Saturday, January 30, 2010

CNN Experiment Points to Local Opportunity

Traditional media is struggling to figure how to integrate and leverage social media. They want to use Facebook and Twitter because they see how they are growing forces in how people discover, consume and communicate news and information. This past week CNN's experiment with Twitter for the State of the Union Address created a giant road-sign for other media to follow as to one way to use social media and geo-tagging to create relevant content and context.

As far as I know, the Huffington Post was the only media outlet to spot and report on this experiment. CNN partnered with a company called Crimson Hexagon to "analyze almost 150,000 Twitter responses to President Obama's speech." The responses were geo-coded allowing them to provided a sentiment heat map of sorts for the entire United States. Similar to the interactive electoral map CNN used during the general election, John King touched on a state on the interactive map of the U.S. which zoomed the map onto the state and revealed tweet sentiment in that state. An executive with Crimson Hexagon alluded to the future potential in her statements about the product roadmap.

"In major events like the State of the Union, we actually want to get to real-time analysis," she said. "We also want to get, if we can, more granular with location, based on cities and zip codes rather than just states," Melyssa Plunkett-Gomez, an executive with Crimson Hexagon, told the Huff post.

There in lies one of the glaring opportunities for local media. As the algorithms improve for filtering the content and the volume of content grows, there will be an opportunity to repeat the same coverage at a hyper-local level. A TV station could drill down on a county, a zip code or even a city block to offer real-time "sentiment." The technology and know-how is available to do this online and on-air now through companies like Google, Crimson Hexagon, Twitter and Facebook,, MetaCarta, WDT Inc., Layar, etc.

Looking beyond CNN's specific use of Twitter, the same technologies could be used to bubble up user generated photos and videos in real-time around a breaking news or developing stories. The value of this should be even more obvious to journalists. Crowdsourcing allows you to go from one or two reporters on the scene sending back reports , to "N" number of eyewitnesses sending you eyewitness reports in real-time. As I mentioned, this can be done now. What appears to be missing is a vision or will to try it.


Jim Thompson said...

And you can expect some traditional media response: this is not a scientific survey and therefore of no value. Which of course misses the point of leveraging a source of input we've never had before -- Is it non-scientific? yep; Does that mean it's of no value? Absolutely not.

Ian said...

Thanks Jim, If you read the Huff post comments, that is exactly one of the criticisms. I agree with you. It is directional information, color, context, and a way to get the audience involved/represented, not unlike those super-useful "man on street" interviews.