The newspapers still (relatively) flush with money should do the right thing and invest in researching how people, and their readers, use technology. Thankfully, the Boston Globe isn’t sitting on its hands. It’s invested in a good-looking lab that features a raft of interesting technology.
The Globe has the right to feel it’s ahead of the curve, technologically speaking. BostonGlobe.com is a nice site, even if it’s under a dreaded paywall. It was also honored with an award from the Society for News Design that basically equates to “Best Damn News Website – Period,” thanks to a responsive design setup. They also won kudos for their fancy way of integrating maps and data into the site, such as that used in their feature about mislabeled fish that Design Director Miranda Mulligan was eager to show off. It’s clever stuff.
The Lab’s other tech serves as a cool way to monitor what readers are doing. Joel Abrams was keen to show off a clever way of mapping tweets and showing how sharing links among users can really take off. Chris Marstall liked to show off a set of screens that maps Instagrams taken by people around Boston.
But where does all of this fit into the newspaper’s business of reporting? Their ability to answer that question was pretty much summarized by a trio of TV screens in the newsroom that monitored tweets and replies to the paper’s handles. Slowly, different forms of technology are working their way into the newsroom. But it looks like it’s going to be some time before all of the interesting mapping and social media analysis is going to make it into the newsgathering process, and that’s a shame.