Locative journalism: recommendations for journalism schools

Friday, June 27th, 2008

By Hilary Powell
Our team of journalism master’s students has had an exciting and thought-provoking experience exploring “locative storytelling” in the New Media Publishing Project class at the Medill School of Journalism.  In previous posts (and our downloadable report) we have provided findings and recommendations for journalists and media companies.  Here are some recommendations for journalism schools:
1)    Encourage students to experience audio tours. They should participate in audio tours outside the classroom to better understand how locative storytelling works.
2)    Start geotagging stories in student newsrooms. If your school publishes content online, include geotags so they can be indexed and displayed through map-based (or, in the future, GPS-based) interfaces.
3)    Emphasize audio skills early. Provide techniques classes and professional equipment.  Encourage students to create audio-based stories as an alternative story requirement or complement to print stories.
4)    Build up mobile offerings in student newsrooms.  On sites displaying student-published work, offer mobile alerts that people can subscribe to.  This can eventually progress to GPS-triggered storytelling.
5)    Encourage students to create geography-based stories with an interface other than Google Maps. One example is the MapsAlive authoring platform that lets users make any map interactive.
6)    Use Twitter or other mobile social networking/microblogging sites to keep student reporters communicating with each other.  If students use Twitter or similar services in their daily lives, they may be more inclined to think of new ways to tell stories using mobile or location-based technologies.
7)    Increase emphasis on photojournalism. On portable devices, photographs can complement audio effectively when video will not.
8)    Offer classes in which students innovate and create new forms of journalism, media products and storytelling.  In other words, classes like the one we have just completed.
9)    Explore partnerships with new location-based services such as Loopt and JotYou.
10)    Explore partnerships with other schools, such as digital media arts school FlashPoint Academy, to teach media production tools. Students need more hands-on instruction in these tools but this kind of instruction is not necessarily best provided by journalism faculty.
11)    Seek opportunities for students to interact with people in the industry, such as skills workshops led by media professionals.
12)    Create continuing education classes for faculty to learn the technological tools and ideas behind innovative, multimedia storytelling.
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Locative journalism: recommendations for journalists, news organizations and media companies

Thursday, June 26th, 2008

By Hilary Powell

Locative technologies are becoming more important to the future of journalism. Based on extensive research and experimentation with “locative journalism,” our team of master’s students at the Medill School of Journalism has completed a downloadable report (45 pages, plus appendices, in a single 3MB PDF file). From the report, here are our recommendations for journalists, news organizations and media companies:


1) Think geographically
News organizations should geotag their content. As location-based services and applications grow, the companies that have tagged their content from the beginning will have an advantage.


2) Capitalize on mobile technology for geo-content
The mobile technology already exists for news organizations to use location-based services to target consumers on mobile devices. One example is mobile phone messaging based on a recipient’s location. JotYou provides text messages that are only delivered when a recipient enters a previously specified geographic location. As an example, people could opt-in to get the latest score of a Cubs game as they drive by Wrigley Field. The technology exists for news organizations to start sending text messages of breaking news headlines that are geographically relevant.


3) The media should be experimenting now with mobile content
Now is the right time to explore and capitalize on the mobile content world. Smartphones are expected to continue to gain popularity, which would give media companies more opportunities to provide wireless content on portable devices. As people become “urban nomads” who aren’t tied to home or the office, there is a push for mobile content and Internet experiences on portable devices that are more similar to that of the desktop computers in terms of look and usability, such as the number of clicks required to access information. Google’s new Android open mobile operating system could help make this transition more seamless. Web pages are increasingly being optimized for the mobile devices through sites such as Skweezer.


4) Streamline content delivery
The process of getting content to portable devices is often cumbersome. The news media should capitalize on new technologies to streamline content delivery and thereby increase the number of users. Improvements in wireless, cellular and GPS technologies will allow for on-demand, wireless content delivery.


5) Target a young adult audience
Young adults are likely to be most receptive to location-based media at this point. Mobile social networking sites that are driven by location, such as Brightkite and Loopt, have immersed young adults into the world of location-based services. Young adults are also the most likely to have the smartphones that are best right now for location-based storytelling. But the audience will broaden as all mobile phones become more location-aware.


