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Local startup sets up pods which transfer news straight to your phone

  • Pods installed around Manchester in bid to change way people comsume news
  • Innovator Stuart Goulden believes pods will help the media engage with younger audience
  • MEN editor Rob Irvine is unsure whether pods will appeal 

A Manchester startup has set up bluetooth pods around the city centre to offer people a new way to consume news.

Consultant Stuart Goulden piloted the OtherWorld project in the summer in Spinningfields, Albert Square, Oxford Road, NOMA, and Oldham Street amongst other city centre locations. There are now 20 pods in six locations.

The beacons are simple to use according to Mr Goulden, who founded his startup company Like No Other to push innovative projects in Manchester.

Using Google’s Eddystone technology, the beacons transmit data through bluetooth directly to a person’s phone when they are within reach.

He said: “First of all, if you strip away the technology it’s quite a simple proposition. In that somebody would receive a notification on their phone and telling them something about the place where they’re stood.

“In doing so, hopefully, the story is more relevant. How they get that notification, there’s Bluetooth around Manchester and they broadcast content via Bluetooth.”

According to a recent audit by the Audit Bureau of Circulations, local papers lost readers by an average of 11.2 percent year on year in the second half of 2016.

I’m one of those people who cares deeply about where they live and is always interested in knowing what’s happening but would never think of buying their local newspaper

“I think there’s a different way to talk to people like myself, and to reach them and engage them. At the moment that’s through smart phones. I just put two and two together,” he said.

The project was given a boost in the summer when Google invested €50,000 (circa £45,000) to get the idea started.

Mr Goulden said: “I think it’s exciting for the user but for newsrooms. Here is an ability to target a certain person, a certain location with a story written about that area. For the user, it’s news that finds you wherever you are.

“On a match day you could start the match day experience earlier by curating news for those arriving to the stadium with team news. It’s just a very different way of thinking about the same kind of news operation, news ecosystem.”

The pods aren’t only a new way for users to read the news, but according to Goulden also offers new ways for journalists report stories.

Manchester Evening News editor, Rob Irvine, said: “This is a niche. In terms of growing it to scale it has the fundamental problem of giving prominence to interest of content by locality - but for much if our lives we are interested in content by category.

“In a sense there are communities of geography and communities if interest. People walking down a road in Manchester may have a hundred reasons to be there and a zillion interests they do not share. Yes there are interested in Manchester but do the care about what happens in Ducie St because they are walking down it?”

People are still unfamiliar with the technology, but 23-year-old engineering student Scott Wallace thought the idea could bridge the gap between young readers and the media.

He said: “I think the idea is really interesting because it lets you read stories that are relevant to where you are, and we’re not doing anything we wouldn’t be doing anyways, as we’re always on our phones.

“I didn’t know about the pods but I’ll keep an eye-out and my bluetooth on from now on. We’re a lazy generation, so anything that makes any aspect of my life more convenient appeals to me.”

So far 750 stories have been shared on OtherWorld.

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