SOUTH BEND -- John Quinn thinks reading news on a tablet would be more enjoyable and engaging if it were more like a computer game.
A game where the user earns points and wins rewards for rating news articles, sharing content and commenting on stories.
He calls his creation NewsQuest, an application for iPads that allows users to do all those things.
On Tuesday, Quinn -- a University of Notre Dame junior -- won first place in the apps category of the Notre Dame-Schurz Awards for Innovation. He was presented with a check for $3,500 for his concept.
The competition is sponsored by Schurz Communications Inc., parent company of the South Bend Tribune and the WSBT TV and radio stations. The goal is to encourage students to develop digital solutions and innovations for media companies.
"A lot of people my age like these rewards-based apps," said Quinn, a computer science major. Rewarding Web customers with points or coupons provides them a sense of accomplishment and keeps them coming back to a website, he said.
The other category was in the area of using "big data" sciences to advance media companies. The top team in that category -- also winning $3,500 -- was composed of Notre Dame graduate students Jian Xu and Wenzhao Sun, who analyzed more than 200 professional Twitter accounts associated with SCI media properties to determine the most effective strategies for using Twitter to share news and draw more users.
The team's analysis suggests that tweeting in the evenings and on weekends can be more effective than during weekdays for news organizations. They also found that longer tweets are more effective, and using one hashtag in a tweet produces better results than multiple hashtags.
A total of $13,000 in cash prizes was awarded, with the first-place teams in each category winning $3,500; second-place, $2,000; and third-place, $1,000.
Other teams in the app category presented concepts such as a location-based social media platform, a way to share You Tube music videos and a game that allows the user to guess scrambled words in several languages.
Other teams in the big data category presented ideas for predicting how many clicks a news article might get on a website based on previous data, predicting online visitor frequency and analyzing how many website visitors view news videos in their entirety.
Most videos posted on SCI news organization websites are about two minutes long, but the data show the most popular videos are those under 30 seconds or four to five minutes in length, the student team of Frederick Nwangang and Jonathan Simpkins reported.
Serving as the judges were Charles Pittman, SCI's senior vice president of publishing; Kim Wilson, publisher and president of the South Bend Tribune; Christian Poellabauer, a Notre Dame professor of computer science and engineering; and Ryan Kreager, of South Bend-based Little i Apps LLC.
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Staff writer Margaret Fosmoe: