Quizzing for news awareness
CU’s Qrank quiz: Boosting campus news engagement
with a mobile and online news-trivia game
NOTE: This report by University of Colorado Boulder media studies master’s student Matt Hemmendinger covers progress made on this project as of August 2011. The CU Qrank news quiz and affiliated research project will continue through the 2011-12 school year, and we hope beyond.
Quizzing for news awareness:
By Matt Hemmendinger
As uncertainty continues to pervade the news industry, the CU Independent (CUI), the student-run news service at the University of Colorado Boulder, is testing new mechanisms and online features to boost readership and recruit new sponsors. The development of new methods to present campus-news content has included many challenges, including new needs for marketing — targeting the website’s users and sponsors — and in the creation of content.
This report is a preliminary summary of the first year of work on a CU/Boulder gaming project in concert with CUI using digital-game platform Qrank. The project is an attempt to increase news awareness among the population of the CU-Boulder campus and Boulder, primarily, via a socially oriented and localized mobile and online news-and-trivia quiz game. Detailed in this report (see the navigation box at right for the rest of this package) is the process of establishing the technical systems necessary to operate the game, enlisting the support of the CUI editorial staff, and the first attempts at launching the game. A path is presented for moving forward with the research and building a user base large enough to produce a data set suitable for serious study.
Phase 1 of this project revealed several issues and essential next steps to develop the CU/Boulder Qrank news-quiz game:
- A universally accessible game interface is desirable. Ricochet Labs (Austin, Texas), developer of Qrank, is creating a web-based interface that will be hosted on the CUI website. Ricochet also is developing an Android app for mobile users, adding to the existing quiz interface available to Apple iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch users. (The CU/Boulder quiz also can be played on a dedicated Facebook page on a PC or digital tablet.)
- Restricting access based on the physical location of a user — as was the case during the initial trial of the CU/Boulder Qrank quiz for players using Apple mobile devices — unnecessarily restricts access to the game and negates the power of digital media to overcome geographic boundaries. Curious parents, jealous siblings, homesick graduates, and anyone else with enough curiosity to read the CU Independent and find the Qrank game, should be able to participate in the quiz if they desire. The “clutter” of many different games presented on a small mobile device should boost the use of multiple Qrank niche-topic and location-specific quizzes if the mobile user interface is designed well. The CU Independent’s quiz being visible to mobile users outside of the CU and Boulder environs should not be feared as liability.
- CUI editors should provide clear marking on every article containing content used in the localized quiz, and provide an easy one-click link from the articles to the game. Qrank logos should be branded across the CUI site. Also, creation of one-click channels from the game back to the CUI website should be done to encourage players to return to the CUI website.
- A strong marketing effort is necessary to sell the game to users and sponsors. No natural accretion of users or sponsors can be expected without considerable marketing effort.
- The creation of interesting quiz questions is incumbent upon the creation of interesting content published by the CUI. Editors throughout the newsroom must make a special effort to create compelling content to drive users to their website (since the CUI does not publish a print edition), which will encourage greater play of the Qrank CU/Boulder news/trivia quiz.
As this project moves forward (from this point on, led by CU master’s student Mary Cornell), a large user base will present the opportunity to explore the potential of games to increase the readership of a student-run news website, and in turn, show how games might influence a user’s news-consumption habits and improve news awareness.
You can play the CU/Boulder Qrank quiz (beginning on August 22, 2011) using the following options, at this writing:
- iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch – Download the Qrank app (free) from iTunes. (The CUI-branded quiz will appear on the Qrank app only if the device user is physically located within a 20-mile radius of the University of Colorado Boulder campus.)
- On this dedicated Qrank/CUI Facebook page (Facebook account required), using a PC or digital tablet’s web browser: https://apps.facebook.com/qrank-cu/. (Physical location is not limited for play on Facebook.)
This report is presented in multiple pages on this website. Follow the “Next” link below, or use the navigation box above, to read more and see our suggestions for setting up a digital news-quiz game for your own news entity.