Foursquare. Gowalla. And now Facebook Places (although at the moment this is only available if you’re an American). Location apps for mobile phones seem to be the ‘in-thing’ on the web at the moment but is there any use to journalists in them?
Twitter clearly has a use as it can help us to find out where news is breaking, connect with contacts and promote our content. The same goes for Facebook, although that seems most useful for building communities around your fan pages of your media brand.
I recently tried out Foursquare for two months and could find absolutely no use for it. It was buggy and didn’t seem to get on with my laptop. I checked in at a few places and became the mayor of my local swimming pool (yay!) and synced up my account with my Twitter. However, I found it annoying. I often forgot to check in at places or when I checked in I had absolutely nothing interesting to say. Likewise I tried out the screen where my friends were checking-in. Cool. But again no use.
I did put in it where I was reporting from, so I could say ‘Checked In at County Hall’ and then put the message ‘Covering an environmental scrutiny meeting’. But I could just post that on Twitter without bothering with Foursquare? I suppose it might reassure people that as a journalist I’m out of the office scrutinising democratic functions but how many people would really care? Although I never managed to achieve my goal of becoming the ‘Mayor of Cardiff City Hall’.
I could see tabloid journos using it if they ever befriended a celebrity who was using the service. Ordering the papparazi to the Pizza Hut where Charlotte Church was tucking into a vegetable supreme – but how many of us are going to befriend celebrities?
Location services seem more for building on your existing friendship networks rather than finding stories and seem a waste of time from a professional viewpoint for journalists.
The only use I can see for journalists is if they make a personal contact and add them. This allows them to see where the contact is and if the journalist knows where they are they could ask that contact to contribute something to a story – if, and only if, there’s something happening at that location at that exact moment. For example, if I saw a contact of mine was at the Cardiff City Stadium I could ask them to shoot some video of the fans outside the game cheering on Craig Bellamy after his winning goal. This could then turn into user-generated content for the website.
Image credit to nan palmero
So, I’ve left my Foursquare account to stagnate and I’m hoping I’m wrong. Is there a way these location-based services can be useful for journalists? Have you been using them for journalistic purposes? Let me know your views in the comments below.