies; and Roy, a doctoral student in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, are apartment mates and said they spent large amounts of time fully discussing and thinking through their idea to monetize Twitter followers. 

“We had a lot of time to talk about it,” said Gul, a Fulbright scholar from Pakistan. “We started with a concept and began to add elements. We got the idea to cluster the communities and target the messages, and Ehsan was instrumental in that work.”

While the team members recognized there are existing social media companies that crunch “big data,” they maintain their CATS system is the only one that detects communities among organization’s followers, analyzes and then uses that information to improve an organization’s social media practices. Revenue for the company would be funded by subscription fees.

In all, seven finalist teams presented their pitches to four judges during Pitch Day Monday. The second prize of $5,000 and diversity enhancement prize, also $5,000, were awarded to Team Casino Loyale, comprised of Alyssa Pasicznyk, Kelsey Hoak, Avery T. Jennings, Olivia Bevan and Alex George. Casino Loyale chose to tackle the challenge of creating a loyalty program to increase a news organization’s audience. They developed an idea to let users rack up points they could use as coupons or special offers with local partners.

This year’s challenge drew 31 entries from 28 teams representing students from across the University, including mechanical engineering, meteorology, information and telecommunication systems, journalism, finance and marketing, strategic communication, and visual communication, among others. On March 26, the seven finalists were announced at the Scripps Celebration.

One of the goals of this year’s challenge was to provide more resources and opportunities for learning throughout the year. Also new this year was the $5,000 diversity enhancement prize for the team whose solution best reached underserved and underrepresented audiences.

For many area innovators, the challenge is a chance to see Ohio University students in action, as well as a glimpse into what emerging ideas might go further than the contest. 

“I think the Scripps Innovation Challenge is an excellent opportunity for students to look at the problems out there and come up with market-driven solutions,” said Jennifer Simon, director of the Innovation Center at Ohio University. “We look at these pitches as a potential pipeline for the Innovation Center; we look for strong teams and ideas.” 

Judges for Pitch Day include Retha Hill, executive director of the Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship Lab at Arizona State University; Jan Schaffer, executive director of J-Lab at American University; William Crowder, managing director of DreamIt Ventures in Philadelphia; and Ryan Lytle, social projects manager at Mashable.

Five of the finalist teams were awarded $1,000 honorable mention prizes. They include:

  • Team AIRheads with Arielle Patterson, Rachel Bailey and Morgan Eastman
  • Let’s Connect with Sanusi Shehu and Freddy Rubenga 
  • Pivot with Sam Fox, Anthony Aerni, Jacob Betzner, Caitlyn John, Alexa Miller, and Carl Johnston 
  • Digital Convergence with Angela Reighard, Allen Henry, and Christa Lamendola
  • Merge Media (formerly Team Athena) with Lindsay Friedman, Alex Harshaw, Sierra Ferrier, Josh Aldrich and Sabrina Reda 

 

The contest is funded by a $3 million endowment for innovation given to the college by the Scripps Howard Foundation in 2006.

Scripps College of Communication Dean Scott Titsworth commended the students for their work. 

“I am truly impressed by the innovative solutions pitched by students today,” he said. “Let’s give them all another round of applause for their efforts.”

The event was live streamed, and a recording can be viewed at http://bit.ly/1kYqbEt. It was followed by a networking reception. Additional information can be found on the Innovation Challenge website at www.ohio.edu/scrippscollege/innovationchallenge.

Contact: Scripps College External Relations Coordinator Erin Roberts at 740-593-0030 or roberte1@ohio.edu

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Katharine Quaranta
Communications Specialist, External Communications
740.593.0858 
quaranta@ohio.edu  

Jennifer Krisch
Communications Specialist, External Communications
740.597.1939 
krisch@ohio.edu  

After hours on-call media specialist: 740.593.2200