Tuesday, October 04, 2005

News mapping

Steve Outing has been singing the praises (here, too) lately of CNET news's beta redesign.

But something he hasn't mentioned, I don't think, but that I think is one of the site's great innovations is its newsmap. Called The Big Picture, it shows links among the story and subject you are reading about and many related items, creating its own interwoven Web. (Not all stories have this feature. The one at left is from a story about Microsoft's security strategy that carries a Big Picture newsmap with it.)

And this isn't golly gee new stuff. For instance, there is Marcos Weskamp's now-venerable map that tries to put some visualization on Google News, and NewsIsFree has had a portfolio of news maps available. Smartmoney.com has had its Map of the Market for several years. The defunct but digitally preserved Mappa Mundi had a nice article on it. Siftology has been peddling its own version of making the news visual to media companies.

And all these pale in comparison to some of the data-mining applications that "real" businesses have been using for years. As an example, see Anacubis (now part of i2).

News organizations need to start deploying these kinds of programs more widely inside and outside the newsroom. While we've all been fussing over the pros and cons of news Web site navigation, I wonder whether something like this could help provide the answer.

And we're dang slow (stop me if this surprises you) getting this into our newsrooms -- at least as far as I know, and I keep in touch with quite a few. Cost is one thing; these tend to be propriety systems with large price tags. But lord, if you want to talk about being able to manage the knowledge flowing about your newsroom and recapturing a significant chunk of the 90 percenet you pay to gather but that leaks away (or that you pay to gather twice because there's no obvious communication between the original gatherer and the person who needs it now), maybe it starts to make cost-benefit sense.

I predict, hopefully, that within two years newsmaps will become much more common on news sites and in newsrooms.


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