WSJ Experiments With Location-Based News

Checking-in at a venue around town with the Foursquare mobile location app could now come with a thought provoking payload: a news link related to the place you’re at. The Wall St. Journal announced today that as a part of its new focus on covering New York City, links to Journal stories about various locations will now be offered as tips when Foursquare users check in.

Some media observers have been critical of the partnership, focusing on the addition of a few new WSJ-related badges that Foursquare users can now add to their collection. That might seem like an underwhelming feature for a media giant like the Journal to add, but the addition of location-specific, hard news stories as tips is a very intriguing experiment that could point to a big new future for news. It also looks like a lot of fun.

Previous Foursquare media partnerships have been limited to delivering lightweight content like nearby restaurant reviews or stories about Olympic competition in Vancouver. The Journal is inserting good and bad news, though.

Check in at the Mark Hotel on East 77th and you’ll see the following, with a link to full coverage: “This 83-year-old landmark property’s $200 million makeover is facing deep financial woes. Note the top-floor suites, which the hotel is struggling to convert into private residences.”

Hanging out at Goldman Sachs HQ? “The SEC has sued Goldman Sachs for fraud related to sub-prime mortgages and the collapse of the housing market. Goldman is fighting the charges.”

That’s pretty cool. Of course lightweight tips about baseball games and museums are included as well. A representative from the Journal tells us that the tips are added by hand (not automatically) and that the company is very interested to see what will happen when nearby breaking news starts intersecting with check-ins.

The company recognizes there’s a risk of cognitive dissonance, we are told. People probably aren’t expecting to hear about terrorism when they check in to a bridge or other location that’s had such things reported about it. Augmented reality, as it were, isn’t always pretty when it’s good.

If this experiment proves successful, we can only hope the idea will be expanded on by these companies and others. From public records, to social media to archival and current news stories – there is a rich depth of information tied to locations in any city that new tools could help unlock.

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