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Monday, February 16, 2015

How GIS Players are Getting the Word Out Beyond Our Industry

If you are interested in the daily news related to the geospatial industry and articles on its use across a variety of industries, you likely know where to look. Industry publications like Directions Magazine, GIS Lounge, GIS Cafe, Sensors and Systems, GIS User, Geospatial Solutions and others offer  press releases, interviews, and contributed and original content.

But what if you didn't know you should be interested in the geospatial industry? What if you are a banker? Or a social studies teacher? Or a fireman? How would you learn that this industry might offer solutions to problems you face in your work? That's the question communications staffers at geospatial firms are asking as they try to expand their current user bases. Where are they sharing their content beyond "geo"publications?

A Recap: Earned, Owned and Paid Media

If you are in the media or communications, you've probably heard about earned, owned and paid media. If not, it may be a trio of new terms.
Earned, Owned and Paid Media
(after: http://dejanseo.com.au/bought-owned-earned-media-types/)

Earned media is content created via influence. It's when a company like Esri convinces Forbes to do an interview with Jack Dangermond. Earned media is believed to be the most trusted form of media. Tough to do? You bet. Worth it? You bet.

Owned media is content an organization creates and publishes on its own print or online properties or those of others. Hexagon Geospatial has its own blog where it publishes stories several times a week. The company also creates press releases which are carried on a variety of sites, including Sensors and Systems. Tough to do? Not really. Tough to do well? You bet.

Hexagon Geospatial's owned media blog is titled Sensing Change.
Paid media is just what you think: when an organization pays to have its message told in a publication. The content might be an "old fashioned" advertisement or a "new fangled" paid article, something referred to as "native content." NetApp, for example, has paid for a series of articles [that are no longer available] about GIS in CIO Magazine. It's part of a larger series called Powering IT for Tomorrow [that are no longer available]. Tough to do? Not really. Tough to do well? You bet. Controversial? Somewhat. There are valid concerns that it is not always clear if the pieces are in fact paid, rather than earned.

What are Geospatial Companies Doing?

Geospatial companies are involved in all three types of these media. But there's another type of website where I'm seeing geospatial articles appear: specific sites or areas of sites set aside for contributed content. They include Wired Insights, LinkedIn, the Huffington Post's opinion pages, Buzzfeed and Medium. These are interesting places to post content because the contributor controls the message, but gets the publication's name associated with its brand.

Wired Insights is Wired Magazine's blogging platformUpdate: Wired Insights which was active in 2012, has since shut down. The last content seems to be from 2015. If you don't look too carefully, or are not familiar with it, you think this tweet is saying that Pitney Bowes published an article in Wired

A Tweet from Pitney Bowes

In fact, the post is on a Pitney Bowes blog hosted on the Wired Insights site. Anyone can post on Wired Insights, but there's a limit to how often and posts are reviewed (details). And there's more: "The best 2-3 posts daily are selected for promotion on WIRED.com/insights." That page, by the way, makes clear the content is contributed with blue "community content" flags. I think the blog pages themselves should sport them, too.

LinkedIn opened its publishing platform to all members last year.  Update: It was deprecated in 2015 and integrated into LinkedIn. Here are the latest "GIS" posts. Individuals fronting smaller companies are common. I've found SpatialIQ has been re-purposing its blog posts. Neill Jobe from GEO-Jobe GIS posts, too. His posts appear on GeoNet and Facebook, as well.  Matt Sheehan of Web Map Solutions hosts his blog posts (also published at GIS Cafe) on LinkedIn.

The Huffington Post invites thought leaders to blog on its site. Update: The blogging platform was shut down in January 2018. Thomas Fisher, a professor and dean of the College of Design at the University of Minnesota has been blogging on a variety of topics, including spatial ones, since 2011. Esri's Bill Davenhall also has a long list of posts on geomedicine. Pitney Bowes is represented in the UK edition. The New York Public Library addresses GIS, too. The "signature line up" of bloggers posting as I write on Valentine's Day includes Jeff Jarvis and Harry Shearer. Best I can tell, anyone with something to say and the ability to say it, will be considered as a potential blogger.

The Buzzfeed Community is where brands and organizations can contributed content on that well-visited site. Esri's brand site appeared there beginning in November 2013 with a story map of JFK's life. Update: Esri's last post there is from 2015 There are many other story maps but also some really "buzzfeedy" offerings like 17 Things You Can Only Do At Esri UC. Also interesting and perhaps instructive, is how Esri describes itself on Buzzfeed:
We study the way the world works. We show people how to use geography and technology—think uber maps—to make the world work better. Visit esri.com.
That's different than the company's other descriptions including this one:
Esri's GIS (geographic information systems) mapping software helps you understand and visualize data to make decisions based on the best information and analysis.
One of the 17 things you can only do at Esri UC and only find
on Buzzfeed.
Medium is a site to post and read contributed content. It's from the team that created Blogger, now owned by Google (and where this blog is hosted). What geospatial organizations are on Medium? NGA is and so is its Pathfinder publication. Esri ("Esri pursues mapping and spatial analysis with visionary products and services that define the science of GIS") reprints some of its publications as well as individual posts. Continental Mapping is there, too. Update: NGA is still posting; Esri stopped in 2016, as did Continental Mapping.

Where Should Your Organization be Publishing?

That's not an easy question to answer and to quote communicator Neville Hobson, "it depends." The good news about these community sites is they are:
  • free to use
  • measure your hits and visualize your connections
  • encourage commenting and sharing
  • are outside the geospatial media space 
The other news, that is, the honest news:
  • great content is still required
Need help writing great content? I'm currently taking on freelance writing and communications projects. E-mail me: adena@abs-cg.com