New Tool Helps Publishers Find National Stories to Localize

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Knight News Innovation LabA new application unveiled by the Knight News Innovation Lab at Northwestern University promises hyperlocal publishers a new, efficient means of story generation. Currently available in beta, Local Angle offers publishers and editors the platform to search for locally relevant news across the national wire.

Local Angle relies on Google News to aggregate current news stories, AlchemyAPI to extract and identify names listed in those articles, and finally DBpedia to pull in a geographical tie using that newsmaker’s Wikipedia-listed birthplace or a company’s headquarters. Readers scrolling through New York’s page could click through to an ABC News piece on Tom Cruise’s childhood and recent divorce with Katie Holmes, given the actor’s upbringing in Syracuse, N.Y., or an “America’s Got Talent” recap piece in Rolling Stone, given judge Howard Stern’s residency in New York City.

The idea behind the application — developed collaboratively by computer science PhD student Shawn O’Banion, faculty member Larry Birnbaum and other Knight developers — is to offer publishers easy access to story ideas that not only may they have not otherwise heard of, but also story ideas that are generally quick to generate on the Web, satisfy consumer demands for quasi-daily content and can be monetized via ad sales, according to Rich Gordon, one of the founders of the Knight Lab and a professor and director of digital innovation at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism.

Although Gordon expects publishers and editors to be more interested in the application than consumers, the point of releasing the beta is to find that target audience and what kind of delivery caters to them. He envisions that if the product were to be marketed to consumers, it would likely need some form of alert mechanism, whether it be an email alert, newsletter or Twitter feed, built in.

“At this point, it’s probably of greater value to a publisher than to news consumers,” Gordon told Street Fight. “A publisher has a motivation to check regularly to see if there’s news about someone connected to their town, whereas the average consumers — the odds that they’re going to go check this page every day for the town that they care about probably are somewhat lower.”

Moving forward, Gordon said, the Knight Lab will consider making the software open source, licensing the software to a particular publisher — such as AOL’s Patch or a chain of newspapers — or licensing to a startup who could then build a business around Local Angle.

Patrick Duprey is an intern at Street Fight.