The past few years have seen rapid growth in the technology and applications of GIS, which let users intelligently analyze geographic and demographic information. Companies use, normally, such systems to make decisions about real estate, such as where to acquire property to gain access to customers in certain locations. But can this technology be of use to a national newspaper’ newsroom?
USA Today was a pioneer among publishers when it used GIS to analyze the 1990 census data. Since then, the newspaper has used GIS to create maps published in the newspaper and other cartography functions, routing analysis for newspaper delivery and customer targeting in circulation management. “We have tens of thousands of outlets, and an analysis of the sales data there, combined with foot traffic and vehicle traffic patterns, has helped us optimize USA Today’s distribution,” says Paul Overberg, database editor of USA Today in McLean, Va.
Overberg believes GIS applications will soon extend to areas such as optimizing resources in the flow of materials from one end of the country to the other. The newspaper, which has a daily circulation of 2.1 million, has 35 printing sites throughout the country. “We have thousands and thousands of tons of paper moving through the country every minute of the day,” Overberg says, but in the future, GIS could help make that process more efficient.
Clearly, USA Today’s experience example shows, GIS has come a long way in recent years. Exactly how far will be clear when Overton and speakers from several other companies, present case studies of how GIS and related technologies are transforming their business operations at a symposium in Philadelphia this month. Organized by the Wharton GIS Lab and Directions magazine, the symposium, titled “Location Technology & Business Intelligence,” is scheduled to be held on May 10 and 11. The goal, according to its organizers, is to foster a deeper understanding of “how companies have benefited from information systems, business intelligence, and database technology that support geographically referenced data.”