6) Maximize existing resources
News organizations should utilize their mobile journalists for locative storytelling. They can easily re-purpose audio, video and images from other kinds of stories. Also, news organizations should remember that locative storytelling does not have to require GPS-triggered stories. They can utilize audio recorders, which they most likely already have, for audio-only stories. Making audio tracks of locative stories available for download on the Web is cost-effective and easy.


7) Harness the power of audio
News organizations should begin to explore locative storytelling through audio tours. Not only are audio tours less costly to produce than GPS-driven content, but the audience is more likely to already have the MP3 players or even desktop computers needed to hear the stories. Start with audio tours and then eventually work up to location-triggered stories such as Mediascapes. News organizations should remember that walking tours often work best when they are mostly audio-based. Video is still very powerful, but should be reserved for the Web for location-based storytelling.


8 ) Treat locative stories differently, depending on the type of news
Breaking news is different from in-depth features and should be treated as such. It is ideal to know breaking news as it happens, so news organizations should capitalize on wireless alerts. However, immersive storytelling such as Mediascapes should be on-demand. Users may not have the time or patience for these types of stories on a daily basis, but this option should be readily available. Also, immersive storytelling that is dependent upon a user’s physical location should be tied closely to the geographic surroundings. News organizations may want to create GPS-driven stories on-site, so they can also provide precise orientation and directional cues, which are crucial.


9) Avoid “Google Maps fatigue”
News organizations need to better organize and differentiate information on interactive maps, to help avoid having content that looks repetitive. With Google Maps, there is not a lot you can do to change the look of the interface or to add more interactive features. However, Google Maps API gives authors some of these capabilities. News organizations should also explore other types of interactive maps.


10) Explore location-based advertising
Location-based advertising is one hope for media companies to generate revenue from location-based stories. It has great allure because consumers could conceivably be in locations near advertisers’ stores or products, and buy based upon impulse or convenience. Advertisements could play immediately before or after locative stories. However, news organizations should avoid ads embedded within locative stories, which would not only be intrusive, but also heavily blur the line between editorial and advertising content.


11) Encourage user feedback and community involvement
In offering locative content, news organizations should capitalize on the trendiness of sites that allow sharing, commenting and user-generated content. Also, following the lead of community storytelling initiatives, such as The Organic City, based in Oakland, Calif., newsrooms should engage community members in story development and promotion.


12) Just do it!!!
Locative journalism is relatively new, but holds a great deal of promise. We’re accustomed to using linear interfaces, such as alphabetized directories and timelines, to organize and access information. But our experiences in the real, physical and non-digitized world are usually not linear. They’re spatial, dynamic and intuitive. Locative technology has the power to capitalize on that instinct.

Locative storytelling: Findings from our project

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

By Hilary Powell


The final report from Team LoJo — six master’s students exploring “locative storytelling” at the Medill School of Journalism — is now available for download (a 45-page report, plus appendices, in a single 3MB PDF file). Over the next few days, we’ll highlight our key findings and recommendations.


First, the most significant findings:


1) Geography is key

Geography is a key tool for making content relevant to media users. It is becoming a powerful interface for information search and organization. News organizations are increasingly geotagging, or embedding geographic data in stories, so they can be easily identified by their relevant locations. Rather than searching by keyword, people can now browse a digital map for relevant information for a particular location. The Google Earth-New York Times partnership is a powerful example of this. Also, Google’s news aggregation service now allows users to quickly see all the stories for a given geographical location. Geotagging is not only used by news organizations. It is also catching on with consumers, who are tagging photos within photo sharing sites such as Flickr. Driving this trend, many new cameras allow for automatic geotagging of photos.


2) Mobile technology is ideal for geographically relevant content

Key advantages of mobile devices include portability, location awareness that can be used to customize content, and the fact that people nowadays almost always have their cell phones with them. Increasingly, cell phones and other mobile devices will include GPS and other technologies that “know” the user’s location. This will make it increasingly possible to target content to users based on their location or geographic interests. Our experience with locative stories delivered to portable devices has taught us that this kind of storytelling, at its best, can be extremely compelling.


