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Al Jazeera America’s Sandy Interactive is Smart and Poignant

sandymapAfter seeing talk of this Superstorm Sandy interactive about a week ago, I’m just now getting around to taking a close look at it. Basically, Al Jazeera America’s (AJA) Jared Keller and Dominica Lim created an interactive map inviting anyone affected by Hurricane Sandy to tell their stories using text, photo and video. This is one way AJA plans to recognize the devastating storm’s first anniversary and offer context as part of its continuing Sandy coverage.

“With the anniversary of Sandy approaching, we’re inviting Al Jazeera America audience to share memories of the experience — moments of shock, fear, companionship, inspiration, resiliency — that remain with us today,” Keller and Lim wrote.

Readers can email Keller, fill out a form on AJA’s site or tweet their stories and photos with the hashtag #SandyStories to be considered for publication. As the submissions roll in, AJA has been plotting the map with stories represented by dozens of people impacted by the storm along the Eastern seaboard. The interactive is emotionally powerful, but also an astute move by AJA.

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Meograph Launches New Features For Its Four-Dimensional Storytelling Tool

Meograph — the site that lets you mashup stories using video, maps, text and links– launched a new set of features, making it a more promising tool for newsrooms.

Geo optional: One of my earlier qualms with Meograph is that it required the use of a map, making the tool completely unusable for a story that has no significant geo-location elements, but does have the other elements of timeline and multimedia. Now, Meograph is “geo optional,” meaning an increase of potential use cases.

Browser support: Playback of a published meograph, which always worked in all browsers, continues to work. But now you can create a Meograph using the author back-end using any browser as well.

Launch of the journalism page: Meograph’s new journalists page guides news organizations through how to use the tool. The page lists benefits for news orgs.  Soon, they’ll be adding journalism-specific content and hopefully usage examples to this page, so keep an eye on it.

Overall redesign: Since the last time we wrote about Meograph (when it was still in beta), the app has gotten a huge facelift. See before and after screenshots below. Although the redesign is mostly an aesthetic improvement, as a third-party embeddable tool, it’s important that the design you’re embedding onto your news site is clean and elegant. On our wish list (which we’ve mentioned to the Meograph team): the ability for newsrooms to easily customize the colors and theme of the player.

Improvements to the back end: In addition to being more browser compatible, the back end’s interface has seen some improvements. There’s a beautiful drag’n drop interface that lets you slide content around and easily add new elements. It’s extremely easy and intuitive to use.

Engagement stats: We also finally have some numbers about meograph’s effectiveness. According to the company’s CEO, Misha Leybovich, about one-third of viewers watch embedded meographs and spend 2-3 minutes longer engaging with a page that has an embedded meograph.
The tool is still free at this point. You can see more demos of news usages on their demos page.

AP Launches Zoomable World Map

The Associated Press debuted its own custom zoomable world map today, which you can see on their first project with it — a world map that locates all active nuclear sites in the U.S., pictured below.

Michelle Minkoff, Interactive Producer for the Associated Press, told me this about the map via email:

“We are using our own worldwide HTML zoomable map for the first time today. AP Interactive has used other mapping systems in the past. We’ve had other worldwide maps and other zoomable maps in Flash. We also did two experiments with HTML zoom mapping in late 2011, but those were limited to the United States.

But this new system provides a more thorough base for some of the mapping projects that will come out of AP Interactive, and be distributed to customers.  That being said, it’s just the beginning, and we look forward to growing our capabilities.”

The tools and libraries they used to build the map:

You can read Michelle’s full post about the project on her blog.

A Data Visualization of U.S. Newspaper History

A few weeks ago, I shared a link to the coolest way to visually see what’s news around the world. Now, here comes an interesting way to see what was news. Well, rather, who was covering the news and when in the U.S. It’s a data visualization of newspapers past. And it’s pretty cool, if somewhat depressing.

The Rural West Initiative at Standford University created the map by plotting the U.S. Library of Congress catalog of newspapers (140,000 publications??) over time and space. These are the results (click to see the real maps).

Through the sidebar content as you scroll through the timeline, you get a feel for the different “eras” of newspapering, from the colonies to the frontier to yellow journalism and merger mania. It’s actually somewhat encouraging to read about the journalism crises of decades/centuries past. Being a journalist these days can see like you’re in the worst of times, but really, newspapers and journalism is just constantly evolving, and as you see in the map, it ebbs and it flows.

If nothing else, you’ll find interesting bits of local history when you zoom in and discover who was covering your town. You might be surprised how many newspapers small cities used to support.

(Found via Freakonomics blog.)

A real-time, geotagged Flickr map? Here’s how.

When reporters are in the field with their smartphones and they have a story to tell where both photo and location are vital, a stream of Flickr photos imported into a Google Map will do the trick.


In light of Los Angeles’ recent Carmageddon, above is a geotagged Flickr map of the empty 405 highway.

For example, if you have a reporter covering a huge parade, a bike tour, travelling along the coastline, taking a wine tour across the country, or you want to collect reader photos from a highway closure — really, the use cases are endless — an easy way to get interactive, live content from the field is through a Flickr map. And, you can accomplish it all from email, with no extra apps or training required. Read more

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