The Bay Area is full of amazing places with fascinating histories. (Our Local Intelligence column gets at one of them each week.) But when you’re out and about, how do you know whether the park you’re sitting in used to be a haunt of Mark Twain and two feral dogs, or whether the building you’re looking at is a copy of a former German airport terminal and showed up in an Indiana Jones flick?
But if you’re one of the more than 3 million users of the location-based social network Foursquare, you could have a way of accessing all those juicy factoids exactly when they’re relevant. All we have to do is provide them for you.
Foursquare’s tips feature is a way to deliver geo-specific nuggets of information to people about the places where they are. The Bay Citizen could use it to transmit trusted, useful information about historical and cultural sites in the Bay Area — to people who are at those places.
It’s not an altogether new idea. The New York Times used Foursquare to deliver recommendations on restaurants, attractions and shopping during the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. You can follow brands like Zagat, MTV and the NHL on Foursquare to get their tips. A Pennsylvania tourism agency is doing something similar. Thrillist already provides restaurant and bar recommendations in the Bay Area.
I think The Bay Citizen could take it a step further, by doing what we already do well as a nonprofit, civic journalism outlet — that is, highlighting the most interesting and useful information — just with a location-based twist.
And Foursquare doesn’t really need to be the delivery mechanism. We’re currently developing a Bay Citizen mobile app; perhaps location-based tips could be part of that technology.
Either way, as Internet-news guru Rob Curley said in his talk at last week's Society of Professional Journalists conference, “It’s less about getting people directly to your site than getting your site to the people. Go where they are.”
People are certainly on Foursquare. And they are out visiting the wonderful places we’ve got here in the Bay Area. Why not combine the two to provide a new service?
This idea is only in the brainstorming phase right now — no promises! But I’d like to hear from Foursquare users, Bay Citizen readers and Bay Area folks in general. Is this a service you would use? Can you think of a better way to do it? Let us know.