3) American media companies have been slow to develop mobile content and adapt to cultural changes

U.S. media companies are lagging foreign competitors. For example, in April 2008, French company Orange launched Read & Go, a portable electronic newspaper kiosk with access to several different newspapers. In 2006, Belgian newspaper de Tijd became the first paper in the world to publish on epaper – flexible electronic paper that can be dynamically updated. Meanwhile, foreign news media established mobile newspaper versions several years ahead of major American media companies. Cultural and technological changes have made consumers increasingly become “urban nomads” who are not tied to their offices and homes. But American media companies have been slow to develop content for mobile devices and to capitalize on this trend.


4) Cumbersome content delivery has limited the market for mobile and location-based stories

The process of getting content into a portable device can be time-consuming and often requires multiple steps. Podcasts must be downloaded from the Web, then transferred to an MP3 player. Cellular phones offer the potential of immediate content downloads, but most users are limited to content distributed through their wireless carrier. Mediascapes must also be downloaded, and can run only on a minority of portable devices. Google Earth offers a compelling user experience but requires a separate software download. The demand for location-based content will increase as the technological barriers fade away – eventually allowing people to obtain multimedia content on demand or automatically based on their location.


5) Young adults are avid users of mobile technology, and are likely to further embrace mobile content as social networking moves to portable devices

Mobile technology’s value to young adults will only increase as social networks go mobile. Young adults also tend to be more tech savvy, early adopters and less likely to worry about privacy issues and location tracking because they have grown up in a world with Facebook and other applications that make people’s private lives very public.


6) Newsrooms have resources that could already be used for locative storytelling

Mobile journalists are proliferating in newsrooms. For example, Reuters partnered with Nokia Research Center to outfit reporters with “mobile journalist toolkits” that allow reporters to file and publish stories from handheld devices. Mobile journalists are ideal producers of locative content because they are already outfitted with the necessary technology, tools and mindset. Not only are they in the field with portable laptops, voice recorders and video cameras, they are also on the hunt for hyper-local content.


7) Audio has been under-appreciated

Now that portable devices are becoming more popular for consuming content, people need to overcome the notion that audio is only for radio. Audio is powerful, immersive and often useful because people tend to use portable devices while multitasking. Several news organizations have started to offer audio tours that can be just as powerful as location-based stories. The New York Times, for example, offers several audio narratives of Manhattan neighborhoods, including tours of the places that defined P.T. Barnum’s New York and the Underground Railroad routes in Brooklyn.


8 ) The success of locative stories depends upon their treatment

Locative stories are more likely to catch on if they’re organic experiences. Consumers will be more likely to embrace this storytelling form if it fits the flow of their daily lives and does not force them into a location and an experience. Breaking news alerts trigged by a user’s current location could be really valuable. For example, users could be alerted of a big demonstration taking place up ahead and decide whether to avoid it or to attend. That said, there is still an audience for immersive, GPS-driven stories like Mediascapes, but the content and delivery mechanisms could differ from that of breaking news locative stories.


9) Readers may be suffering from overloaded maps that look similar

Newspapers widely and frequently use interactive online maps now, leading to what we call “Google Maps fatigue.” More information is being attached to geographic coordinates and readers may be turned off by the basic look of Google Maps, which start to look the same and are ubiquitous.


10) Location-based advertising is the “holy grail” of mobile marketing

Many advertisers want to explore mobile marketing, especially location-based advertisements, but there have been some roadblocks, including privacy and tracking concerns. Also, these ads are sometimes carried by select mobile subscribers, or are only available to owners who opt in and have GPS-enabled phones. CBS and Loopt recently announced plans for localized banner ads on certain CBS mobile sites. More partnerships of this kind are expected, although privacy concerns persist. The company that figures out how to provide location-based ads without infringing on consumers’ privacy or irritating them, while also reaching the specific consumers that they want to target, will be successful.


11) Younger audiences want to be more deeply involved in creating and sharing content, a form of social capital among young adults

We live in an era of user-generated content and participation. Young adults, in particular, are used to sites that allow comments, rating or reviews, and sharing. Sites such as Yelp and YouTube have been distinguished and made popular by these qualities. Social networking sites such as Facebook have applications that allow for easier sharing of news stories and other content.


