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.

Location-based services slow to catch on in Asia

Friday, June 6th, 2008

By Ki Mae Heussner


Those who tout Asia as a leader in mobile telephony should note that not all kinds of mobile applications are gaining traction in the region. While it’s true that some parts of Asia-Pacific are expected to lead the mobile market over the next few years, that growth may not necessarily contribute to the acceptance of certain applications, such as (unfortunately) location-based services.


A recent TNS Global Telecoms Insight study on mobile device usage in the Asia-Pacific region found that, while mobile operators have started to offer a number of GPS and location-based services (LBS), they’re only catching on in a few markets.


Although 53 percent of respondents said they had access to location-based services, only 3 percent said they had used the service. In Japan, location-based services reached 13 percent and in Taiwan LBS reached 10 percent.


The top four features in the Asia-Pacific region were SMS (used by 88 percent of respondents), games (71 percent), cameras (61 percent) and multimedia messaging services (48 percent).


A 2007 report released by research and consulting firm Frost & Sullivan, however, suggested that location-based services in Asia would grow alongside the introduction of mash-up services and an increase in mobile advertising.


The report indicated that the market across 13 Asia-Pacific economies was worth $291.7 million in 2006 and would reach $447 million by the end of 2009.


Japan and Korea, the report said, were the most developed LBS markets, accounting for 92 percent of total revenues in the region.


Demand in other parts of Asia-Pacific has been stifled by privacy concerns, the lack of advanced GPS-enabled handsets, and a lack of an encouraging mobile eco-system and user interest.


Worldwide, though, some analysts project that 2008 will be the year mobile location-based services take off. Research giant Gartner says global subscriptions in LBS are expected to rise by nearly 168 percent this year, driven by increasing numbers of GPS-enabled phones and substantial investments in navigation technologies by heavyweights such as Nokia. Revenue is predicted to jump from $485.1 million in 2007 to $1.3 billion in 2008.


Annette Zimmerman, a research analyst at Gartner, said, “Growth [in location-based services] now will be stimulated by the arrival of mobile phones with built-in, precise location-sensing and the arrival of new service providers, like Google and Nokia, with [their] service offerings, keen to exploit geographic and positioning strategies.”

More gadgets seek ways to use GPS

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

By Hilary Powell


The year 2008 could see the development of more gadgets and gizmos equipped with GPS.


At Asia’s largest technology trade show, Computex 2008, Mio Technology recently unveiled a new spin on digital cameras: the PND, or portable navigation device camera.


The hybrid camera integrates a GPS radio into a digital camera.


A GPS Business News article states the device will feature a 3.5-inch touch screen and, with the two integrated technologies, the camera will be able to geotag your photos.


On the Miss Direction blog, GPS blogger Bonnie Cha said Mio hopes users will be able to put away the cumbersome cords and accessories necessary to run GPS modules, such as the Pharos Trips & Pics and the Sony GPS-CS1KA.


No word yet on when those Mia models will hit store shelves, but some GPS-enabled devices already on store shelves look like they’ll be even more useful to travelers. Among those attractive options: devices that feature built-in cheap fuel price finders.


According to an article by Donna Goodison on BostonHearld.com, “Several Garmin GPS models are compatible with MSN Direct, a subscription service for personal navigation devices that includes a location-based search feature for gas prices.”


After searching for prices of regular unleaded gasoline and listing them in order of their distances, the device will spit out directions to the station of choice.


While Googling to uncover even more of the hottest geographic gadgets, I started to squirm when I came across an article on NewScientistTech revealing that Microsoft researchers are developing ways to track patterns of travel and modes of transportation using GPS technology.


A team of technology experts in Beijing recorded the movements of 45 people who carried GPS-enabled devices for more than 6 months. The scientists tracked variations in speed to predict each test subject’s mode of transportation: walking, driving, or biking.


Though Microsoft’s experiment is more concept than gadget, it raises a pertinent point about what Michael Peterson, Chair of the International Cartographic Association Commission on Maps and the Internet, calls “location privacy.”

As it becomes easier to track and share our movements, the concept of “locational privacy” – controlling who can access our location records – becomes more important, he says, adding that Microsoft and others should make sure their products are designed to protect users.

A day without technology?

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008

By Hilary Powell


Could you do it?


It’s a newsworthy challenge, and a new report says it could hurt your company financially.


An article recently topping a Yahoo! Tech news page details a study that found that banning personal use of tech tools in the office is costing British businesses billions.

A new study is claiming that by banning personal Internet use in the office (including video games, social networking, dating, shopping, personal email, or other non-work-related activities), British businesses are losing 4 billion pounds every year due to decreased productivity.

A psychologist at Goldsmiths University surveyed 1,700 people. He suggests giving workers 10-minute e-breaks. The breaks would show a sense of trust in the worker/boss relationship in the office, and might even help people focus, he said.


Imagine, a boss who understands needing your Facebook fix.


