Should News Apps Use Location-Based Services?

February 5, 2014 • Digital News • by

Of young adult smartphone users, a gap exists between how users consume information and news—and the technologies that news organizations are utilizing to convey it. The author of this study argues that a combination of location-based services and news are an ideal pair—and no longer just for the weather or traffic. Location-based services allow for the location of every story to be pinpointed. “Legacy news organizations analyzed in this study show that they are failing to keep up with the demand based on what news consumers, particularly young adults, are doing and using on their smartphones,” according to Amy Weiss.

Despite the rise of location-based news technologies with more than 5,300 apps and more than 2,300 news apps, no one has yet combined these technologies. Using location-based services would allow the users to search by what is happening in their neighborhood, as well as read a story that is embedded in a map.

This study builds from the idea of diffusion of innovation theory, which aims to describe how new media is adopted by users—which includes smartphones and mobile news applications. In order to study this, the article uses content analysis and a survey to look at the question of, “How are young adults using mobile apps on their smartphones?”

The researcher asks several questions to get at her result: “Are news organizations in the United States offering news with geo-location capability in their mobile apps?” “Are there any mobile news apps available worldwide that incorporate geo-location features?” and “What kinds of location-based services do young adults use via the mobile apps on their phone?”

In all, 1,989 students were surveyed. The researcher found that no news organizations (including television, radio, and print) utilized geo-location for news stories via their mobile apps, but that some of them used it for weather and traffic information. Despite this finding, there were others outside the U.S. that were using these technologies. One of those was the Postcode Gazette based out of the United Kingdom that used the technology for hyperlocal news. Also, the News Telescope, a prototype from Goldsmith University in London also plots news.

So how do young adults utilize their mobile phones? Ninety-two percent use smartphone apps to locate information on a map, 88 percent look at local weather, 82 percent use it to find local restaurants or other businesses, 66 percent use it for local news and other information, and 61 percent use it to find information about traffic or public transportation.

At the time of this study, 62 percent of smartphone owners used their smartphones for consuming news. From that number, 56 percent of adults sought local news on their phone, with 77 percent of those adults being between the ages of 18 and 29 according to Rosenstiel and Mitchel in “Survey: Mobile News & Paying Online.” It is during this time period that location-based applications were on the rise and provided new resources. Yet, news organizations were not utilizing them.

Information for this story comes from the article, “Exploring News Apps and Location-Based Services on the Smartphone,” by Amy Schimitz Weiss.

Photo credit: Danie van der Merwe / Flickr Cc

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