A Bird’s-Eye View of Brownstoner: Mapping Local News


    Humans are spatial beings. We’re hardwired to understand our world in terms of physical space. We find maps intrinsically fascinating, and they enrich our understanding through spatial relationships.

    In a world where local news is more accessible than ever, BlogMap and Blockfeed are two sites that take advantage of modern software to plot stories by neighborhood. It makes sense locals would want to browse news not only by theme or publisher, but by location.

    “The physical location of news is important to a local news reader, which is why it makes sense to present it on a map,” Blockfeed co-founder Ben Goldman told Brownstoner. “Some readers may only be interested in local news from a very specific place, such as around their home or office. A map frees you to explore news in this way.”

    BlogMap’s creation was, surprisingly, inspired by Brownstoner. “I actually built BlogMap because I’m a big Montrose Morris fan and found it difficult to find similar content when I left Brooklyn for grad school in Philly,” Jake Colleran, the creator of BlogMap, told us.

    These blog-mapping sites add another layer of information, visually articulating patterns and truths about a neighborhood. For instance, on BlogMap, Downtown Brooklyn has the most articles linked out of any Brooklyn neighborhood, while Canarsie has very few. Not coincidentally, there are more development projects, jobs and residences in Downtown Brooklyn than there are in Canarsie.

    Similarly, Blockfeed maps illustrate that there is significantly more real estate reporting in Brooklyn and Manhattan than in Queens. This can then be parsed to reveal that Brooklyn and Manhattan have far more ongoing construction sites than Queens does — and more change means more media.

    Mapping reveals high turnover of local businesses or a booming real estate market in some areas, “more culture and music news” in Williamsburg, and crime in other spots, said Goldman.

    “But just in general, there seems to be a correlation between the density of news in an area and the hotness of an area,” he said. “The more news a place gets, the better it’s doing (so long as it’s not crime news). It’s pretty fascinating to surf the city’s news on a map, and provides a much different news reading experience than most people are used to.”

    BlogMap pulls in URLs and titles for new content through RSS feeds automatically. But there’s actually a fair amount of manual labor involved, Colleran told us. “The tedious part is getting an address for an article because it’s seldom included in RSS. I generally have to find and enter addresses manually.” The app then geocodes the address so the point can be located on the map.

    BlogMap scours nine local blogs for its Brooklyn maps. Blockfeed uses 200 sources for all the areas it covers. Both BlogMap and Blockfeed have mapped Brownstoner articles — see if you can find them.

    Birds Eye View Brownstoner MapBirds Eye View Brownstoner Mapped

    [Photo: Ben Goldman of Blockfeed, left, and Jacob Colleran of blogMap, right. Photos via their respective Facebook pages]

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