Introducing NewsWar

Nine finalists will present their ideas for new ventures at the We Media NYC conference on April 6, 2011. A panel of judges will select two winners – and each will receive $25,000 and access to a network of mentors to help them launch. NewsWar is one of the finalists. To register for the conference, click here.

NewsWar (New York City)
Presented at We Media NYC by Anthony Lappé
Contact: Anthony Lappé @anthonylappe 917.538.9284
Core Team: Anthony Lappé, Rita J. King, Joshua S. Fouts

Creator Anthony Lappé is an internationally known media innovator. After graduating from Columbia’s J-School, he worked as videojournalist and trainer for Video News International (later NYT-TV), the world pioneer in small-format videojournalism. He went to be a freelance feature writer for The New York Times while a producer for MTV News. In 2000, he helped found the Guerrilla News Network, one of the first collaborative citizen journalism web sites. GNN’s groundbreaking NewsVideos won numerous awards, including the Sundance Online Film Festival. He produced GNN’s award-winning Showtime documentary about Iraq, BattleGround: 21 Days on the Empire’s Edge. He also helped launch the music video network Fuse, as a show and promos producer. He has taught videojournalism at NYU, Mediabistro and to Palestinian journalists in the West Bank. He was Latin America satellite news producer for Worldwide Television News. He is the co-author of True Lies (Plume) and author of Shooting War (Grand Central), a dark satire about the media and war. The critically-acclaimed graphic novel was called “the Apocalypse Now of the War on Terrorism” by Forbes, “scary smart” by Rolling Stone, one of the best graphic novels of the year by the Village Voice and one of the top graphic novels of all time by Rough Guides. It has been republished in France, Spain, Italy and the UK, where it’s being developed into a TV mini-series. He was the story producer for Brink, a weekly newsmagazine on the Discovery Science Channel produced by CBS News Productions. He has written for Details, New York, The New York Times, South China Morning Post, Paper, Vice and Salon, among many others. He has appeared on numerous media outlets around the world, including the BBC, CBC, WNYC, NPR, and has been a guest host on Air America Radio and frequent commentator on Sky News. He has lectured at over twenty universities, institutions and conferences, including Yale, Library of Congress and the Institute of Contemporary Art (London), on the state and future of the media.


  • Anthony Lappé, Shooting War (Gothamist)
  • Paradigm Lost: Anthony Lappé and his colleagues at the Guerrilla News Network find that even they’re surprised when they just let the tape roll. (Columbia Magazine)

Rita J. King is the Founding Director of Dancing Ink Productions, a company that works with major global clients focused on the emergence of a new global culture and economy in the Imagination Age. King is Innovator-in-Residence at IBM’s Analytics Virtual Center, a former Senior Fellow at The Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs in New York City and a current Senior Fellow at the Center for the Study of the Presidency & Congress in Washington DC. Her essays, various writings and works of art have been commissioned, published and exhibited globally. Rita is a frequent international speaker on the subject of productive creative collaboration and the cultural and economic implications of the Imagination Age. Her work has been featured in or on The New York Times, Village Voice, FOX News, The O’Reilly Factor, Geraldo at Large, Press TV, TIME, CNN, NPR, The Guardian, BBC, Boing Boing, Wired, MSNBC “The News with Brian Williams,” VentureBeat and strategy+business, among others.

Joshua S. Fouts is executive director of Science House Foundation and president of Cultural Futurism, Inc. Find him on LinkedIn



NewsWar is a real world-based social media strategy game.

INTRODUCTION: Start your own personal news network and then get ready to scoop your friends, battle for ratings, and achieve worldwide media domination. NewsWar combines the addictive qualities of an online game with the immediacy of breaking news.

GAME PLAY: NewsWar is about creating and building your own news network, expanding it and beating your competitors in the global news business. The game play revolves around your network’s channel – a personalized interface that represents your unique take on the news. You create an avatar that represents you. You get a basic set of colors, styles and backgrounds to choose from to pimp out your network’s interface. Then you need to decide what your content will be. Your channel can be as specific and personal as your daily diary, or as rich as a major global news outlet.

