Month: March 2016

Dylan Barth: Journalistic Videographer

It’s only fitting that a publication started up by two students at Northwestern would evolve into a journalistic platform highlighting the many talents and varying journalistic styles of students at campuses across the nation. Spoon University is a start-up publication turned website that claims to be “building a network for millenials, by millenials.” On the About Page of the site, Spoon University says it’s “helping teach the next generation of journalists, marketers and event planners the best practices in digital media.”

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The NiemanLab report brings up a very important question, and one that Spoon University has already addressed itself. “What if news outlets decided to flip their model, so that the editorial staff was not subservient to the brand, but the “brand” become a platform for talent?” Well, this is exactly what Spoon has done- you gotta hand it to the start-ups, they always seem to be two steps ahead of the game. Spoon University is a website that follows the flipped model where co-founders Mackenzie Barth and Sarah Adler aren’t the ones writing the articles or defining the brand, but rather the 1,000s of contributors from over 100 different campuses are the voices and personalities that have shaped the digital publication to make it what it is today. Spoon has become a platform for showcasing the differing journalistic talents and styles of students across the globe. (Yes, globe– they have chapters at McGill in Canada and the University of Delhi in India). Talk about a far-reaching effect.

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Portion of the giant list of Universities that contribute to the website courtesy of

The reading goes on to make a point that “many outlets are getting their ‘talent’ out there increasingly, having them do more media to help promote company brands.” Further promoting and leveraging the Spoon brand, the publication has dedicated an entire team to creating recipe videos, which often get millions of views on Facebook and drive a large audience to the website. There is now an entire section on Spoon called, “WATCH” where consumers can go to view videos, but this section didn’t exist at Spoon’s initial conception. As the reading notes, and as Spoon has followed, the website has helped leverage its brand by dedicating an entire time to creating these videos, resulting in an entire section of the website and increased viewership. They’re also constantly trying to get contributors who normally write articles involved in the video production process.

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Post in Spoon University Network Facebook group, encouraging contributors to try video

One of Spoon’s video contributors, Dylan Barth, spoke to me about her experience leveraging Spoon’s brand through the creation of her videos, and how she has created a brand for herself with her video-production niche.

Rebecca Soverinsky: Was video always your thing? Or, did you ever write?

Dylan Barth:Throughout middle school and high school, I had always liked writing, and my parents constantly told me I was a great writer, but I never felt that confident in my writing skills. My freshman year, I started on Spoon (as a writer), but I knew I wanted to mostly make videos for them-there just wasn’t an established video section at the time. So, before I really started making videos regularly for Spoon, I had written a few articles here and there, but I knew video was what I wanted to do from the start.


Rebecca Soverinsky: Do you feel like, now, since your videos have become so successful, it would seem out of character  or “off-brand” for you to contribute articles to Spoon?

Dylan Barth: I really feel that making videos is my strong-suit and that I should definitely stick to doing video work more than writing full articles. But, with each video I create, I am required to write a little paragraph to go with it, so it’s not totally out of character for me to be writing for Spoon. I’m very familiar with the “Spoon voice,” But I definitely consider myself to solely a video contributor for Spoon. I’ve built that sort of brand for myself.


Rebecca Soverinsky: Have people ever become familiar with your videos first and with Spoon second?

Dylan Barth: Not usually. Since Spoon’s Facebook page is mostly where my videos are shared and published (besides Spoon’s website and my own Facebook page sharing links), most people will see first see a Spoon video and then, after, they’ll realize it’s my video. However, A lot of my friends will say to me, “I can always tell which videos are yours!” Just because of the way I film and the word choice and captioning I provide to enhance the videos.


Rebecca Soverinsky: Speaking of enhancement, how do you think video has enhanced Spoon’s brand, and where do you see video taking Spoon in the future?

Dylan Barth: I think video has been a hugely important and beneficial addition to Spoon’s brand. Facebook’s automatic-play feature on videos, as you scroll through your newsfeed, makes it so easy to watch and share videos, and this has really helped Spoon grow their following. Video has also helped Spoon gain a following on Snapchat, which is another amazing platform for growing a brand. Spoon’s videos have been featured on Food Network’s Snapchat Discover, which reaches millions of viewers (obviously helping get Spoon’s name out there.) I think the possibilities are endless for Spoon’s future with video. They are still working on perfecting the formatting and the style of their videos, and they are constantly improving. Video has (and will continue) to help Spoon connect and partner with other companies and grow their brand in that way, as well.

Dylan has used her personal brand as a journalistic videographer to help enhance Spoon’s brand, while further establishing one for herself. Going forward, she foresees that video work will be something she’ll continue to do, and maybe one day, she’ll contribute her talents to other publications and platforms to both enhance and continue to grow her personal brand and further catapult the brands of other publications. While her video work has branded her as such, it’s helped her find a niche, and ultimately, by niching her talents, she’s been able to greatly explore the depths of this specific skill set.

