June 3rd, 2010
This morning, the Austin American-Statesman began a collaboration with Gowalla, the social media startup that uses GPS-enabled phones to help people explore their cities.
A few larger media outlets have taken a similar plunge, including the New York Times and Wall Street Journal with rival service Foursquare, and the Washington Post and National Geographic with Gowalla. It was an easy match for the Statesman because Gowalla is based in Austin, and the Statesman has been pushing the envelope on social media for years.
If you haven’t tried Gowalla or Foursquare, the whole idea of “checking in” to a location seems rather absurd – much the way Twitter likely sounded absurd when you first heard about it. However, we now know that Twitter can be used as an effective tool during breaking news events. That point was driven home in Austin during the plane crash into the IRS building. It’s way too early to tell whether Gowalla, Foursquare or any other location-based network will truly hit the mainstream – or be an effective tool for journalists beyond fun marketing.
So what does the Statesman expect to gain from this deal with Gowalla?
* It is very good for marketing. Gowalla is entertaining and addictive to use, so it’s great to have our brand associated with something fun.
* It’s another way to get into mobile devices. The news industry has been trying hard for the past couple of years to go mobile, building iPhone apps, better mobile sites and using Twitter and text messages. This is yet another way to seamlessly put our content and news into smart phones, which weaves our news into the fabric of our city.
* It is a way to get our foot in the door. If this does take off, we’ll be in a good position to do much more with it.
For its part, Gowalla gets exposure and content, two things it needs as it pushes back against not only Foursquare, but Yelp, Facebook, Twitter and others who are jumping into or are already in the location-based field.
We’re starting out with eight Gowalla trips, but plan to expand with more trips and eventually other creative ways of melding our content into Gowalla’s application. It’s a good start – and it’s fun.