How do social networks fit into news gathering?
As Martin Langeveld reported on Nieman Lab, "the traditional social network just doesn't work when it comes to news" as Luke Stangel said.
Luke Stangel is the coufounder and chief marketing officer at Tackable, a Palo Alto-based startup tackling this problem by building a standalone social network that "organizes media on a map."
Tackable is an iPhone app-based social network focused on geotagged news photos and captions.
"The Tackable vision is that when breaking news happens, you'll be able to use the app to zero in on the location on the map, and see whether network members have posted photo, video and comments, without needing to have a previous relationship with those people", the article reported.
Tackable has two iPhone prototype apps live in the App Store at moment: The Spartan Daily (designed for the student journalists at San Jose State's daily newspaper) and a general Tackable app. It's doing alpha/beta testing on both.
With the intention of cooperating with news organizations in the use of user-generated content, Tackable is partnering with MediaNews Group and specifically with one of its papers, the San Jose Mercury - Damon Kiesow reported on Poynter. They are trying to figure out how the app would fit into the paper's workflow.
Langeveld also reported that MediaNews Group is providing the company with incubation office space and it is also paying development fees for a product specific to its 650,000-circulation Bay Area Newspaper Group (BANG), to be deployed as part of an ambitious suite of new digital tools related to user-generated content.
According to Kiesow, MediaNews is expected to start using the app within two months, with a consumer version available soon after.
A similar version of the app is that created with the San Jose State University's student newspaper, the Spartan Daily, as previously noted.
The base functioning of the app is:
- A news editor makes a photo assignment
- People who have signed in can accept assignments and submit images via their iPhones and add captions
- Users completing the assignment get "Karma Points" that could be turned in for merchandise or services (as for restaurant meals)
- It's not necessary - anyway - to chose an assignment, as there is a "News Flash" page to post photos of breaking news events
- Submitted images are geotagged and presented on a map within the app and on the Web.
In the general public version, users will also be able to send each other queries requesting photos of specific places or things, Langeveld reported.
Langeveld also underlined that Tackable has something in common with other location-aware social tools such as Foursquare - they both incorporate game mechanism to encourage user engagement. And as far as its concept - Kiesow pointed out - it is similar to Intersect, a Seattle-based social storytelling service, which enables users to organize their stories into story lines that they can tag with a place and time to create an "intersection." However, although Intersection uses an iPhone app, its service isn't mobile only.
So, what exactly is Tackable? Is it simply an app or a social network or a game (as there are points to collect)? Is it a citizen journalism, a crowdsourced or a proper journalism tool?
It describes itself as a mobile photojournalism platform launching in early 2011 across 34 newspapers in the San Francisco Bay Area, through which reporters and editors create photo assignments, which readers, who also send in live, breaking news photos, helping reporters write better articles faster, complete using their smartphones.
Cofounder Stangel is a former journalist and a Nieman Lab article reported that Tackable grew out of some of his newsgathering frustrations: "I was writing a lot of breaking news stories, and I was doing a lot of thinking about how information was getting to me, and how long it took for information to get to me. I would wake up every morning with the feeling that something had happened overnight that I didn't know about. So I started thinking about how I could solve this", he said.
Undoubtedly newsrooms could benefit from the apps receiving breaking news from where the news is happening and they could immediately show it on a map. In events like the Egyptian uprising the potential of a live stream of images is very wide.
But this exactly is journalism? Shouldn't journalists leave their desk and go to do this themselves where the news is happening?
The use social media is making of news is not clear. As Mathew Ingram noted on Gigaom, Facebook has disrupted or helped to re-engineer many businesses and markets, including the photo-sharing market and the social-gaming market. But one thing it hasn't really focused on so far is the news business.
News organizations are developing their social media strategies and apps are surely have changed, are changing and will change the way we read articles and consume news.
Which way social networks will follow regarding "the socialization of news" is still not clear however.
As yet, Facebook itself hasn't done much to capitalize on that, but it could probably engage itself in the race, against Twitter for example, to make the news social, as some comments from chief technology officer Bret Taylor, seem to suggest.
The relationship between social media, apps and journalism is thus not well defined so far. What will be the next step?