HKS Student Launches ShoutAbout to Further the Conversation on Social Platforms

October 2, 2012
By Jenny Li Fowler

A Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) student is the brains behind a new startup designed to harness the collective power of individuals on the Internet.

Mat Morgan MPP 2013 is the founder of ShoutAbout, a free engagement tool for news sites and blogs that enhances existing comment sections. By adding a ShoutAbout icon to the end of stories and commentary, websites enable their visitors to learn more and take meaningful action on issues without sacrificing editorial independence.

“It bridges awareness with action, presenting links to learn more, like visit Wikipedia, or do something in response, like sign a petition,” says Morgan, who is currently on leave from HKS. “In the process, it increases reader affinity towards a site, increases the likelihood that readers will share stories and helps sites to measure the value of their news.”

ShoutAbout has been testing on several websites since late July, and was formally launched on September 23 at the Mashable Social Good Summit. Although it is still getting off the ground, the tool is already being utilized by PBS NewsHour (see the bottom of the article, above the comment section).

The ShoutAbout team is also getting ready to release an exciting new feature, which will allow users to receive email updates on areas of interest/expertise. For example, if one member posts an article related to politics or something very specific related to a certain country, it will proactively alert users who have opted to receive updates on those subjects.

The startup is also in talks with new potential media partners about using ShoutAbout to connect their readers with relevant non-profits.

To ensure adoption and good content, ShoutAbout is non-partisan and each submission may be voted up or down by news consumers.

ShoutAbout is based at the Harvard iLab, and has received extensive support from HKS faculty, and from the Harvard Law School Cyberlaw Clinic.

ShoutAbout pushes readers to make a difference boston.com — Can the often toxic interactive space for article comments, which drives page views even as it draws winces, be saved?

Could it be configured to not only surface interesting ideas, but help spur community action?

Mat Morgan believes so, and is demonstrating his new startup, ShoutAbout.

ShoutAbout, based in Harvard Innovation Lab, replaces (or supplements) the traditional undirected comment box with a new widget designed to elicit interaction.
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