There has been a lot of talk about Geo-fillintheblank on this blog. Much of it is coming from me, so I want to take a second to bring things back down to earth (pun!). This post is about the old standard of information breakdown: separation by topic. Since “sections” are a typical feature for most, if not all, traditional news sites and newspapers, I don’t think I need to spend time trying to explain why topical categorization is useful in general. Instead, I just want to make sure we re-incorporate this navigational technique while making the mad rush towards new ways of distributing the news.
To frame the discussion I’ll speak in terms of the nonexistent giant multi-scoped aggregation system that I’m blogging about. I’ve already talked about how I think Geotagged articles should be accessible to readers through filtering, so I’m going to pretend that this functionality is there.
Let’s say I’m a reader who has defined physical regions of interest on this system so that I’ll never have to pick a story out by clicking on a map again. In fact, I’ve defined regions of interest in several places: my home town, my college town, and some parts of the world that I want to pay attention to for global news. Life is good, right? Well, almost; there are two big problems.
First off, even though I’m getting more personalized news, I’m still getting a whole lot more than I can take in at once. I would really appreciate a way to browse it that doesn’t involve looking at a list of 500 headlines. Just imagine if your local paper threw all the articles into a big hodgepodge without breaking things down into sections: you might have to read about local politics before being able to find the sports highlights; even worse, you might have to read the sports highlights before being able to find the local politics!
The second problem is that even though I’m being fed a list of articles that pertain to targeted regions of interest, I fired at that target using a metaphorical shotgun. There will be news of all shapes and sizes in those areas, and I can guarantee that I don’t want to hear about everything. For instance, if said that I care about London I’d be getting stories about pub robberies and local festivals. In some cases that level of detail is exactly what I want, particularly in the places I live or where family lives, but local news can be tediously specific. You might even say that it caters to a local audience.
It’s times like that where I would want a way to more effectively filter that news; readers should be able to get specific kinds of news for specific locations. Geotagging does the location side of things, but it doesn’t help with “type.” And so we see why Geotagging is not a substitute for topical tagging. As I always say in this kind of situation, the two are not mutually exclusive. For those of that don’t speak nerd, that is just an obnoxious way of saying that you can (and probably should) use both options.
If news is also tagged by topic and those topics are categorized into broader groups, then we can still get all the benefits of traditional sections. Also, we can add topical filtering on top of the existent geo-filtering. The result is more powerful than the combination of its parts; it is much more powerful for a reader to be able to request news about “New York’s garbage system” than it would be for that reader to say “I want to see news about New York” or “I want to see news about garbage systems.”
Just like last time, this hybridized filtering can be applied to any scope of news site. And don’t tell Geoff Dougherty, but I bet geo-topical targeting could even be used to further improve Chi-Town’s nifty new advertising system if it doesn’t already.
(This post pertains to a bullet point from Tapping the Potential of Geotagging – Incorporate proven organization schemes like topical categorization)