Location: News organisations must seize this opportunity

Since I started geo-tagging content during my trip across the US for the 2008 elections, I’ve been interested in the possibilities of location-based services and news. Location is one way to deliver timely, relevant content to audiences. Smart news organisations such as TBD.com in Washington DC in the US are already leveraging geo-tagging to deliver their content, and now Examiner.com has struck a deal with Foursquare in 288 cities. MocoNews.net, part of the paidContent network, is reporting that:

In essence, Examiner’s 68,000 contributors, known as “Examiners,” will provide reviews and recommendations on nearby venues, restaurants, events, businesses and landmarks that will surface within the Foursquare mobile app when users following Examiner.com check in.

This is one of the opportunities that news organisations must not miss. Location allows for better delivery and discovery of content by readers, but it can also deliver new revenue streams to support journalism.

5 thoughts on “Location: News organisations must seize this opportunity

  1. All good points Kevin.
    To put it in context for UK regional news, Trinity Mirror’s regional news network – the largest in the UK and, until recently, my patch – has been geo-tagging all its stories for the last couple of years.
    There are, of course, the traditional difficulties – so often a story is about an area, not a specific location, so it’s difficult to specify a single postcode – or, for example, it’s to do with the council so everything gets tagged with the council office postcode and you end up with a glut of stories on that one location even though they refer to an area. It can really screw with your maps! And finally, there’s always the human factor – enforcing this procedure always takes a while before ex-newspaper journalists who are newly christened multimedia journos realise just how important it is – which is why the evangelical role (like the one you do, or people like David Higgerson or Alison Gow do within Trinity Mirror) is still essential.
    Either way, I agree, the value geo-tagging is only going to grow – and hopefully we’ll see more and more interesting applications of the location data.

  2. Thanks for the comment Richard. Yes, one of the big issues with geo-tagging is getting staff to do it. As with so many data projects, it’s only as good as your data. It’s also a challenge as shrinking staffs are asked to do more. However, there are a lot of really easy ways to build it into the workflow, whether that is having semantic analysis suggest locations or integrating geo-tagging tools into your CMS.

    The other challenge, which is one that I’ve heard at many news organisations, is one of prioritisation. There are so many things one can do, what is it that one must do. This is especially difficult during the ongoing media recession, but I’d argue that the commercial and editorial opportunities move it up the list of things to do.

  3. Geotagging makes lots of sense – and it especially makes sense when reporters/editors are the ones who do it, rather than relying on technology to do it after the story is published – that tends to wind up geotagging everything mentioned in the story rather than the important bits.

    But Kevin’s point on prioritization is a critical one. We can’t do everything well; in fact, we can’t do everything, period. I’d argue that we should think about the product we want to come out with first – and then figure out what data is needed to make it work. I realize that leaves some value on the table, but I suspect we all need to specialize more if we’re to really create products that have real value.

  4. Cathy,

    There are a couple of ways to do this. Content Managements Systems such as OpenPublish, which is based on Drupal, or even WordPress, have built-in ability to simply add geo information. This can come in a number of forms including postcodes, cities (although you’ll need to include city and country to make sure that it’s accurate) or even latitude and longitude. Most of these options only allow you to have one location attached a story. When I was at The Guardian, this was one of the original sticking issues, how to include multiple locations. The software architects came up with solutions to that.

    There is also the option to use microformats, but microformats have uneven support across browsers. To get started is easier than you think. To do it right takes a bit more thought.

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