One of Barth’s recipe videos


BRCK: The Solid Base for Start-ups of the Future

Imagine you’re a coder. You’re coding away, engrossed in your work, which just so happens to be the newest software for health care technology, and this software is going to change the world, when suddenly- darkness. The power goes out.

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You lose all your work. The time you spent, wasted. The progress you made, pointless. You’re probably thinking, “That’s bananas. Anyone working, in the United States, on a software that could change the world would never be in this position,” and you’re probably right. But, what if you were designing software that could change the world, and you weren’t from the United States? What if you were from Nairobi, Kenya? Does this seem more plausible? This is entirely plausible, and entirely the basis of BRCK, a device created in 2014 by a technology start-up team that outsmarts both electricity and problematic Internet connection due to poor infrastructure.

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The device acts as a back up to the Internet, so that when the power goes out and an individual is working on a world-changing technology, it connects over to the nearest GSM (Global System for Mobile Communication) network. As the picture so eloquently states, it’s “your backup generator for the Internet.”

Said best in a TED about the device talk given by Juliana Rotich, an information technology professional,  “Mobile connectivity in Africa is pervasive.” (full video can be found here) Developers of BRCK wanted to leverage that pervasive connectivity, and thus, the device was conceived. It also has an eight-hour battery life, so if and when electricity goes down, the BRCK can act as the base of your work-life, just as bricks act as the bases of many people’s home lives. For rural areas (where brick homes, as well as Internet connection are much less common), BRCK can be that primary source of connection.

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As shown in the above graphic, you can have an on-ram for “the Internet of things.” You could, essentially, attach a weather station to this device and successfully achieve Internet connection in very remote areas. There would have been so much less blood in the movie, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, had the characters had this handy-dandy BRCK device to connect to the internet and to contact help in the remote area of which they were stranded, and ultimately, well, massacred. Eeeesh…poor girl.

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But seriously…what does this mean for the start-up nation? Forget nation. What does this mean for the start-up globe? This means everything. In order to grow businesses and products, connectivity is essential. How can entrepreneurs expect to catapult and launch their businesses and products without having unlimited and boundless access to the people across the world? With this evolutionary product on the market for only $250, small companies, global companies, and really all companies, have access to more connection and more power-saving resources than ever before.

For start-up businesses just starting out, a group of people may be working out of a barn house. This small and relatively cheap device, for the services it provides, gives customers the ultimate form of convenience for their circumstances. BRCK is making connectivity just as accessible for the entrepreneur working out of a field in Kenya as it is for the CEO working out of the high rise in Manhattan. Not only was the product, itself, created and currently being run by a technological start-up, it has the potential to pay it forward to its fellow start-up peers in both the near future and in the long run. Even more inspiring and providing further evidence of BRCK’s long term reimbursements to future start-up companies, BRCK has founded a new model for tech-based teaching in Africa.

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BRCK Education was launched in Nairobi, Kenya to address the country’s education problems, including a lack of access to technology and a lack of overall technology literacy.  Forbes says,“Clever confluence of technology and entrepreneurial spirit is the way it has been designed to teach both unknowledgeable teachers and children about technology.” A device that pays it forward to both its fellow start-up starters and the future (potentially start-up powering) brains of the world? I know what you’re thinking, “This innovation is hitting me like a ton of bricks.” Me, too.

In an article published by WIRED, the man who wants to turn clothing into modular gadgets says, “Communication has always been the drive for technology…to enable communication in an organic, smart-phone free way,” he’s creating clothing that is embedded with wifi access points, a GPS, a crowdsourced playlist and a battery pack. He’s creating, essentially, a wearable communication hub. A communication hub similar to the goals laid out by BRCK.

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In a sense, BRCK aims to provide this same communication necessity to countries and infrastructures with limited access to this often taken-for-granted luxury. If the United States is at the point where we’re able to create wifi-ladden clothing for convenience beyond belief, BRCK is a much more modest and more heroic version of this convenience. It’s providing those, who aren’t normally granted the luxury of necessary communication, with access to an affordance that so many individuals, in more affluent countries with reliable infrastructures, don’t even think twice about. Seriously, we’re at the point of wearable wifi. Although this device might not seem as snazzy as a wifi jumpsuit, the least the start-up developers of BRCK can do is provide connectivity to places that normally lack it, and hey, maybe someday Kenya will be on the fast-track to wearable wifi, too.

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Photo Assignment

This is the story of a student’s usage of Companion, a mobile application created by three students at the University of Michigan that allows lone travelers the extra precaution and general peace of mind by asking a friend to track their location as they travel to their destination. You can find out more about Companion here