With the emergence of online media, engaging the new audience is absolutely essential. There tends to be an onset of ADD when someone sits down at a computer, clicking back and forth between social media, work, surfing the web and listening to music.
Because of this, I think mapping is a fun way to engage readers in an unconventional manner and inform them in a new way that’s more appealing to the web mentality. Each reader can have a different experience with interactive media based on their interests, which I think is invaluable.
The concept behind See Click Fix, a website where residents can report specific problems in their neighborhoods, is journalistic in the truest sense. It gives people an easy way to report civic problems instead of going through the usual channels of government, and in turn tells public officials what their constituents care about. Then, it enables journalists to see what are hot button issues in their range of coverage they may not have been aware of.
Also I think some interactive maps are the best way to portray certain information, that may be weird as a story. For example, this Wall Street Journal map shows the top 50 circulation papers in the country, what their largest problems are and what has happened to them over the past 3 years. This is perfect for the web because it is targeted, and something that would be a straight numbers story. Also by having the chart below with the same information displayed in a more traditional way, the WSJ enabled more traditional readers to get the information they want.
My only problem with mapping is when it isn’t well done or purposeful. I think it can look like you are trying too hard if the map doesn’t give an experience a reader couldn’t receive in a more traditional fashion. This National Geographic map of America’s best adventures is boring at best. All you can do is click the dots, and once you do a picture, vague headline, and link to the story is all that is provided – which redirects you to a brand new webpage. By doing this, I don’t think the reader gains anything more than if you made a list by region or state.
With more innovative and original ideas, I think mapping has a lot of potential in online media, but the industry needs to be purposeful when using this medium.