12) Locative journalism holds great promise

We are accustomed to using linear interfaces, such as alphabetized directories and timelines, to organize and access information. But our experiences in the real, physical and non-digitized world are usually not linear. They’re spatial, dynamic and intuitive. Locative technology has the power to capitalize on that instinct. Also, now is an ideal time to incorporate location-based storytelling into journalism, considering the explosion of location-based services in general society and the technological advancements that are making location-based content viable and increasingly popular.

Microsoft announces new operating system for navigation devices

Monday, June 23rd, 2008

By Hilary Powell

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Microsoft has released a new operating system to help companies to build portable navigation devices that also can connect to computers, networks and the Internet. Windows Embedded NavReady 09 is the latest took a trip to store shelves this week. Windows Embedded operating systems are made available to device manufacturers and software developers who use Microsoft technologies. The new operating system is Microsoft’s first geared specifically for portable navigation devices.


According to PC World, the OS is “is aimed at companies building handheld electronic navigation devices and includes several features to make them Web-friendly, such as easy connections to online services and the Internet, as well as links to mobile phones via Bluetooth, and to Windows-based PCs.”


Companies are looking to cash in on an increasing demand for portable navigation devices, or PNDs. (One device in this market is the HP iPAQ Travel Companion used by Medill students for this spring’s “locative storytelling” project.)


In 2006, PNDs were the most popular segment of the consumer navigation market, representing 62% of the total worldwide market, according to technology research firm IDC. IDC also estimated the entire consumer navigation market to grow by 53% worldwide by 2007, according to BNET Today.


As the market for navigation-enabled devices grows, the price tag for GPS technology is likely to head downward. Technologyreview.com reports NavReady can cut the cost of building and testing Internet-connected GPS devices. The review said OS is also more efficient because it makes it easy for GPS receivers to share data with other hardware such as cell phones and PDAs.

“Whereas the desktop version of Windows adds new functions and requires more memory with every release, embedded operating systems sacrifice versatility for leanness and efficiency. Currently, most GPS companies, such as TomTom and Garmin, use their own custom-built, proprietary operating systems. Others use off-the-shelf embedded systems that may not be ideal for GPS technology,” wrote Duncan Graham-Rowe of Technologyreview.com.


Technologyreview.com suggested that Microsoft sees a big opportunity in connecting navigation devices to other consumer electronics and the Internet. “I think Microsoft is laying the foundations for what we see as one of the big frontiers for navigation devices — connectivity,” says Clint Wheelock, chief research officer with ABI Research.

Everyone doesn’t want an iPhone?

Friday, June 13th, 2008

By Ki Mae Heussner


Everyone wants an iPhone, right? Especially now that the price has been slashed to $199?iphone.jpg


Well, no, not exactly.


A BusinessWeek.com article published today lists the many reasons why South Koreans will have no problem resisting the iPhone’s charm.


And it’s not just the iPhone. Nokia is MIA and Google has had difficulties gaining traction in the country too.


omnia.jpgSouth Korea is one of the most advanced mobile Internet markets in the world, and its tech-savvy customers are loyal to home-grown brands, such as Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics.


Anticipating Apple’s announcement of its new iPhone, Samsung unveiled its own touchscreen smartphone less than 24 hours before Apple CEO Steve Jobs took the stage in San Francisco.


Samsung’s Omnia, like Apple’s iPhone, functions like a small handheld PC.


Korea’s regulatory environment also makes it unlikely that the iPhone will catch on there anytime soon. In 2005, the Seoul government made it mandatory for mobile-phonemakers and content providers to use a software standard for Internet access. This requirement has helped smaller companies develop Internet-related applications at lower costs. For the iPhone to penetrate the Korean market, it would have to develop a special phone that meets the country’s specifications.

Visit the “happiest place on [Google] Earth” from home

Thursday, June 12th, 2008

By Joyce Chang


Google and Walt Disney World recently partnered to launch a 3-D interactive map layer of the Orlando, Fla., attraction on Google Earth.disney-1.jpg


Google Earth has offered virtual re-creations of places or cities before, but the virtual Disney World is considered one of the most intricate models produced, and Disney executives have called it the largest corporate initiative on Google Earth.disney-2.jpg


The new map layer is mostly aimed at tourists, allowing them to plan their trips and view the rides, hotels, streets, souvenir shops, building exteriors, etc., before they go on vacation at the resort.



