When news breaks, many social media platforms and tools can show you the "who," "what" and "why," but the usual keyword or hashtag searches often make it hard to zero in on updates from the spot where the news is happening.
Social media tool Geofeedia curates posts coming from user-specific locations, culling content from Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, Picasa or Instagram. Newsrooms that subscribe to Geofeedia can use the platform to find all the social media activity happening around a specific area. The results will show up in real time as soon as 30 seconds after they were originally posted.
Reporters can use these posts to get on-the-scene info from afar, to reach out to sources for a first-person account of events or to find user-generated content to feature on a news site.
When users on Twitter or other social media platforms identify their locations, their subsequent updates contain geographical coordinates, making services like Geofeedia possible. With smartphone penetration on the rise worldwide, location data are becoming more ubiquitous.
Geofeedia lets reporters search by location, keyword, time frame, social media platform, user and other terms. Because the results are unfiltered, it's still up to the journalists to verify the information.
You can choose to view the results in two forms, either on a map or in a collage view that shows a timeline of posts. You can also create Geofeeds, permanent timelines streaming in all the posts around a certain town, city or region. You can even draw your own search perimeter directly on a map and save that particular search for future reference.
The BBC has used Geofeedia to gather user-generated content for several breaking news events, including the Los Angeles International Airport shooting, the Boston Marathon bombings and Hurricane Sandy.
The platform is also useful for covering high-profile events that aren't breaking news. For example, the BBC used Geofeedia to provide an interactive, first-hand account of former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's funeral procession through London in April.
The drawbacks: You can only use Geofeedia to search content from the past seven days,and there is no free version available. Newsrooms or individuals can purchase a day pass for US$49. Small newsrooms (with 50 or fewer staffers) can purchase annual access for US$3,000. Larger newsrooms pay US$6,000 per year.
For more information on how journalists can use the platform, check out Poynter's NewsU webinar.
IJNet Editorial Assistant Margaret Looney writes about the latest media trends, reporting tools and journalism resources.
Image: Screenshot of BBC's interactive coverage of Margaret Thatcher's funeral procession.