Back here in the states, the British study could have relevance for those who may be logging on, on the job. According to a 2007 survey conducted by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, a project that collects data on the impacts of the Internet, 70 percent of adults are online daily or several times a day.


Even outside the working world, young people are testing their need for technology.


In a Spring 2008 issue of Atemeisia magazine, a publication of the University of Nevada, writer Guia del Prado recounts the fear of going a day without technology.

As the primary means of communication in such a vast world, I couldn’t think about the dark screen of my phone or my laptop without panic.

Mobile traffic boosts total audience of top Internet sites

Monday, May 5th, 2008

By Amy Lee


Internet browsing on a mobile device grows the audience of many top Internet sites by 13 percent, according to a Nielsen Company study released on May 1. Some sites, such as those devoted to weather and entertainment, saw mobile users lift overall audience totals by 22 percent, based on combined data culled from Nielsen Online and Nielsen Mobile. (I found this interesting, as the two sites I check most regularly are an admittedly cheesy gossip blog and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to get the weather. It appears I’m not alone!) Shopping sites, however, received the least lift from mobile browsing due to duplication of PC-based and mobile audiences.


The cross-platform insights come from TotalWeb, a new report from Nielsen that integrates data from Nielsen Mobile and Nielsen Online to show the unduplicated, unique audience for more than 200 leading Internet sites across the PC and mobile Internet space, according to this Nielsen Company release.


What’s more, the data revealed that mobile users visit Web sites on their mobile devices that differ from those they visit on their home computers. The study found a small, but undoubtedly growing, audience turning to their mobile device for a regular fix of weather, games and entertainment. I count myself among them, as I bought a Motorola Q around Christmastime this past winter, mostly because I needed instant access to my email account. But I often browse Internet Explorer and search for news on Google. I have favorite sites bookmarked, and actually find I browse most often when I’m traveling via train into downtown Chicago. A mobile entertainment and news device, aka “my phone,” really helps pass the time on the long commute.


This audience boost gleaned through the mobile platform may seem like a small jump now, but my guess is this is just the beginning of what will eventually mature into a decent-sized chunk of consistent visitors on many leading Web sites. “The data demonstrate that the mobile Internet can not only increase the frequency of visits to a website, but also grow the overall size of the pie,” Jeff Herrmann, Nielsen’s vice president of Mobile Media, Nielsen Mobile, said in a company statement.



A foray into the interactive, mobile print-based ad

Monday, April 28th, 2008

By Amy Lee


Pick up Rolling Stone’s current issue, and you may come across an advertising venture that aims to position “old media” print magazine ads as a portal into a cell phone camera-based mobile advertising platform.


The gist is readers can snap a photo of an ad in the magazine with their cell phone camera, send it to a specific number and in turn receive more information or special offers about a particular product or service. SnapTell, a Palo Alto-based image recognition company, has created software that scans the submission, recognizes key icons and texts back information based on that particular submission.


Rolling Stone is running five of these interactive print-based ads including a motorcycle ring tone for Allstate’s motorcycle-insurance program, according to the New York Times. Men’s Health is also testing SnapTell’s technology and has announced that all of the full-page ads in its July-August issue will have the interactive feature. Both magazines are offering it free once advertisers have signed on for a print ad.


While I’m definitely curious to try it out, it seems at first blush to be a rather primitive foray into interactive camera phone-based ads. I mean, it’s hard to image people taking pictures of ads while they’re trying to read a magazine, you know? Nonetheless, it’s an interesting step on the emerging path of mobile advertising. I’ll be curious about the results of these trial runs, and whether they determine just how interactive readers want their magazine ads to be.

The locative revolution – is your newsroom on board?

Friday, April 25th, 2008

By Ki Mae Heussner


Location, location, location. It’s the most oft-repeated mantra in real estate. But now that location-based services are sprouting up all over the Web, it’s starting to take on a new meaning to more and more professionals in the news media.


Charged with devouring as much as we can about mobile technology and its applications for journalists, team LoJo has been scouting the Web for updates on how newsrooms are adapting to and capitalizing on locative media.


During the past few weeks, we’ve encountered some excellent examples of location-based storytelling that seem likely to push more newsrooms into the emerging geo-journalism space:


– Earlier this month, the New York Times and Google announced a new partnership that allows readers to track articles geographically using Google Earth. (If you want to see what’s going on in Paris, for example, a few clicks on a Google Earth map will show you the latest headlines coming out of the French capital.)


– When protesters attempted to disrupt the Olympic torch procession in San Francisco, the Sacramento Bee used Qik (technology that streams live footage from videophones to a Web-based flash player) to broadcast live videos of the scuffle.


– And, just the other night, as we waited for the results of the Pennsylvania Democratic primary to come in, we were treated to a high-tech presentation on CNN, featuring correspondent John King and a gigantic, touch-sensitive interactive map.


These examples give us the sense that locative media is gaining a foothold in newsrooms across the country, but… we know that there’s a lot going on out there that we still don’t know.