“Visitors can walk or fly around the park as they wish. Information on the park’s 1,500 attractions pops up on the side of the screen, along with photos, videos and booking details,” the Telegraph wrote.


The map layer even includes seemingly ordinary or insignificant items, such as the monorail, restrooms, picnic tables, benches, streetlights, signs and trees. But including those items in the map could be useful and takes the concept a step further, even more closely tying the physical and virtual worlds.


The map also includes photos, videos and reviews to help people maximize their time and decide which rides they want to go on the most, according to Popular Science.


Using Google Earth is more labor-intensive than using Google Maps. Users must download software and figure out how to use the program. A previous LoJo blog post about who really uses Google Earth included a Lifehacker poll that found the majority of people occasionally use the program for its gee whiz factor and a smaller, loyal group uses it regularly.


The new Disney World map layer may work because the people who would use it, most likely tourists or other occasional visitors, would also tend to want it for its flashy features, and are less likely to rely on it for professional or regular use.

Should all marketers adopt a mobile marketing strategy?

Wednesday, June 11th, 2008

By Hope Needles


Now that consumers are more receptive to receiving advertisements and sales alerts via their mobile devices, marketers are starting to warm up to the idea of adopting specific mobile marketing strategies.


This issue was recently debated at a New York Media and Information Exchange Group panel. The event spotlighted several up-and-coming leaders in advertising and mobile content development, who discussed the value of carving out a “mobile” category for advertising.


According to Natali Del Conte, of CNET, a mobile marketing strategy is going to be imperative for most companies to adopt because we are living in an era where “the laptop and the cell phone are becoming indistinguishable,” she said. “In five years, we’re not going to really be talking about mobile, it’s just going to be part of connectivity.”


Del Conte went on to say that every major company needs to be thinking about the fact that, on a mobile platform, content has the potential to be distributed virtually anywhere, and people will be able to carry this content with them wherever they go.


However, not everyone on the panel was as enthusiastic about adopting a mobile marketing strategy. These individuals argued that a category devoted exclusively to mobile marketing was unnecessary because it would eventually be absorbed by the vast, digital consumer environment.


Allison Mooney, of Fleishman-Hillard’s mobile marketing group, was one of the panelists who expressed the view that mobile advertising strategies might not be right for all marketers:

“I think [marketers] should be asking whether mobile is right for their company because it’s not right for all companies,” she said. “Look at your user base, at the people that you’re targeting. Are they active mobile users? Is it going to provide utility? Is it just going to sit there and no one’s going to use it?”


Mooney offered an example of how a mobile marketing campaign might work in successfully reaching its intended audience. She suggested creating a synergy between the mobile social network MizPee (which helps users track down public restrooms) and a brand like Pampers. MizPee, Mooney said, would be a “perfect way for a brand to get involved with mobile.” In this case, marketing Pampers products on MizPee would serve as a utility for moms on-the-go, who are active mobile phone users.


Although there were various opinions about how to utilize mobile advertising, overall, most panelists seemed to agree that the mobile device is becoming one of the most powerful ways to deliver content. Statistics alone can indeed back this up — worldwide, mobile advertising is projected to surpass $2.7 billion in 2008, up from $1.7 billion in 2007, according to Gartner.


Based on these numbers, I would agree with Natali Del Conte. Mobile devices are now among the powerful tools that can be used to strengthen the link between consumers and brand campaigns.

Mobile map application shows users where to party

Tuesday, June 10th, 2008

By Hilary Powell
If you’re going out with the girls or the guys for a night on the town in a new city, a new mobile map application could help you pinpoint the place to party.

is a GPS-enabled service that highlights hot nightspots in San Francisco in real time. The technology is currently only compatible with Blackberry phones, but will soon be available with the new GPS-enabled iPhone.


On Google and Yelp, users can pinpoint locations called “hotspots.” These locations include bars, restaurants, and clubs. The Citysense Web sites says that a color-coded map details which of these locations is packed with unusually high activity.


