Federal Ministery for Education and Research (BMBF) funds the development of an innovative news and information app for the city.

The economic crisis of regional newspapers continues as local news apps have yet failed to establish themselves. Against this background, researchers and developers at the Centre for Media, Communication and Information Research (ZeMKI) and the Institute for Information Management at the University of Bremen and the Hans-Bredow-Institute for Media Research in Hamburg want to explore new experimental approaches: In “co-creation”, i. e. together with potential users, they will develop an innovative mobile news and information app for young people for the city and its surrounding area.

The starting point for the app concept is that previous developments have been driven too much by the perspective of established media houses: the core idea was to bring existing contents to mobile devices. The interests and habits of the audience were only considered as a second step of product development. The project, which is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), takes a radically different, experimental step: it starts with research into the everyday use of young people and, step by step, develops together with them – in co-creation – what an ideal local news and information app should look like. In the two years of funding, the project team aims to develop an experimental app with an editorial system. “With the app development we want to show what is possible when we think differently and put the habits and interests of the media users first instead of the interests of media companies,” says Prof. Dr. Andreas Hepp (ZeMKI), who, together with Prof. Dr. Andreas Breiter from the Institute for Information Management in Bremen and PD Dr. Wiebke Loosen from the Hans-Bredow Institute for Media Research at the University of Hamburg, is leading the project. Such an approach is intended to explore the realm of possibilities in a completely new way and to give impulses for the general development of such software.

The project combines empirical communication and media research with co-creative software development. Both are intended to counteract an emerging loss of relevance of the city and region with the experimental app. The crisis of the mediatized public in the city and its surrounding area is illustrated by a mobile lifestyle, social relationships that are vastly independent of location and the very different ways in which media are used in the digital era. The traditional regional and local news media have not been able to deal with this adequately yet and are losing more and more of their relevance in the public sphere. Above all, they do not reach many (young) people any more.

The experimental app is to be developed for the state of Bremen and two neighbouring rural districts (Osterholz and Verden). In the next two years, empirical research will focus on urban publics and, based on the findings, an online-based mobile app will be developed as an experimental prototype, independent of traditional news providers. The app is aimed primarily at young people (16 to 36 years of age). It should be as intuitive to use as the dating app “Tinder”, i. e. present news content for “reading” or “wiping away” and be “self-learning” with regard to the interests of the users.

In developing the app, it is intended to work closely with the news media and digital economy in the metropolitan region of Bremen, the city and municipal administrations, district advisory councils as well as political parties and associations active in the city and its environs, as well as with other local collectives such as sports clubs, (neighborhood) initiatives, art associations/initiatives, social movements with a local relevance or religious communities. This co-creation approach involves empirical findings and insights as well as expectations and wishes of future users in the entire software development process from the very beginning.