Wick Communications

Leveraging local expertise

In Innovation on 18 Aug 2011 at 2:24 pm

A few weeks ago, I got an email from Spencer Nassar. Didn’t know him from Adam.

Spencer, it turns out, is a local guy who is a principal of GatheringPoint. His company scrapes existing data – from Wikipedia, Twitter, government traffic monitors, and all kinds of other places – and plots it on a Google map. Users can customize their searches to display only what they are interested in.

It’s a little hard to imagine, but if you look at the GatheringPoint map that is now part of our site, you’ll get a better idea.

Long story short, I loved meeting Spencer. He offered to give us the code to plop a map on our site. As in for free. We did a little brainstorming and decided to brand it “Walkabout” in keeping with our existing “Talkabout” Web forum theme. …

Perhaps what I like most about the technology is that it was developed locally – by a couple of guys literally a stone’s throw from our office. I probably wouldn’t have responded to Spencer had his email come from Yahoo or Google corporate offices. I want to keep our site local.

With a lot of help from Spencer, we were able to customize his product to dovetail with one of our stories. We produced an overview of beach safety issues up and down our coastline. We enlisted Spencer to plot our information on the map so that users can scroll over symbols on the coastline to see which beaches are likely to have lifeguards, which have treacherous currents, etc. Then we teased the online map in our print edition.

The map is long on potential. We plan on geotagging our stories so that they show up as points on the map – at the spot where the action takes place. We may one day offer “daily deals” through our advertisers, all plotted on Walkabout. In fact, there is no reason why we couldn’t plot all of our advertisers, either as a value added to their contract or at a premium.

None of it would have been possible if I’d simply deleted Spencer’s email or given him a polite “no thanks.” There is a lot that we — that I — don’t know about online marketing and news delivery. Perhaps you, too, have savvy partners in your backyard who would love to show you what they are doing.

— Clay



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