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A few ways journalists can use Foursquare

March 1, 2010

Foursquare's "male" logoI gotta admit: I was pretty opposed to Foursquare when I first heard about it. I’m an absolute social media nut and have hardly found a social network I didn’t like (or at least have a brief love affair with) but Foursquare just kind of weirded me out. Updating strangers on my precise location?

I got over it, though, because…well, everyone seems to be signing on to Foursquare these days and I’ve always said Be where your audience is. (Besides that, keeping your location visible to just friends is pretty easy if you read the instructions.)

If you’re a little foggy on what Foursquare is, here’s a verbose explanation from Mashable (I couldn’t find a video that I thought was good and I don’t have time right now to shoot my own).

I had a greater goal with Foursquare when I started using it about a month ago, which was to see how I might be able to use it as a journalist. In this, there is a lot left to be desired, but (See my additional links.) Foursquare’s young and I think everyone can appreciate the huge potential that it has for businesses in general. Here are a few of the things I’ve zeroed in on so far:

Entertainment and Food Reporting

These are the obvious ones. If you’re an entertainment reporter or a food critic, you’re going places and, moreover, you’re probably reviewing places. Foodies have probably already discovered Yelp, Zagat and CitySearch, but Foursquare is another way to publicize your content. You can leave little Twitter-ish messages at locations and tack links onto them, which would be nice if you, say, reviewed a restaurant and checked in there with Foursquare:

My Foursquare check-in at Kiss Cafe in BallardFinding sources

Part of Foursquare the game is that it crowns you the Mayor of a location if you’re the person who’s checked in there the most. That could be handy to a reporter who’s writing a story about a particular place, but doesn’t know where to start with sources. Sure, our reporter could go down to that place and hang around talking to random people for a half hour, but why not start with the person who hangs out there the most? (Note: This is one of the areas Foursquare comes up short. Users can add links to their Facebook and Twitter profiles, but if they don’t, there’s no one-to-one messaging system to contact people with.)

Geotagging everyday news

Again, this is just another place to add everyday news content. Check out what the San Francisco Chronicle is doing with Foursquare—their page (custom built, via their partnership with Foursquare, by the way) is kind of like a city scavenger hunt with links back to reviews, profiles, etc. that they’ve done on various locations. They’re not the only ones doing it, either.

I’ve been a huge proponent of Google Maps in the past—that is, contextualizing news by showing where it’s happening—but Foursquare lets you take it a step further by mapping news with a social network. It’s almost the reverse of using Google Maps: Whereas Google Maps goes on my site and shows people where something is, Foursquare shows my friends where this place that they’re interested in is, then says, “Oh, hey, if you’re interested in that, you should check out this story that I wrote about it.”

Further reading

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Nathaniel Miller permalink
    April 12, 2010 8:39 pm

    Your first paragraph feels like words taken from my mind. I feel the same way, although I’m warming to the journalism applications of Foursquare.

    I wanted to throw out another possibility:

    Could you pinpoint witnesses to a crime or an event by searching for who checked at what time and where? That could be helpful if tradition methods of finding eyewitness accounts come up short.

  2. April 13, 2010 8:00 am

    @Nathaniel – It’s certainly possible, though it would depend on how secretive people were being with their check-ins.

    I think of greater value, at least right now, is the opportunity to leverage Foursquare as a more personalized way to interact with news content—and what’s more personal than giving people information about the exact location they’re standing in? Check out these two posts:

    3 Ways News Organizations Can Leverage Location-Based Social Networks (OMNT)

    Foursquare’s New Frontier: Newspapers (Mashable)


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