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Seeing map display for local Google News stories
Robert Charlton

 8:19 pm on Jun 9, 2010 (gmt 0)

I'm not sure whether this has been mentioned before...

When viewing a local news story in Google News, I'm seeing a Google Map display (in the right hand column, with the ads) for additional local Google News stories.

I was just checking out news of local election results, and noticed the feature. The other suggested stories... suggested by little red flags... were not necessarily election related. They were geo-related by area.

Not to make light of this particular example, I saw one flag in a local cemetery, and sure enough, when I checked the story it was an obit.



 10:27 pm on Jun 10, 2010 (gmt 0)

I wonder if you could provide some screen-grabs of this?

Robert Charlton

 7:20 am on Jun 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

First, to clarify the location of the map (which may be ambiguous from my post)...

It's on the newspaper site, not in Google News itself. In particular, it's embedded in the "Bay Area & State" news story template of SFGate.com, the San Francisco Chronicle's online edition. The Chronicle covers the entire SF Bay Area.

I wonder if you could provide some screen-grabs of this?

At last discussion, links to screen grabs were discouraged by WebmasterWorld linking policy, but I'll check into it.

For the moment, I'll provide a direct link to the news story, which is non-commercial and non-partisan, and also some links to other SFGate regional pages with news maps.
(Local Forum Mods... please feel free to delete the links if you wish.)

I'd searched Google News for [alameda elections]. Alameda is both a small town on an island and a larger county, and the news story was about the county elections. The county offices are in Oakland, in the East Bay region of the San Francisco metro area.

The map on the news page... towards the bottom of the story on the right... may turn out to be more informative over time than the screen grab... at least as long as the regional SFGate template doesn't change and break the reference. I'll describe what we're seeing for future users just in case....

Runoff likely for Alameda supe seat

Note that the flag on the map for this story pinpoints the location described in the story's photo caption fairly well...

"Its one of the slowest I've ever seen," elections judge Claire Smith said at the Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church on Tuesday in Oakland.

Also note that the local Alameda County news stories flagged on the map are changing over time. At the moment, eg, there's no obit pinned to the cemetery, as there was when I first described seeing this. The cemetery is the large gray area just south-east of the green Claremont Country Club, at the top of the currently-displayed map. The map shifts position to accommodate the text-balloon identifying the news story, and you can refresh the map by refreshing the page.

Here are several other links to other local area or neighborhood pages within SFGate. The maps in these pages locate the "Local Headlines" and are in the middle of their pages...

In Alameda - here Alameda the town, on the island

In the Mission

In Contra Costa

The maps are all "Powered by Google". Don't know how the geo information is entered, but it would be interesting to find out.

The other localization features and ads on these pages are worth looking at, and they suggest that some newspapers may figure out (in partnership with other suppliers) how to use local yet. I've long felt that local papers, including the free local weeklies... have been sitting on treasure-troves of information not touched by any of the local search engines, but not making good use of it.


 3:31 pm on Jun 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

These maps appear to be generated by using the Google Maps API, which allows one to pinpoint locations using GMaps infrastructure.

So, it appears to me that sfgate site has programmed to associate local story headlines with locations, and used the Google Maps API to display it graphically.

Robert Charlton

 6:59 pm on Jun 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

Google Maps API

Yes, that was my thought after posting. There was a moment when I imagined text content within the story might be analyzed for the map, but that's too fanciful.

I'm assuming some sort of form input at SFGate when the story is entered into their system, where "meta data" for the story is entered to cover geo-location, story type and classification for display and archiving, etc... perhaps even long and short headlines... some data for SFGate's own use, some for the map displays.

Google Code - Google Maps API Family

It's extremely likely that Google is archiving the data as well for delivering geo-personalized references, historical references, etc, on its own products. From what I can tell on quick research, there are no geo-specifiers built into the Google News feed itself....

Local news in more places
Google News Blog
March 27, 2009


My emphasis added...
Local news sections let you keep track of current events in your area. We analyze every word in every story to understand what location the news is about and where the source is located. The top stories for a given area will be at the top of your results, and our rankings also take into account a publication's location to promote local sources for each story.

The Maps API data would give Google much more information than it has from news story analysis... and over time is one more thing to assist calibration of all systems.


 9:12 pm on Jun 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

It's powered by pointslocal.com (I know that because there's a little blurb at the bottom that says "powered by pointslocal" ;-))

Looks like they have a couple of different products to aggregate "hyperlocal" information.


 12:58 pm on Jun 20, 2010 (gmt 0)

Hey - saw this yesterday - I'm actually with Pointslocal. We're doing natural language processing on article text (we're reading all sfgate articles and about 200 other sources in the Bay Area). We extract addresses, landmarks, places of interest, etc. and geotag the articles (we also tag for topics).

We're on a few other newspaper sites (Boston.com, TBO.com and some smaller ones), but we're interested in (and working on the interface for) making our map widget available to smaller publishers (bloggers, etc.)... Happy to answer any questions if you guys have any.



Robert Charlton

 10:28 pm on Jun 20, 2010 (gmt 0)

Hi emschlein, and welcome to WebmasterWorld.

We extract addresses, landmarks, places of interest, etc. and geotag the articles (we also tag for topics).

I'm impressed. Does this mean no form input or meta data at all, as I assumed might be necessary?

Also, are there any writing guidelines at these newspapers, that would make the articles more "mapping friendly"?

Is the data used to power other localization apps as well, or does each app supplier extract its own data? I noticed a bunch of different local applications, apparently from different suppliers, on various local landing pages in sfgate, which made me think the data might be provided by the newspaper.

And, if you're at liberty to comment... I assume that Google is building a place, time database to provide data to various search types over time (eg, they might eventually have a timeline for place). Is your extracted data shared with Google when you use the maps API, or does Google extract its own data for these hypothetical future searches I'm positing?

Or both? ;)


 12:06 pm on Jun 21, 2010 (gmt 0)

Hey Robert -

While there is an interface for publishers to add or edit addresses and tags, the vast majority of what we pick up is from free-form text - without giving away our secret sauce we use a combination of pattern recognition and linguistic magic to ID addresses, places of interest, etc. If newspapers use standard styles for address entry that certainly helps our confidence on extraction.

In addition to the map visualizations the data we tag is used to build collections of content that can be filtered by locations (city, neighborhood, proximity to a current story, etc.) and/or topics and/or source. Editors can tweak those collections to present prioritized views of stuff if they like.

I'm not sure exactly what page you were looking at but we have a few ways that partners can integrate our stuff - javascript widgets, AJAX, widgets, hosted pages, our XML API - and depending on that they can mix and match it with other local apps.

Other than the map mashup, Google isn't really providing anything. In terms of SEO though, partners can take the XML stream of data and use it in proper metadata fields to give Google geodata about individual stories (and additional topic info).

Hope this is helpful...


 6:51 am on Jul 1, 2010 (gmt 0)

I didn't observe but i will check now.

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