Three Newhouse students present business concepts to Spotify executives

By Wendy S. Loughlin

May 17, 2017

Spotify CMO Seth Farbman G’89 was the guest of honor at the annual William and Ada Kussell Media Challenge event

Spotify CMO and Syracuse University alumnus Seth Farbman G’89 was the guest of honor at the annual William and Ada Kussell Media Challenge Series, held Feb. 3 at the Newhouse School.

More than 40 entrepreneurial and tech-savvy students attended the event, hosted by the Newhouse Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship. A little over 20 of those students “answered the challenge” by submitting concepts for Spotify executives to consider as they shape the future of the growing digital media business. Farbman asked students to think about how Spotify can become a new, comprehensive “media ecosystem.”

Photo of Seth Farbman speaking to students
Seth Farbman speaking to students at the Kussell Media Challenge in February

Sean Branagan, director of the Newhouse Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship, said Farbman’s visit had a big impact on the students. “I’ve been hearing comments from students weeks and months after his visit,” he says. “Two students said it guided their capstone project and several others said they are re-thinking their careers. A few were inspired to change their job hunt focus to look only for work with companies—like Spotify—where fast innovation drives business and ‘media’ has an ever-changing meaning.”

The Kussell Media Challenge Series was designed for students interested in media innovation and technology. The series brings to campus senior executives from media companies to talk candidly with students about the issues their companies face, and to challenge the students to propose ideas about how to identify new areas of opportunity based on those challenges. Past events have focused on Turner, Condé Nast and BuzzFeed.

Three master’s students came out on top at this year’s challenge, and were invited to present their concepts to Spotify executives in early April. The students were: David Onoue (magazine, newspaper and online journalism), Jeremy Joshua (audio arts) and Juan Carlos Kuang (media studies).

The students proposed new ways to “create culture” beyond music, to develop artist loyalty and to create a digital-age fan club. They also outlined ways to extend the Spotify experience to a physical space, with immersive media and offline activities.

Spotify executives said they were impressed with the knowledge and professionalism of the presenters and the details and concepts of the plans presented.

“In reality, there were more than three winners of the Spotify Media Challenge,” says Branagan. “Newhouse was really the biggest winner because our students got to meet and hear from one of the leading people in one of the leading companies changing the face of media today. And, through the many great student responses to the challenge, we were able show off our talented, smart students and demonstrate their understanding of the innovative digital media environment.”

Launched in 2013, the Kussell Media Challenge Series is supported by Will and Ada Kussell, whose daughter, Melanie Kussell ’13, is a graduate of Newhouse’s public relations program. Will Kussell is the former president and chief brand officer of Dunkin’ Donuts Worldwide, where he was responsible for the company’s repositioning via the slogan “America Runs on Dunkin’.”

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