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How an Ohio University start-up is combating media deserts

Under the direction of former Ohio University professor Michelle Ferrier, ZipIt.News is tackling the issue of media deserts in southeast Ohio.

Serving about 20 counties in the Southeast Ohio area, ZipIt.News provides local news through a variety of channels in areas where broadband is limited.

Matt Morris, an OU alumnus, serves as the liaison for Media Seeds Group, the parent company of ZipIt.News. Morris said that Media Seeds is affiliated with several nonprofits, including ZipIt.News.

“Media Seeds is an umbrella recognition of the wider group of areas in which a tangible deliverable like can be conceived,” Bart Christner, amedia designer for ZipIt.News, said in an email.

Morris worked first-hand with Ferrier to build ZipIt.News through researching the area.

“[We started by] seeing how many media outlets there were per community,” Morris said. “We are in a media desert as far as our choices.”

Morris said that he and Ferrier concluded that the best way to reach out to communities in media deserts was by postcard. 

“Snail mail is a great way to connect with the older demographic,” Morris said. “Mass mailing [is a] service that anybody can have.”

Morris describes ZipIt Flyers as 12 inch by 9 inch laminated cards. 

“The cards average about six to seven stories from each hyper local region, using QR codes to lead readership to a more robust presentation of content at,” Christner said in an email.

The ZipIt Flyers also serve as a source of feedback for the ZipIt team. Some of the cards contained surveys for people to fill out. The surveys contained questions about age, the individual’s role in the community and what topics they would like to learn about.

“Ferrier was pretty excited about the percentage of people who responded,” Morris said.

Morris said he curates the news that is featured on the flyers. Morris said that the flyers discuss media deserts and new businesses opening in the area.

ZipIt.News has a website where Southeast Ohio residents can make profiles, comment on news stories and even share their own stories.

“We want to pique curiosity, we want to spark ideas and we want to have the residents engage,” Morris said.

In the future, ZipIt hopes to further connect the flyers with the internet through QR codes.

“If I can make a difference and improve communications, then this will all have been worth it,” Morris said.


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