Journalism.co.uk’s news:rewired event had 11 digital media sessions and 35 speakers. Location information became an overarching theme as news organisations revealed how they use geotagging and audience data for digital stories.
Vadim Lavrusik, journalism programme manager at Facebook, gave a keynote address revealing a little about the social media platform’s power. Facebook’s Graph Search was part of his presentation and what the new tool can do is quite amazing. The beta version boasts being able to find new things through the people you know, but Vadim demonstrated its ability to search for BBC World News employees’ favourite sports teams.
Results can be sourced from a variety of criteria, such as location or interests, and one billion monthly active users equates to a lot of accessible information. This tool will aid journalists contextualising stories but PRs and advertisers are also likely to find it vital as the digital age develops further. While there was no mention of cost, it is plausible to consider Facebook charging for such a resourceful tool along the lines of its priority messages system. One delegate asked if Facebook would be sharing its increasing revenues with the publications who create the shareable content; Vadim answered it already does, by driving traffic to the sites.
Cory Haik, executive producer for digital news at The Washington Post, discussed social content by location, highlighting the power of mobile. Using the hashtag ‘#imthere’, The Washington Post tracked people attending President Obama’s inauguration and used them as sources for stories. In a country like America, where Twitter locations are so vast and varied, this information can be a story in itself. Cory gave another example of mapping where the world’s Catholics lived as the new pope was announced.
While geotagging can seem like a useful tool it is worth remembering that not everyone is on social media and if it is relied upon too heavily some people will be missed. Cory revealed that only 13-20% of a news organisation’s audience is on Twitter – a surprising statistic to those who perhaps forget Twitter is in the minority.
The Guardian is also exploiting audience location in its open source developer tool n0tice. From crowdsourced maps to its Maptastica tool, the organisation is making use of its readers to create content. Already appearing across the Guardian’s website, n0tice is also behind the new Guardian Witness initiative.
Location is at the heart of new company Near You Now. For media sites, Near You Now can provide the top 10 stories for any local area. This is a tool aimed at bigger news organisations who want to present their audiences with a custom experience or regional titles that want a cross section of relevant stories from across the web.
Geographic information will become more important to the future of media. As the digital age takes hold, citizen journalism – like Guardian Witness – will become more prevalent and targeted media – both editorial and advertising – will become the norm.