SCOOPS: Scoops are the key to the game. You get a scoop by clicking on a breaking news event on the NewsWar global news map – a dynamic 3D interface streaming news agency headlines. The map allows players to see news as it happens around the world, where their reporters are deployed and where possible big news stories might be brewing. When news breaks, a 24-hour “Scoop Clock” starts counting backwards. You are in a race with your competitors to click on the event and earn points for the scoop. The quicker you click on the event and the more players you beat to the event, the more points you get for your scoop. The more popular the story is, the more your scoop is worth.

LOCATION: You can’t get a scoop if you don’t have reporters in the area where news is breaking. If a big story breaks and you’re not there, you must move your reporters to the scene within 24 hours. Since the value of the scoop decreases as more reporters click on the news event, you must weigh the cost of moving your reporters to the area versus the value of the scoop as it diminishes over time. In other words, you need to make decisions about whether getting to the party late will be worth it. There is another way of getting the news onto your network even if you don’t have reporters in place to score. You also have the option to make a deal with another network to get their coverage.

PREDICTION NEWS EVENTS: The key to NewsWar is predicting where the next big news event will take place. This could be as simple as moving reporters to cover the General Assembly at the UN or as complex as predicting the next outbreak of unrest in the Middle East. NewsWar, like news, is about being in the right place at the right time.

CONFLICTS: The heart of NewsWar game play is covering armed conflicts. Conflicts are dangerous and earn you extra scoop points. But since reporters can be hurt or killed in war zones, covering them can be costly. Send an inexperienced reporter and they are more likely to wounded or killed. If you don’t have insurance and they are hurt of killed and it will cost you thousands in medical and funeral bills. The cost of doing business in a war zone is high – but the extra points earned can mean your network will rise in ratings.

REPORTERS: NewsWar includes elements of real world reporting. Reporters can be wounded, kidnapped or killed. The more experience your reporters have, the less likely they are to be wounded or killed. You must give your reporters a break from covering a conflict. If you keep your reporters in a particular conflict zone for too long, they are more likely to be wounded or killed.

WAR ZONE: THE GAME Players can score additional points when offered the opportunity to play a first-person Flash-based game called War Zone. In War Zone, you become a cameraman in a war zone. Your job is to get the shot without getting shot or shut down. You must dodge bullets, angry crowds and military censors as you attempt to get the shot. These bonus challenges add the excitement of a first-person-shooter game to the strategy element of the game play.

BASIC OR COMPETITIVE MODE: NewsWar can be played in basic (or non-competitive) mode. In basic mode, your Tweeter feed . NewsWar can also be played in a non-competitive mode. You can create and your network without actually having any reporters or earning any scoops. NewsWar’s network interface can be used to simply display your Twitter feed along with widgets like weather and traffic cams.

POINT SYSTEM: Your network’s ranking is based on a formula system based on points earned through scoops and ratings. You gain power by amassing reporters to cover more news. You earn money through ads and ratings points. You can use that cash to hire more reporters or travel to cover news events. It is also used to purchase custom backgrounds and styles as well as widgets for your network, like weather, traffic, news feeds, icons and additional graphics.

ALLIANCES AND MERGERS: The key to NewsWar is to always be expanding. You can create alliances with other networks to share their resources. Beyond alliances, you can actually merger your network with another to form a larger, more powerful new network.

What problem is it solving? Real world newsgathering is a dangerous and expensive business. And it is in crisis. The business model is imploding. And the next generation of potential news consumers have less and less understanding and respect for what it takes to cover complex global stories. NewsWar creates a way for young people to engage and learn about news in an edgy and addictive way.

