Spring 2013 innovation project team creates mobile-based travel app for baby boomers

In a blend of forward-thinking technology and insider travel advice, the spring 2013 innovation project students created Sojourn Chicago, a mobile-based travel app. Veering away from the standard audience and content of other travel apps, Sojourn Chicago was created for the traveling baby boomer who wants to find sites and experiences catered to their interests.

Created as a mobile-based product, the group also explored expanding to other growing platforms like Google Glass and Kinect for Xbox. Expanding to other platforms will also allow the product to expand its audience, from traveling baby boomers to the curious locals.

“The group's idea was born of earnest research; doing great journalism was always front and center and is one of the keys that differentiates Sojourn from its competitors,” said Assistant Professor Scott Anderson, who co-taught the class with Assistant Professor Marcel Pacatte. “The team stayed true to the needs and aspirations of the core persona it developed.”

Why baby boomers? The group keyed in on this demographic by conducting extensive market research and an in-depth focus group to see if baby boomers were the right fit for Sojourn Chicago. This demographic has the time and the income to spend on travel focused around their passions and an interest in new technology that would make Sojourn Chicago profitable earlier than if the focus was on another consumer group.

The most innovative aspect of the project is how the group imagined the Sojourn Chicago product with the ability to evolve and expand to accommodate its users changing interests.

“We really wanted to do something that’s anticipatory,” said John Kanaly (MSJ13), who worked on the design and production teams and also contributed to the research and business teams. “It’s important to journalism as a whole and not just this product.”

Making a product that is part of “anticipatory journalism” is the way forward, Anderson said.

“New technology and tools are developing that intimately understand who you are, what your habits are, where you are and where you are going and can anticipate your content needs,” Anderson said. “These exciting new tools and devices let information flow directly and seamlessly to you as you go about your day.”

Along with being a highly researched and responsively designed product, the team’s financial model was also solid. Professor Candy Lee, a member of the project faculty team, called the business plan that was developed one of the best she'd seen from a student project. The team met with a potential investor the day before the project was presented at Medill, and he was very interested in making Sojourn Chicago into a working product.

“Some of us have opportunities after we graduate, but I would like to take this on as a full-time thing,” said Justin Voccola (MSJ13), who worked on research and the business plan. “I’d like to make this product be less hypothetical.”