And the mobile application is one that really gets to know mobile users. According to the Citysense folks:


The application learns about the kinds of places you like to go from GPS – without ever sharing that information. In its next release, Citysense will not only tell you where everyone is right now, but where everyone like YOU is right now.


I’m not so sure about a phone that can predict where I like to party, but the technology is certainly an example of a mobile social network that helps like-minded people connect.


According to a ComputerWorld.com report released in May, “millenials,” or people born between the years 1981 and 2000 are leading the move to mobile social networks and Mobile Web 2.0, which includes cell phone-based blogging, multimedia sharing, location-based socialization services, gaming and chat.


The number of users of these services is on the rise – in fact, a new study by InStat is predicting that by 2012, there will be nearly 30 million millennials.


That would be one large map on Citysense.

AP unveils new iPhone application

Monday, June 9th, 2008

By Amy Lee


The Associated Press on Monday showed off a program that the news agency says will allow iPhone users to submit news, photos and video to the AP’s Mobile News Network when they witness a breaking news event. The new software, which was unveiled at Apple Inc.’s Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco, is expected to be available to iPhone users in the next few weeks, according to Jane Seagrave, the AP’s senior vice president for global product development. The AP says the new iPhone application enables faster downloads and the ability to read news even when the phone is not connected to the Internet, according to an AP news article.


The agency on May 5 launched the Mobile News Network for a variety of smart phones — including the iPhone — that allows users to access local news stories from more than 100 newspapers, as well as national and international news from the AP. The reports are organized by zip code. The agency already allows users to submit photos, news and video to its Web site, and in fact distributed footage this week from amateur videographers who witnessed Sunday’s mass stabbing at a Tokyo shopping area.


Seagrave stated that the news cooperative is “eager to get submissions” of material from iPhone users, and promises that material would be screened by AP staffers before publication. In my mind, this is critical to their initiative, and could help to make it a success.


Any news organization should be especially careful about posting material gleaned by “citizen journalists,” because they must be sure that the submitter (if you will) is in fact, a witness to the event and that they are an unbiased source of news. This will not only help to get news out more quickly with powerful visual images, but it also helps to protect the brand and reputation of the news agency itself. I’ll be curious to check out the application when it is unveiled, and hope that the agency has made the process of submitting breaking news from the iPhone as easy as possible.

Companies tout new hi-tech mobile gadgets at a low cost

Monday, June 9th, 2008

By Hilary Powell


With record high unemployment rates nationwide, peaking prices at the pump and the rising cost of food, the average mobile device user may be pinching pennies to purchase the latest tech toys.


A growing number of technology companies are providing cheaper models to keep users connected.


For example, how does a $10 cell phone sound?


The Hop 1800 is a GSM cell phone developed by Hop On, Inc.


The makers of the Hop 1800 say the hassle-free device is, “ideal as a backup cell phone, when traveling abroad, or for anyone looking for a super affordable cell phone that does one thing extremely well: make phone calls.”


The affordability comes at a technical cost: the phone has no display. There’s also no Web access for e-mailing and texting. And it’s not GPS-integrated.


But it’s a cost some companies recognize users are willing to take.


An article posted Sunday on MiamiHerald.com indicates more companies are developing low-cost mobile gadgets.


According to the article, analysts and manufacturers say items priced under $200 are in a “sweet spot” that is considered to be somewhat recession-proof.


Canon is one company aiming for that “sweet spot” with three cameras under $200. The $129 model Medico chose is the least expensive camera the company has ever offered.


According to the Techie Diva, camcorders are becoming more budget-friendly. RCA, she said, just released a device called the Small Wonder EZ300HD. The high definition camcorder has a 2.4-inch LCD display, features 2GB of internal memory and an expansion slot and is optimized for low-light recording. It’s predecessor is the $150 Ultra Flip by Pure Digital.


In-house gadgets are perhaps taking a cue from the affordable mobile device movement.


According to MiamiHerald.com, Sony developers have hinted at ”entry-level” TV sets in 2008 that cost between $500 and $1,200 – about $200 less than its premium line. And Samsung just cut the prices on part of a new line of flat panels by $200.

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