How is your idea a useful solution to the problem? NewsWar is fundamentally true to journalism. Journalism is viewed as a distant, often out-of-touch field that pays little for less work. NewsWar illustrates in bold, understandable, interesting ways how covering the news involves a lot of hard, complex work requiring levels of savvy and global awareness. Today’s gaming generation needs to be engaged in a way that is relevant to them. They are savvier than just “play this it’s good for you.” They are savvier than brands. They are savvier than “it’s cool because it’s a game.” They know when a game sucks and they will abandon games that are patronizing to them. Today’s generation is more aware of the world than their parents realize. They are not patsies. They realize there is an earthquake in Japan. They know their parents are out of work. They know that there is a revolution in the Middle East. They need to be treated with respect. NewsWar does that. In addition, adults will like this game. Educators will like this game. Finally, journalists will like this game. Journalists themselves realize they are a misunderstood lot. Many journalists went into the field because they dreamed of doing what this game will allow them to do.

What’s the big innovation? While the game builds on previous successful strategy (online and old school board) games (Risk, Diplomacy, MafiaWars, etc), it is a completely new and fresh idea that uses real world events, the power of social media, the immediacy of Twitter, news feeds and global mapping software to create a new way to engage and participate with the big issues of the day.

How did you come up with the idea? The idea for NewsWar is in some ways a culmination of nearly two decades of work around the idea of making news interesting to a younger demographic.

Still from GNN music video

Still from “Shooting War”

The New York Times coverage of “Shooting War”

Can you pull this off? What background, skills, network are you bringing to the project? I have been working on the forefront of innovation in the news business ever since I graduated from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism in 1994. I have extensive experience building sites, working with animation and creating new, exciting ways to engage with the news. Our team has extensive contacts in the venture capital, gaming and foundation communities.

What’s the current status – have you raised any funding, is there a prototype, have any partnerships, developers, designers or other team members been recruited; etc. The game is in the development stage. We are currently building the team, alliances and further refining the concept. We have formed an alliance with the leading creator of online avatars to create customized avatars for the game.

How will it earn money/be sustained? The game will produce revenue in several ways. There will be two different advertising streams: One is on the main NewsWar map interface. The other is embedded into your network and is personalized to your audience. The other revenue stream comes from players purchasing extras for their networks, i.e. weather widgets, traffic cams, specialized news feeds like Hollywood gossip or sports, stock tickers, hyper-localized news items. Mobile and iPad apps will also be created and sold.

Market overview, competitive analysis While the news business is in crisis, the demand for news, especially online, is only growing. The potential market for an online news strategy game is gigantic. Over 60% of the American public (180 million) now primarily gets their news online. In addition, social media games are growing at an incredible rate – worldwide more than 25 million play MafiaWars and over 65 million play Farmville. NewsWar players are the intersection of those two demos – a market in the tens of millions. Potential players are college-educated, higher income bracket news junkies, gossip-heads and anyone interested in current affairs and the world. There have been several attempts at gamifying the news, notably Newstopia and the RJI Journalism Institute’s “Play The News.” See:

Financial/budget overview We are currently finalizing the business plan for the early stage development. This stage is self-financed by the game’s creator, Anthony Lappé. In the short term, we are looking to raise $100,000 in development funds from angel investors. The overall budget for a beta launch is projected at $1.5 million.

If you win the challenge, how will you use the $25,000 to help you go further? If we won the challenge we would use the funds in the following ways:
1. Build a fleshed out storyboard of the game with potential outcomes of each play decision.
2. Create a formal conceptual design of the game mechanics in collaboration with top, veteran designers that will be used as a pitch to either a studio or a VC investor. Assemble a top team of leading game developers to advise in the strategy of the development of this game either to pitch to a studio or to a VC who would fund the creation of a studio that could build this and other related games.
3. Travel to pitch to VCs and studios.

Final words: How will this investment impact the project? This investment will greatly accelerate our process of getting this project off the ground. In addition, the added attention from winning the challenge will be a huge boon to attracting buzz to this timely idea. Thank you very much for this opportunity.

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