Arizona State University New Media Innovation and Entrepreneurship Lab: cutting-edge media innovation through app development


Located in Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Arizona State University’s New Media Innovation and Entrepreneurship Lab is a multidisciplinary research and development centre focused on software application development. The Lab brings people from journalism, computer science, graphic design and business to study and produce innovative digital media products to improve the standards of reporting for regional and national press.

Conceived to provide a different and innovative way of teaching journalism, the lab was created in 2007 at the initiative of the Dean of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Christopher Callahan, and the President of the Arizona State University.

Retha Hill, director of the New Media Innovation and Entrepreneurship Lab since August 2007, describes their mission is to do research and development for the news media industry. The lab is conducting surveys and studies and provides clients who hire the lab for various commissions with information, prototypes or finished products.

In addition, the Lab team, which includes Hill, two part-time journalism students, a full time developer and two part-time computer science students, seeks to develop “different new media applications that legacy media could use to reach a new generation or different people.”

“Posing a questions, seeing if you can get answers to that question and then testing; that’s what our lab does for the most part.”

The Media Innovation Lab also focuses on educating students from all departments, including journalism, computer science and business, and developing any business or media plans for startup companies brought in by students.

Hill outlines a multidisciplinary educational process which combines journalism, product development and business principles, resulting in the launch of “a minimally viable product, a lead startup canvas or an outline of a business plan” based on student initiative and ideas.


The Media Lab maintains connections with Gannett the largest news company in North America as well as other previous clients who have commissioned work, These include Arizona Republic newspaper, CityScape and State of Arizona’s Parks and Recreation Division.

The Lab also remains in contact with other organisations from whom they receive grants, including Knight News Foundation and the Women Entrepreneurship Foundation.

Although there are no direct collaborations, the New Media Innovation and Entrepreneurship Lab maintains relations with other media innovation labs across the US and world, including the Media Innovation Lab at the University of North Carolina and Knight Lab at Northwestern University. The labs often meet at conferences, including the annual Online News Association Conference, and share information and data about their projects.


Since its inception the Lab has produced various products, including mobile phone and website applications, software and augmented and virtual reality applications.

Focused on providing students with as many learning opportunities as possible, Hill says she “does not take on projects that are repetitive,” and pursues new projects to remain cutting edge.

Some of the projects that the Lab has worked on include:

  • OnTime PHX: a real-time iPhone and Apple Watch application which provides user with accurate information about the Phoenix Valley Metro light rail train locations and schedules
  • Wildfire tracker: a website application created for the Arizona Republic newspaper, which provides maps and data of previous wildfires in the state and tracks any current wildfires in the area
  • Playable Media Story Engine: a plugin for WordPress and WordPress mobile which allows journalists to rapidly design and produce interactive narrative news stories based on a combination of journalism and gaming principles and methods
  • VA Newsgame: the “Can you make it in the VA?” game was created, in partnership with the university’s Centre for Games & Impact, as an interactive element for a national reporting initiative focused on issues facing Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans
  • Black History AR Mobile App: an augmented reality mobile app which focuses on presenting users facts about black history in cities across America

Other previous projects include a hiking app for the state of Arizona’s Parks and Recreation Department, providing data on hiking trails, potential dangers and other useful info, a digital city guide for Queen Creek, Arizona, and an app for the Society of Baseball Research which locates baseball attractions in all MLB cities.

In addition, the New Media Innovation and Entrepreneurship Lab has helped build various media companies launched by students, including the Arizona Centre for Investigative Reporting, and Terrainial, a company which focuses on 360/VR immersive storytelling.


The New Media Innovation and Entrepreneurship Lab will continue throughout the next months developing the Playable Media Story Engine project, which is currently on-going.

The team is also looking into pursuing projects focused around hololens and creating applications for Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, as well as continue to pursue projects involving mixed and augmented reality.

“I often try to do cutting edge things, get out ahead of the curve so we can have those learnings as opposed to waiting until something has pretty much saturated the market.”



Retha Hill


Twitter: @rethahill



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