The future of news: location

Chip Oglesby bio photo By Chip Oglesby

When was the last time you noticed a dateline in the newspaper? Do your readers even know the purpose of a dateline?

In the 1800 and 1900’s before the internet, mobile computing and GPS, using a dateline was fine, the relationship to the location was understood and in present day it still is, but in the age of the links, having a standard dateline doesn’t work. If the Internet is built on semantic information, why not relate the physical location in a digital environment? Dateline

There’s a lot of talk about the future of hyperlocal journalism, but have you noticed how the same old standards for datelines still apply to the online world? web dateline

Understand this, it just doesn’t work the same way!

Location based services and stories with specific geolocations will be vital to the next newsroom.

There are numerous applications that use location based services. Brightkite and AroundMe are two examples for the iPhone. As smart-phones gain popularity among users, we will see a dramatic shift in the way people send and receive information. That opens the doors for great opportunities in hyperlocal journalism and advertising.

Who could benefit from this?

Weekly and small dailies who produce a lot of community journalism are most likely to succeed with an idea like this. Their focus is more on covering their community, so they are more likely to have a larger set of data to work with.

What are some examples?

Example 1: Take this story written in the Fort Mill Times, a McClatchy newspaper. Fire destroys Indian Land house under construction The reporter Jenny Overman does a great job of telling us what happened at the scene, but there is no mention of the exact location of the house.

I’m sure that residents in that area saw the smoke and were very curious about what was going on. By using the geolocation of the phone and home, readers would be able to get updates about the story based on their physical location.

Example 2: Let’s say that you’ve decided that you want to go play golf in Hilton Head Island at Harbour Town Golf Links, which has been the past host of the Verizon Heritage Tournament. You’re standing around waiting to tee off, so you open your phone which determines your location and shows you ever article, photo and video about the hole your stand at.

Haven’t I heard this before?

Yes you have! and Everyblock are very similar, but newspapers haven’t taken the time to get rid of the industry old byline and update it with new methods using longitude, latitude. does a decent job of showing some local news from the Columbia area, but it depends on crowdsourcing to give a link a location or place. This could be circumvented by having a reporter and photographer use a GPS device.

The possibilities for a service like this are endless. All of the dots are slowly starting to come together. Twitter’s geolocation API, Flickr’s support of OpenMaps and Foursquare, Augmented Reality, and the rise of mobile computing. News companies need to invest in technology that will harness this power if they hope to be a competitor in the online market. It’s only a matter of time before someone comes along and does it bigger and better than we could and we’ll be left shaking our heads asking “Why didn’t newspapers think of this?”

Where do we go from here?

  • Every story that’s written in a newspaper that references a real world location should have a gelocation tag associated with it.

  • Reporters and photographers should use a Spot Me GPS, iPhone or equivalent device.

  • If there’s a way to archive and update old stories to include location, it should be done.

  • All future information will have to be catalogued for future reference.

There’s more research that could be done on this and I would love to your thoughts and opinions about it.