Are Newspapers Outsourcing Core Features to Foursquare?

Megan Garber from the Nieman Journalism Lab explains in details how the Wall Street Journal uses Foursquare to offer geo-localized news:

[The Wall Street Journal] has also been making regular use of the Tips function of Foursquare, which allows users to send short, location based updates — including links — to their followers. The posts range from the food-recommendation stuff that’s a common component of Tips (“@Tournesol: The distinctively French brunches here feature croques madames and monsieurs and steak frites. After dining, check out the Manhattan skyline in Gantry State Park”) to more serious, newsy fare

via Location, location, etc: What does the WSJ’s Foursquare check-in say about the future of location in news? » Nieman Journalism Lab.

What it means: That’s a very nice implementation of geolocalized content within Foursquare. You can see more examples in the article. After reading it, something was bothering me (the same way the Facebook “Like” button bugged me) and I finally figured it out. I left the following comment in the Nieman blog: “what Foursquare is doing, newspapers could do themselves. It’s all about structured data. Most newspaper organizations have structured their content on topics/keywords/subjects but they forgot to structure it on geographical information (places, businesses, points-of-interest, neighborhoods, etc.). As soon as you have this 3D view of your content (vertical + local), you can syndicate it in a multitude of ways.”

We live in a fragmented/atomized Web now. We have atomized content, business models, functionalities, APIs. The smart internet companies are atomizing both content AND features/functionalities.  They become both media companies and technology providers. Their end goal is becoming a media. They use their technology to reach their end goal. That’s a very smart strategy. As a potential partner of these smart internet startups, you need to ask yourself if these functionalities are core business to you or not. If they are, DO NOT OUTSOURCE THEM to another media company! Do partner for content distribution though.

The Web is becoming more and more local. Newspapers should own the expertise of geo-localizing their content, displaying it that way within their mobile apps (or Web site) and then syndicating it to partners like Foursquare. It’s core business.

5 thoughts on “Are Newspapers Outsourcing Core Features to Foursquare?

  1. Hear hear Seb! Well said. Newspapers have always been a permission-based local medium. Maybe this is why the small local papers seem to be doing better than the bigger nationals.

  2. Hey, Sebastien. Thanks for thinking this through. I’m involved with the Journal’s Foursquare implementation and agree with you completely. This is definitely something we could do with our own mobile apps and push to other social networks like Twitter that also have geolocation features. We’re doing it with Foursquare now as an experiment and because that’s the tool most readily available to us. But we’re also adding location-based structure to our New York articles on the backend so we’re ready to make use of that data on any platform where it makes sense.

  3. Um, no, not necessarily. You’re getting giddy here, thinking the mediuma is the message.

    Newspapers never bought factories and assembled delivery trucks to deliver newspapers — other companies make those trucks — and sometimes even delivery itself is outsourced, the trucks aren’t necessarily owned by the newspaper.

    So there’s no reason why an online news company has to go into the geolocation biz if FourSquare is already in that biz and they can be accessed.

    It would be a terrible shame if some of these news companies, already struggling, indulged in investing in various fads like “checking in” only to discover that it will fade.

  4. @Zach Bravo! In that light, your strategy makes complete sense. Learn, build quickly, iterate.

    @Prokofy I said media companies shouldn’t outsource core business functionalities to competing media. In this specific case, I’m talking about the geo-structuring of news information/data. I still think newspapers should partner with Foursquare to distribute their content (i.e. make their content available to new readers or current readers in a different context). For me, Foursquare is much more than just “check-ins” given that this is already a commodity (see http://blogs.praized.com/seb/brightkite/dennis-crowley-foursquare-check-ins-will-be-commodity-by-the-end-of-the-year/ ). If they execute properly, they could have a very nice geo-social network that includes merchants and consumers in the same ecosystem.

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