Anthony Marshi (COL ’18) officially launched the smartphone news aggregate application NewsRoom after months of work and preparation April 7.
The app currently functions at Georgetown University, Harvard University and Babson College, and it is now open to the public after undergoing beta tests in the fall of 2016.
Marshi serves as the CEO and head of strategy for the app. He developed it in collaboration with NewsRoom Head of Engineering Tomislav Zabcic-Matic and Head of Product Pierre Hirschleranda, who are both Harvard undergraduates.
NewsRoom is currently a free app on the Apple App Store and its funding has come from the founders’ savings. According to the website for the app, NewsRoom allows users to customize their news from a variety of sources and share it with friends.
The app allows customers to create profiles, search news articles, react to articles and comment on them. The app features news sources such as CNN, Fox News and The Hoya.
According to Head of Marketing Gaia Brignone (COL ’18), NewsRoom aims to provide a new platform to spark conversations among friends regarding the news and mutual interests.
“We want to create more meaningful dialogue around the news and have a platform for people to just speak about news and share their interests,” Brignone said.
Marshi said app was born from a discussion he started with another student, Michael Fiedorowicz (COL ’18), who serves as head of operations, in their freshman year.
“I came up with the idea of the app with Michael, who’s another student at Georgetown, currently abroad. We came up with the idea our freshman year,” Marshi said.
According to Zabcic-Matic, the NewsRoom team has made significant progress with the app since its beta launch in September 2016, which includes an upgrade of the user interface.”
“Basically, we’ve done a massive overhaul of the user interface and added a lot of features to the app, which — so, the main challenges with that have just been working through some of the finer points of the app,” Zabcic-Matic said.
In addition, Zabcic-Matic said the app will also feature the ability to add bookmarks and other functions to enhance accessibility.
“The main changes that the user might notice is, you’ve added things like topics. We’ve added things like bookmarks, tabs that made it a lot easier to get through the ‘explore page’ and make it more user-friendly,” Zabcic-Matic said.
The beta version of the app gauged if the student bodies of Georgetown, Harvard and Babson would be interested in using the app. Marshi said testing showed widespread support, but there were still outstanding issues with some of the app’s features that need to be resolved for the relaunch.
“There were so many challenges because it was kind of an MVP, a minimum viable product, so it was not in its optimal state. There were a lot of bugs that needed to be addressed. You know, there were a lot of features that were not functioning correctly,” Marshi said. “So, our goal since September has been to improve the app and then have a relaunch with all the changes.”
Brignone explained that some of the positive reception that the NewsRoom team has received for its app was due to its ability to create a segregated area for news, away from the often-crowded newsfeeds found on Facebook where content is less controlled.
According to Zabcic-Matic, the app is something entirely different from Facebook and after listening to feedback, he realizes that many prefer a separate platform free from a lot of non-news content.
“I’ve heard people saying that they really like the idea since they want to engage with this kind of news. They want to have a kind of place to share news and talk about it, but they don’t like to do that stuff on Facebook,” Zabcic-Matic said. “So, having a separate platform would be exactly what they’d want, because they don’t want to get it all mixed up with all the clutter.”
According to Marshi, there are plans for the app to expand to other universities across the country.
“Eventually, the goal is to spread to more universities, because what we’ve been doing is focusing our marketing efforts primarily at Georgetown, and we want to spread that to Harvard and Babson at a better level, and at more universities across the nation,” Marshi said.
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