Newspapers and location: Going out with Gowalla

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.

Users who follow the Statesman and its entertainment site, Austin360, on Gowalla can complete trips that give virtual pins as rewards.

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.

- Robert Quigley

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Entry Filed under: foursquare,future of media,Location,Newspaper

  • Drew Carls

    I think it's great the Statesman and Austin360 are adding to the Gowalla fun.

    What's interesting, I think, is where we see location-based services supporting local business (via social sharing by users), other partners (in this case the Statesman) supporting local business with tours and local business getting (free?) exposure to these “highlights”. Is this the new way to “recommend” a business or locale? And, the multiple revenue streams I think that will be created as a result (Gowalla to business; business to Gowalla sharing other businesses) will be interesting to watch play out.

    Thanks, Robert, for keeping us updated. Look forward to reading more developments.

  • Robert Quigley

    Drew – all great questions that I think will be answered in the coming months/years as this plays out.

    We are excited about this collaboration, and we think there are a lot of possibilities for future growth.

  • Sharif Durhams

    We would like to do something like this, but we can't even get Foursquare to return our messages.

  • Misty

    This is an exciting collaboration! I would also love to see QR-codes in the Statesman, as well as other publications, so I can get more information from the articles and features I read. Check out the local QR-code mobile technology company, Pervasive Tags. I think they are on the right track, and we will see this technology in publications in the near future.


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