Massive is a media company dedicated to making scientific knowledge accessible to everyone by empowering scientists to connect directly and meaningfully with the public.
We’re excited about working with Reclamation to help your work reach a larger audience.
Go here for instructions on how to work with us.
If you're ready to start writing, here's our guide to writing a great "public abstract," which is the main type of content we publish right now.
If you want to learn more about our mission, values and business model, read on.
What is Massive and why does it exist?
Massive is a science media company started in late 2016 by Nadja Oertelt, Gabe Stein and Allan Lasser. Our mission is to give everyone the scientific tools to grapple with uncertainty.
We believe the world would be a better place if more people understood and trusted science, and used scientific reasoning to make sense of their world. With notable exceptions, we think that most of today’s science journalism and science communication efforts fall short of advancing this goal.
Science journalism often reaches large audiences thanks to publications with professional editors and audience development departments who specialize in distributing compelling stories to the public. However, publications often present science inaccurately, making overblown claims about results without putting them in context in an effort to get more shares and clicks on content. When these claims turn out to be exaggerated or unfounded, audiences lose trust in science and scientists. Paradoxically, this can make a publication’s ability to reach a large audience damaging to the cause of advancing science.
Professional science communicators do a much better job presenting accurate science. However, because they’re largely supported by foundations and academic institutions, they often don’t have the incentives, expertise, or resources to reach wide audiences. Instead, most science communication is developed for and distributed within the science community. When communication is intended for the public, it often lacks the storytelling techniques and distribution methods required to have an impact on a large audience.
Our goal is to bridge this gap, combining the storytelling and audience development techniques of a media company with the accuracy and authority of professional scientists and science communicators.
What is Massive’s approach?
We are actively experimenting to determine how to communicate science to the public in a way that is both compelling and accurate. Our thesis is that the best way to do this is to forge new pathways for direct communication between scientists and the public, supported by professional storytellers and audience development professionals. The only people who really know if a published paper is relevant, important, or flawed are expert scientists. We are learning how to incentivize scientists to reach directly to the public to contextualize research, and how to use our storytelling and audience development expertise to get the public excited about communicating directly with scientists.
Our initial project is to develop a new format for science communication: the “public abstract” for peer-reviewed science papers. Research into effective communication and our personal experience in media tells us that the best way to get people to become interested in science without relying on overblown claims is to introduce them to the people, context and methods — the stories — behind the experiment results. Our ultimate goal is to build a database of these text-based summaries that are entertaining and accessible enough to be understood by the general public and comprehensive enough that scientists in adjacent fields can get value from the summary (i.e. how many scientists use the bites family of blogs).
What’s the benefit of working with Massive?
By working with Massive, you’ll have the opportunity to reach a wider audience and learn about storytelling, communication and audience development techniques from media professionals in a real-world setting. Specifically, working with Massive will help you:
Reach a wider, more engaged audience with your work.
Get meaningful public outreach publications that you can list on your academic CV.
Learn how to write and create compelling, accurate science media for wider audiences.
Learn new media techniques, including data-driven audience development, social media best practices and multimedia storytelling in a real-world setting.
Gain experience communicating and interacting with real audiences.
Build a resume for a career in science communication, writing and media production
What does Massive get out of it?
By working with institutions and scientists, Massive gets accurate, compelling, unique content it can distribute to its audience. It also helps us find budding science communicators who might be interested in working with us in the future.
Why are you a for-profit company, what’s your business model, and who are your investors?
We are a for-profit company funded by Bloomberg Beta, General Electric, and some individual investors. We chose to be for-profit and to take private funding for a couple of reasons. To succeed in our mission of giving everyone better access to science and scientific thinking, we need to reach as many people as possible. We believe success is more likely in a for-profit context because the business models available to us rely on assembling a large audience. Non-profit contexts make it more difficult to reach wide audiences because funding is dependent on grants and donations from small groups of individuals, which non-profit organizations often end up focusing on instead of their audience.
We took funding because we believe that private industry needs to be part of the solution. Science and technology increasingly powers our economy, yet society (especially in the U.S.) doesn’t value or trust it as much as it should. Our investors have no editorial control whatsoever — but they are interested in learning from us how to tell stories about science and distribute them to the public so they can market themselves as innovators to partners, customers, investors and potential employees. Encouraging companies to use more of their marketing budgets to get the public excited about science in productive ways furthers our mission on a scale we’d be unlikely to achieve alone.
We plan to make money in three ways. First, once we have developed a proven method for teaching scientists how to communicate, we plan to charge institutions to train their students and scientists in the method. This could include universities, labs, and science-driven companies. Second, we plan to work with institutions to develop premium content for their e-courses and outreach projects. Finally, we plan to work with science and research-driven companies to teach them how to tell their science stories to the public. This might include trainings, sponsored content, co-production, events or other projects. Due to the hard, cold realities of being a media startup, this is also subject to change.
We are committed to transparency about our investors, incentives, goals and business practices, as well as our policies around intellectual property, licensing and collaboration with scientists and other organizations. We are already working with a handful of labs, groups, scientists and organizations as partners.
Who is behind Massive?
Nadja was a HarvardX Senior Producer/Fellow for over three years, where she produced The Fundamentals of Neuroscience. She got her BS in Neuroscience at MIT and worked in labs doing neuroscience research at MIT, Harvard and Cambridge University. She has also worked as a science video producer in popular media contexts like Vice, Buzzfeed and Mashable, giving her an understanding of the difficulties of translating science for the much MUCH wider public (hint: making stuff entertaining and accurate for non-NPR/NYT audiences is hard)! Which is where Gabe and Allan come in.
Gabe has worked in all aspects of digital media: as a programmer, a journalist, in audience development, and as a product manager. He has worked at companies large and small: Google, Fast Company, Upworthy and others. Allan is a software developer who built Muckrock, a website that helps journalists streamline the FOIA request process and produce stories using government data. Between them, they understand something that is frequently forgotten in academic science communication contexts: how storytelling, audience, distribution and technology combine to drive truly impactful communication.
Put bluntly: if you do amazing science or communication but don’t understand how to reach and build a diverse digital audience, your work doesn’t have impact. Our goal is to help you produce truly impactful media. We understand how to frame science for a public that needs to regain trust in scientists and feel that science is a trustworthy and valuable endeavor. We also know how to incorporate audience data into the editorial process, so that you can better understand your audience and serve their needs and desires alongside your own. Here’s a bit more of our mission.
After I write for you, what could happen?
We will publish your article! You'll reach and help grow an audience of people who want more better, more trustworthy contextualizations of science, straight from scientists. Every time you publish, you contribute to our database of accessible science that helps everyone (including other scientists) understand build the real implications of research studies. We also actively measure who reads what, and who wants to understand more about different fields. This will help us understand if there is, for example, a latent interest in toxicology or chemistry research that we haven’t satiated.
We might ask you to keep writing more for us on a freelance basis after the program ends.
We might take your initial ‘seed’ summary and ask you (or others, like an animator or audio/video producer or illustrator) to build it out into a summary in a different, more visual or aural format. Think about how different people learn: some like figures, some like to read, and some like to listen! Once we know a lot of people were interested in your writing, it’s a good sign that they would like different interpretations of the research in different formats.
We might ask you for feedback: how did the editorial process with Massive work for you? What was difficult? What could we improve to help your understanding of how to communicate to a wider public with little science background? What else can we help you with? What would incentivize you to work more with us?