Monday, April 05, 2004

Somewhere in the next decade, and perhaps sooner, if you work in a newsroom there's likely to be a "map" in your future.

I'm not talking here about the plot-the-data-with-GIS-and-create-pretty-graphics stuff that's become the rage of newsrooms, but about "newsmaps" -- the way you literally see the stories and newsfeeds come into your computer.
The way we do things now is inefficient -- line upon line of incoming or queued stories, with little real ranking as to importance. It runs afoul of George Miller's "Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two," the widely cited article that, to simplify, suggests that when we handle things linearly, our ability to process the information is severely limited.

Your current editorial system might distinguish wire copy marked "urgent" from that marked "regular" or "advance," but I'm not aware of any that truly show you the importance and flow based on criteria you (or those above you) have set. A "map" changes that. For an example, go to's "Marketmap." You'll instantly get a broader and richer grasp of what is happening on the stock markets.

Some early attempts at newsmapping looked more like topographical maps -- not overly useful in a newsroom. But now developer Marcos Weskamp has come out with something very much like Marketmap, "newsmap," that uses the Google News aggregator to produce a representation of the moment's stories and the intensity of coverage for each. It's a little clunky, but keep an eye on it.

If you combine this idea with AP's goal of delivering its "stream" in a way that puts all the multimedia elements on the desktop (see my March 12 post on that), this takes on some significance. There really may be no good way to deliver multimedia content so that editors can efficiently manage without some sort of "newsmap."


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