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Geo-what? Oh, it’s coming to the UK soon…

October 3rd, 2008Posted by in Online Journalism

This week saw the launch of a hyperlocal news map for the Liverpool Echo, as announced by Sly Bailey at the AOP Digital Publishing Summit (follow link for report in MediaGuardian).

It geotags news content so each user can search for news by postcode.

Nothing new there, web-savvy newshounds might think, but actually it is:

Though Archant announced plans for geotagged sites last October (it started with Jobs24 – a winner at yesterday’s NS ADM Awards – and Homes24 and has plans to roll out geotagged news content in 2008) to date we’re still waiting for the official launch of geotagged news.

Yesterday we reported that American site outside.in will be launching in the UK, which will link news with local areas (as localised as users specify). Outside.in thinks its opportunity has come about as a result of:

“The demand for personalized information on the web, and the failure of the newspaper industry to capitalize on featuring hyperlocal content” (Nina Grigoriev, outside.in)

Journalism.co.uk thought it was time for a bit of a run-down on the development of geotagging in the UK.

First, what is it?
Journalists record the locations referred to in each story and add their postcodes as metadata when uploading their copy to the web.

In that way, geotagged content allows users to prioritise the news they see online according to postcodes.

Where are we at in the UK?
The Liverpool Echo is the first site (of the large publishing groups) to do so in the UK. Although other sites have incorporated mapping into their sites, no other places has successfully incorporated news content as well.

The BBC plans to invest £68 million across its network of local sites, which will be decided upon by the BBC Trust in February 2009. Online Journalism Blog reported a sneak preview in January 2008, though the BBC have since asked us not to refer to the sites as ‘hyperlocal’.

Critics such as Trinity Mirror’s CEO, Sly Bailey, have voiced concerns over the BBC’s local video proposals, saying they will provide ‘unfair competition’ for the regional media.

Northcliffe is also developing geotagged content on its revamped thisis sites, and told Press Gazette in June the process has been difficult: “Because not all stories affect only one specific point, the company is finding geocoding challenging,” Hardie said.

According to the article: “The localisation functions will remain hidden until journalists have built up enough stories with postcode data.”

Back in July 2007 we saw reports of Sky geotagging its news, but it hasn’t developed at the same speed or as widely as in the US.

What’s happening in the US?
Everyblock is developing fast across the US. It’s a new experiment in journalism and data, offering feeds of local information and data for every city block in Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, DC, with more cities to come. Not in the UK yet, but watch this space.

Elsewhere, the Washington Post has used outside.in’s maps for their own site, while the New York Times’ Boston.com (the online Boston Globe) uses MetaCarta’s geographic search technology for maps.

So, what does this mean for UK based geotagging?
With the arrival of highly efficient US based sites such as outside.in (who said an UK based office is a possibility) maybe it’s time for Archant, Trinity Mirror and Northcliffe to get their skates on before it’s too late.

Please send us your examples of UK based geotagged content, from formal publications or otherwise, as we want to track it as it expands in the UK.

(Then we can make a geotagged feed and map of geotagging in journalism. Then our heads might explode)

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  • http://www.london-se1.co.uk James Hatts

    We’ve been doing geotagged news for nearly three years:

    http://www.london-se1.co.uk/news/map

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  • http://www.straighttothepoint.net James Thornett

    The simple fact is that geo-tagging news content is an extremely complex task.

    Ok, it’s quite easy to add postcodes to a certain type of story – a house fire for example – but the majority of news stories are not so straightforward when it comes to referencing a particular location.

    Stories often refer to more than one location, or actually refer to an area represented by a polygon rather than a point, or have elements within the story (a person or several people, a building, an organisation) that all have different locations associated with them.

    And do you tag with postcodes, long/lat coordinates, county/city/town/district names, by manually selecting a dot or area on a map.

    The complications are seemingly endless… but far from being pessimistic I believe this is precisely what makes this area of content delivery so fascinating.

    It’s a challenge that needs some clever solutions and it will be very interesting watching different organisations and websites trying to find the answers.

  • http://www.journalism.co.uk Judith Townend

    @James Hatts: thanks for your comment and link to your site. I’ve amended the post to indicate that the Liverpool Echo’s launch is the first effort ‘of the large publishing groups’ (though I stand to be corrected on that too, if anyone knows any other up and running examples?) – please do keep us posted with other examples over the UK, as geotagging becomes more widely used.

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  • AylmerHall

    Good work by the Echo, must have taken a lot of effort to make this part of the normal workflow for all content going online.
    The challenges facing anyone wanting to geo-code every piece of news media they are publishing, whether it is the text, a photo, some video or a Flash graphic, are many:
    – how accurate should the code be? i.e.: if the geographic reference is general, such as a city, you don’t want to use a postcode or lat/long co-ordinates that refer to a single address otherwise you could end up pin-pointing someones’ home in reference to a derogatory story, which would be a bad thing;
    – with a photo do you want to tag the spot where the photographer was standing when the photo was taken (after-all, with GPS-enabled cameras or devices that automatically add the lat/long co-ordinates to the EXIF data that is what you are going to get), or the geographic details for everything in the photo?

  • http://relations.ka2.de Gerd Kamp

    Nearly two years ago i started on the mission to geo-tag the news at the german news agency dpa.

    Since nearly a year we are geocoding our reginal wires. I think we are still the only news agency worldwide doing this.

    I think we’ve taken most of the problems cited in the comments into account.

    So we are encoding multiple locations of a single story and are distinguishing between different types of geo-tags: scopes (to which geographical area an editor deem a certain story relevant) and loci (where did something happen)

    I’ve given a lightning talk about what we are doing at this years wherecamp. The slides of the talk and more detailed posts about what we are doing are available at: http://relations.ka2.de/tag/goingplaces/

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  • http://outmap.org/ Ben Werdmuller

    Geotagging is going to come of age this year. I’m launching a tool over at OutMap.org that will allow anyone to geotag any data, as well as import/export it from/to any compatible tool. The idea is that organizations (eg newspapers) shouldn’t have to repeat the underlying technological task over and over – it’s been done once and everyone can benefit with very little investment. Someone could also come along and take geoRSS feeds from all the compatible newspapers and aggregate them into one map.

    There are lots of other tools that do other things with geotagging – Pachube does something similar for sensor data. It’s all useful, and as there are already simple standards for it that everyone’s using, there’s a huge range of possibilities in terms of mashups and secondary tools.

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