So, to scrape together a clearer picture of locative media usage, we’ve posted a survey online.

LoJo Survey 3


If you’re a working journalist or work in the news media in some other capacity, please help us out and complete our (very short) survey. If you don’t work in a newsroom, but know those who do, please forward on the link below.




As always, we’ll share the results online, along with our own analysis.

Navigating around our mobile options

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008

By Hope Needles


A special report in the April 10th edition of The Economist examines the multitude of ways that wireless devices have transformed basic human interactions and social norms. According to the report, mobile technology has created a new urban, nomadic lifestyle in which it is possible to travel to virtually anywhere in the world and still stay connected to work, friends and the news, via technology such as Wi-Fi, smart phones and PDAs. Gone are the days when mobile phones were only useful for making phone calls and sending text messages. Today, these devices have become our go-to gadgets for retrieving email, news, music and video content.


The article defines a modern urban nomad as someone who is able to travel the world without the cumbersome technology that was once needed to connect with others in an office setting. In many cases, this traveler is still able to access documents, participate in video conference meetings and engage in other interactions simultaneously, without the time, energy or grunt work of physical obligations.


While it may be true that mobile phones and wireless access have improved our lives dramatically, on a variety of levels, The Economist brings up a critical issue that I often worry about myself, as society becomes increasingly dependent on technology. As we continue to trade regular phone calls and face-to-face interactions for microblogging and SMS, what is happening to our social norms? Media experts, researchers and anthropologists alike have arrived at the conclusion that a new social landscape is emerging, in which social etiquette and our personal relationships are redefined across mobile and wireless platforms.

Read the rest of this entry…

French telecom company launches e-newspaper trial

Monday, April 21st, 2008

By Amy Lee


Industry chatter for years has suggested that the “newspaper” of tomorrow will be produced and distributed on paper-free portable electronic devices. To a certain extent, this is true today, as users can navigate the Internet, search newspapers’ sites and read stories displayed on most current cell phones. But this process (in my case, at least) is often slow and clumsy, and it’s one more feature of a phone – not a device dedicated solely to e-news reading.


So I was intrigued to learn that Orange, the telecommunications brand of France Telecom, on April 17 launched a test run of Read & Go, a portable “electronic newspaper kiosk” that allows users to access five French newspapers. It’s kinda like Amazon’s Kindle e-reader in that users access the newspapers via touch screen and it’s Wi-Fi and 3G-enabled. It’s also kind of large compared to a cell phone. The five newspapers involved in the trial are Le Monde, Le Parisien, Les Echos, L’Equipe and Télérama; Orange claims information from each newspaper will be refreshed on the Read & Go every hour. The device also offers 1 GB of storage (enough for 200 newspapers, according to Orange) and 30 eBooks, including novels and city guides.


The company is currently seeking about 150 users to try the device for about two months, and also hopes to geolocate ads on the device. This tied right into the LoJo Connect team’s focus of supplying information to users based on their location. Personally, I think the Read & Go looks a tad large and that most people prefer a multi-use mobile device (like cell phones with Web access, etc.) to carrying around yet another portable tech device. But it’s cool that users can access several newspapers at once and that it’s free to navigate, for now anyway. This is perhaps the best example yet of the heavily foreshadowed portable e-newspaper of the future and could help carve the direction of e-news and location-based advertising, so it’s worth checking out.

From the desktop to the laptop to the palmtop

Saturday, April 19th, 2008

By Ki Mae Heussner


The results of the first LoJoPoll are in!


And though our inaugural survey was hardly scientific (thank you to the indulgent few who participated), our results were consistent with similar large-scale industry surveys. Only 20 percent of the respondents indicated that they only use their mobile phones for talking and texting. Forty percent said they use their phones one to four times a day for other uses, 20 percent said they use their phones five to nine times a day and 20 percent said they use their phones more than ten times a day for other uses.


As evidenced by our informal poll and other (far more) credible ones, mobile technology in the U.S. has not yet reached its prime. But as industry research suggests, the age of the palmtop is on its way.



For example, a recent consumer survey conducted by iSuppli Corp. shows that as mobile technology becomes more user-friendly, consumers become more apt to surf the Web and listen to music via handheld devices.


Just a couple of months before the iPhone’s anniversary, an iSuppli survey exploring the habits of iPhone owners found that U.S. consumers spend 12.1 percent of their iPhone usage time trolling the Internet, compared to 2.4 percent for all mobile phones on average.


The survey also found that iPhone owners spend 11.9 percent of their mobile time listening to music or other audio, compared to 2.5 percent for all mobile handset users.


A Harris Interactive poll conducted earlier this month showed that cell phone usage in the US continues to increase. Almost nine out of ten adults own a cell phone and one in seven now use a cell phone exclusively. The poll didn’t explore how these adults were using their phones (for talking and texting or more) but as more Americans part ways with their landlines and as mobile content becomes more sophisticated, varied and accessible, is it possible that America might finally catch up globally, in terms of mobile usage and technology?

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