News organizations embrace social data in 2012 election coverage

News organizations are crunching social media data in creative new ways as they fire up new websites and apps for 2012 election coverage.

The latest to debut is The Washington Post’s @MentionMachine, a web app launched Tuesday that monitors Twitter and news media for political candidate mentions, “revealing trends and spikes that show where the conversation is and why.”

Individual profiles in the @MentionMachine show the recent trend in candidate mentions.

The @MentionMachine is also integrated in a toolbar at the bottom of any campaign story. For future updates the Post says it is considering “many ideas — ranging from integrating sentiment analysis, sourcing from more social media streams, creating public widgets to pulling paid search data.”

That first idea, sentiment analysis, is going to be important. It’s the difference between data (how many mentions for each candidate) and intelligence (what those mentions say about the candidates). Without that, it hovers as less than an analytical tool but more than a gimmick.

Speaking of gimmicks, ABC News recently released a stock-market style ticker that tracks the day-to-day popularity of candidates based on an opaque blend of punditry and social media sentiment. It’s a clever idea, but the lack of transparency about what drives it makes it of little serious use.

An example of what NBC News’ candidate-tracking Foursquare map will look like.

NBC News is about to release a more straightforward social tool, a map of where the candidates’ campaign teams check in on Foursquare. That tool, expected to launch this month on the new website, should illuminate in which states and cities the candidates concentrate their time.

Google is also getting into this action as well, in its familiar role as an aggregator of news and content. The search giant just launched, a powerful portal into what’s being written and recorded about any major candidate or issue.

In addition to news headlines, the Google site has a “trends” section that compares graphs of the volume of searches, news mentions and YouTube video views for each candidate over time. And it has a map plotting all the reports and videos in Iowa.

All of this marks a notable shift for media and politics. In the last presidential election, 2008, social media was seen largely as a campaign tool — a way to organize, message and motivate voters. That’s still true, but in 2012 we’ll also see a lot in the media about what the voters themselves say and do on social networks. Read more


NBC Philadelphia station reports the news on Foursquare

Lost Remote
The local NBC station in Philadelphia has started reporting news on location-based social network Foursquare. Initially, NBC 10 will pick one lead story a day and have a reporter check in on Foursquare from relevant locations and leave text and photo news updates. Later, this will extend to multiple stories and individual Foursquare accounts for each reporter. “Local news is truly driven by location and the act of checking-in further connects our audience to the news we deliver each day,” Chris Blackman, the station’s vice president of news, told Lost Remote. || Earlier: Wall Street Journal launches Foursquare partnership Read more

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Cincinnati Enquirer uses bacon to fight Foursquare for local audience with Porkappolis

The Cincinnati Enquirer plans to beat Foursquare at its own game.

The paper is rolling out a location-based services (LBS) app, Porkappolis, that will understand the city in a way national competitors like Foursquare, Gowalla or Yelp can’t, according to’s Brian Butts.

The basic functionality of Porkappolis is similar to Foursquare's check-in service.

The app, named in honor of the city’s former “Pig City” fame as a hog packing center, will offer the usual LBS features: check-ins at local businesses and other landmarks, digital badges and leaderboards for loyal users, plus a secret ingredient: bacon.

“Bacon” is the local factor that helps differentiate the homegrown Cincinnati effort from its national competitors. In Porkappolis “Bacon” is literally a tab within the app that provides relevant geo-targeted information to the user. Information, the paper believes, that is most effectively gathered and served by a trusted local source like the Enquirer.

“I can pull up Bacon and click a button and see where all the [closest] happy hours are,” said Butts. The tab will also include location-aware restaurant listings, news and a calendar of events from “It reeks of Cincinnati,” he said, “but in a good way.”

The app will feature locally themed badges such as “Chili King,” received for 10 check-ins at local chili restaurants and “I love Cincinnati” which is earned with 50 check-ins.

Porkappolis is a white label version of the DoubleDutch LBS app.  Butts, the Director of Digital & Technology for Enquirer Media, told me last week they had been working with the app developer on the project since August 2010.

The paper was planning an internal soft launch of the app earlier this year, but Jason Falls at Social Media Explorer caught wind of the project and wrote about it in December. Butts told me that coverage led to a post in a local Cincinnati blog, and the internal beta test turned into a still small, but public external test.

Porkappolis HTML5

An HTML5 version of the app is being developed for Android and Blackberry smart phones.

Butts said the app benefited from that early feedback and the iPhone version is now moving out of beta and is expected to re-launch in the iTunes store shortly. An HTML5 version for Android, and Blackberry phones, is also in development.

