Why news organisations should start thinking seriously about their data

I don’t often post a simple link-and-quote to another post these days, but Martin Belam’s article on the value of linked data to the news industry is worth blogging about. In it he makes the clearest argument I’ve yet seen for linked data. First, the commercial argument:

“Pages [on a non-news BBC project using linked data] are performing very well in SEO terms. They sometimes even outrank Wikipedia in Google when people make one word searches for animals, which is no mean feat … And the ongoing maintenance cost of organising this wealth of content is reduced.”

Second, the editorial one:

“Let us picture a scenario where each school has a unique canonical identifier, which is applied to all Government data relating to that school. Or – more likely perhaps – that we have mappings of all the different ways that one school might be uniquely identified, depending on the data source. Now picture that news organisations have also tagged any content about that school with the same unique or a similarly interoperable identifier.

“Suddenly, when a newsworthy event takes place, a researcher within a news organisation has at their fingertips a wealth of data – was the school failing, had the people involved been in any coverage of the school before, does the school have a ‘history’ of related incidents that might build up to a story. We have here a potential application of linked civic and news data that improves the tools in our newsrooms.

“And just because we share some common identifiers for data, it doesn’t necessarily mean producing homogeneous content. It is perfectly possible to imagine one news group producing an application that works out the greenest place to live if you want your child to be in the catchment area of a particular school, and another newspaper to use different sets of data to produce an application to tell you where you need to buy a house if you want to get your child into school x, and have the least chance of being burgled. And then news organisations repackaging these services and syndicating them to estate agent and property websites as part of their B2B activities.”

(With a commercial flourish there). It’s worth reading from start to finish.

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