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News startups turn to geolocation to better serve readers

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News startups turn to geolocation to better serve readers

Clothilde Goujard | August 11, 2016

In 2008, Eduardo Acquarone was reporting on the Amazon rainforest for TV Globo, a major television network in Brazil.

With 200 million people, Brazil is a vast, populated country —  but only about 10 percent of its population actually lives in the Amazon. People knew and heard about the region’s issues, but Acquarone said they couldn’t connect. So, he started a project plotting all the forest fires in real time on a map.

“Just by geolocating the fires and the events in the Amazon, many people felt closer,” he said.

His idea worked. Users got a better understanding of the destruction of their country and register “virtual protests.” More than 54 million registered. The project got even bigger and was nominated for a digital Emmy. Acquarone now fully realized the power of geolocation and interaction.

“I started to think if people care about something that is very far away, they should care even more about our day-to-day world,” he said. “So I started to think about how geolocation could help news in cities or when we travel, when we walk or when we live, basically.”

Michal Meiri, an Israeli entrepreneur, also noticed media organizations needed to get closer to their audiences and allow them to interact with news. She thought the idea of sharing a simple link to a story was outdated, especially now that users are increasingly sharing content on messaging apps.

Her idea is “to rethink the user experience and make it much more personalized, because we want to make sure the user experience fits with those [messaging apps],” she said. Her goal is to let the audience interact with the article — draw on it, add some comments, put stickers. She compares it to what Snapchat Discover is doing.

Mobile phones are disrupting the media industry and changing how audiences over the world are getting their content and sharing it.

“We carry devices that know a lot about us and know exactly where we are all the time, so why not deliver news, information and content based on who we are, what we like and where we are,” said Acquarone.

His startup, Flying Content, plans on doing just that by allowing media to push content based on where their audiences are, a bit like Pokemon Go. Acquarone said he thinks geolocated news could allow media to repurpose articles or “old news” they already have paid for. In his opinion, that could be very interesting for companies — as in the 24/7 news cycle, content gets old very fast.

Acquarone, who studied entrepreneurial journalism at CUNY in New York, remembered reading a New York Times article about how the famous location got it name. That article had been written in 1904. Acquarone liked the article about Times Square. But it was not The New York Times that suggested he read it; he had to find that article. Nowadays, we still search for content, and he said it depends on the user to get the content he or she wants.

“We need to know what we need to push to people,” he added. He wants media organizations to be more proactive.

Meiri’s company, Lemmeno, wants to provide better analytics about messaging applications to media organizations. Based on what the readers engages with in the article — which quote they underlined, which sticker they used, etc. — Lemmeno will analyze the reaction.

“If [readers] engage with a particular image or sentence, we can say this is the most engaging piece of content in this article,” she said. “So when you [the media company] move to other distribution channels, make sure you use this piece of content.”

Both Lemmeno and Flying Content gained attention during the Global Editors Network Summit in Vienna in June.

Meiri is now traveling between Tel Aviv, London and New York. Her six-person team is currently working with a major U.S. publisher, which she can’t disclose. She said she hopes to launch Lemmeno in September.

Acquarone is working with TV Globo in Brazil and expects Flying Content to be ready for WordPress websites in two to three months.

Main image CC-licensed by Flickr via Justin.li.

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