According to Butts, the city’s cellular phone market has traditionally been dominated by Cincinnati Bell, which did a brisk business in BlackBerry and, more recently, Android smart phones. The team at Gannett-owned decided the best way to serve that audience was to build a single Web app to serve non-iPhone devices.

Butts said part of the effort includes a planned trip to Cincinnati Bell to test the HTML5 app on the full collection of smart phones the wireless provider has on hand. “We hope to come out with a really good list of handsets that support it,” he said.

The strategy highlights an underpinning of the project: Know your audience.

One of the things they needed to do early on, Butts said, was understand local phone users and how and why they might use location-based information.

“We don’t want to copy Foursquare or Gowalla,” he said. So, “Is there something you can add to that equation, something to add to that experience” to make Porkappolis different?

Local is the key, Butts argues. “We will never be the local eBay,” he said. “EBay is the local eBay.”

But, “Has Foursquare or Gowalla reached that point yet? I don’t think they have.” Read more


Foursquare to compete for local users with content help from

Aiming to fight off “check-in” fatigue, Foursquare has signed a deal to provide local news and reviews to users of its location-based service.

Todd Wasserman reports the new partnership with launched Monday:

“Someone who checks in while in Manhattan will get access to reviews of local restaurants and news about nearby book signings, along with other information, says Suzie Austin, senior vice president of content and marketing for ‘It’s going to appear in local checkins,’ Austin says of content. ‘There will be reviews, recommendations, previews of concerts coming and it will tell you the best place to get a seat.’ “

In November, Foursquare founder Dennis Crowley told Danny Sullivan at Search Engine Land that checking in to become the “mayor” of a location would not be enough to keep users interested. He explained that, among other things, Foursquare needed to become a “what to do” guide. Initiatives such as the partnership appear to follow Crowley’s script.

And, while Foursquare remains a niche product — 4 percent of online Americans use check-ins according to Pew — the combination of local news and reviews, tied to an increasingly popular location-based service, bears close watching by local publishers. Read more


Cincinnati Enquirer launches Foursquare-like iPhone app

Social Media Explorer
The Cincinnati Enquirer on Wednesday released a Foursquare-like iPhone app that lets users check in, earn badges, win prizes and get “inside information” on local deals around town.

Called Porkappolis, the project is a white label version of the Double Dutch geo-location and social media app. Double Dutch has created similar apps for Arizona State University and Cisco Systems, among others.

Jason Falls calls the effort an interesting move into location-based services (LBS) by a local Gannett newspaper:

“It shows a traditional media outlet again thinking beyond the boundaries of the print edition and even of their website. The opportunities to monetize a locally-relevant LBS are profound. It’s a chance for local advertisers to serve relevant messages to a hip and trendy audience in an emerging platform, but one that is custom to their community.”

Also of interest is the Enquirer’s overall mobile strategy. The paper does not have a news-based smart phone or tablet app, though it has two mobile websites. So, the paper has apparently decided to focus its app efforts on information utility, rather than on simply repackaging editorial content.

And by using an outside vendor and a white label app, the paper was likely able to launch the Porkappolis app more quickly — and more affordably — than if it had been built from scratch.

The challenge of any local LBS effort is the modest percentage of smart phone users interested in “checking in.” But, the Enquirer’s app promises to include news and entertainment highlights as well as business deals. It will be worth watching to see if those local incentives will draw residents to add the app to their smart phones.

And the name Porkappolis? Falls explains it is a carryover from Cincinnati’s days as the “slaughterhouse capital” of the U.S., when it was known as Pig City or Porkopolis. Read more


National Post’s social media strategy reflects audience needs

Social Times

Canada’s National Post takes an organic approach to its social media efforts, starting small and responding to audience needs as the initiatives grow, reports Lauren Dugan.

Dugan interviewed Chris Boutet, a senior producer for digital media at the Post, who said the staffers’ interest in social media has given rise to the paper’s use of Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare:

“A group of us was using Foursquare last spring — checking in was fun, and we got into creating venues and playing around with it. A co-worker of mine even created my ‘soul’ as a check-in … and he’s they mayor of it today.

One day just sitting at the cafe patio talking about Foursquare, we began discussing how we could apply it to the product we create at the Post. Could it be useful as a news delivery tool?”

The Post now has an active community of 22,000 followers on Foursquare. The paper’s overall social strategy seems to fit the medium and the audience that it’s targeting. As Boutet says, social media is “constantly evolving,” and media companies can only keep up by listening to, and talking with, their readers. Read more


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