Get all newspapers from around the world on to a single page? Impossible, you say? Try saying that to Marcus Asplund and Carl Wedefelt from Gothenburg in Sweden.
They have gone ahead and created a ‘newspaper map’ website, an interactive one that allows you to filter results by region or by language. In a navigation model very similar to Google Maps, you can also go walking around various locations to see which are the leading newspapers in the region.
In a exclusive interview to Gulf News, the creators said that a well written piece is the key for readers to engage with the paper. The publisher on his part should not be afraid of having long, well-written pieces on their websites.
Contrary to popular opinion, most people like to read a good story from beginning to the end - if the story is long the reader stays longer, they say.
Q: How did you come across an idea for a site like this?
A: It was more or less coincidental. Out of curiosity we were researching those famous pictures of sinkholes in Guatemala that were all over the newspapers.
There were a lot of discussions regarding their authenticity, etc. So, in trying to get a local perspective on events and perhaps clear up some questions, we looked up local newspapers in Guatemala. In a Spanish paper in Guatemala City we found an article.
As it was in Spanish and I am not that familiar with the language, we ran it through Google’s translation by cutting and pasting the url. What we found was a very well-written editorial about the pictures.
It focused on, and criticized, international media for just boasting about the spectacular pictures (and, yes they were authentic) and paying less or no attention to the causes of the latest sinkhole, the tropical storm Agatha, and it's consequences.
For Guatemala it meant 152 casualties, 100 people missing and huge costs for rescuing and rebuilding, needing international help. It was accompanied by a picture, not of the sinkhole, but instead illustrated the consequences of the storm.
That was entirely a different perspective.
During research we found out that most sites listing international newspapers were designed a long time ago. They were difficult to find, difficult to navigate in, poorly curated and maintained with up to 25 per cent broken links.
And by looking at a list it is a bit difficult to visualise where the actual newspaper is situated.
We found one South African news map (http://muti.co.za/static/newsmap.html) which displays snippets from Yahoo news while clicking on a country.
When clicking on Sweden that day the only story was that of a deep-sea fish that was found on the Swedish west coast. Just a curiosity piece and not really newsworthy.
And we checked out lots of others. Then, we began to develop our own app.
In short, an app where we indexed every newspaper (or in some cases other sources like radio, TV, websites) with original editorial content.
Then we geo located and plotted those on a map and provided a one-click link for a Google translated version.
In most cases Google Translate works out really well to get an understandable version of the content, at least from and to the widely used languages.
Q: At this moment is it only possible to have a newspaper's website access in Newspapermap.com. Are you planning to create access in pdf?
A: We do provide links to a lot of papers in pdf format; many Chinese, Arabic, Hindi newspapers are in .pdf or similar formats.
The formats have their pros and cons:
* Sometimes they are necessary to be able to read on-line without having special character libraries installed.
* They are not directly translatable. (Sometimes it is possible to select the text on the pdf, cut and then paste into Google Translate (http://translate.google.com/).
* Also, reading a pdf that is a copy of a printed newspaper is a totally different story than reading an on-line news site, as it has a beginning and an end.
* It is somewhat easier for a publisher to package, redistribute, motivate a reader to pay for a pdf copy than on-line content.
* It is not as interactive as on-line news sites; you can't update or add comments for example.
Q: Is there a need to make your site profitable?
A: Both of us have full-time jobs and for now we are maintaining the site in our spare time. We also aim to keep it both free as well as ad free.
We do have thoughts of different business models, but we do believe that the more you give, the more you get back.
As we would like to be able to spend more time updating the site, we have applied for some contests as we are planning to add a donate feature to the app.
Q: Are there more feature you are thinking to introduce for the website?
A: We will add a lot of features this year; add and correct data, tweak it for a faster and better user experience, translate the user interface to more languages. It is now in English, German, Japanese, Spanish and Swedish.
We are planning to release in Arabic, Persian, Chinese, Hindi, French, Portuguese and Indonesian soon.
We will add list search, news search, add more historical newspapers, and add a lot more interactivity in the app. It takes a lot of time though.
Q: How do you see the future for the journalism?
A: As we have browsed almost all newspapers in the world and read a lot about them, we have some thoughts about this.
A journalist has to get paid and many newspapers are struggling for survival as their business models erode.
Cuts and layoffs are made throughout of the world. This is a huge problem for both journalists and journalism.
As we have seen in the recent ongoing rumble in MENA, as well as other places, a lot of journalism - in terms of movies, recordings and testimonies - are made by regular citizens, sometimes called street journalists.
This is all good, as in many cases regular journalists have not been present and, of course, this is a lot faster way of reporting.
But still, good journalism is still best made by a really good, and properly paid, journalist who is given the time that it takes to write a good piece.
And well-written pieces will never go out of fashion.
Many publishers struggle to keep their readers to stay longer on their sites to generate more exposure as well as click on ads.
Reading my morning paper takes me about one hour in all; when I go to their website I maybe spend a minute or two there before moving on.
That is a huge difference. Many publishers are too afraid of having long well-written pieces on their websites. But I think that is a big mistake.
A well-written piece is a key for readers to engage with the paper, to spread the word, etc.
Most people like to read a good story from the beginning to end; if the story is long you stay longer.
Spending more time and getting more satisfaction is generating more exposure to ads, which generates more revenues for the paper and in turn is good for journalism.
Of course it's not that simple, but our strong belief is that good content comes in first, second and third places.
As for iPad and other apps, they are just platforms with a limited lifetime; these platforms are continuously evolving and many publishers have spent too much money developing something that's out of fashion straight after release. Or are unnecessary complicated.
The Newspaper Map was developed by Marcus Asplund and Carl Wedefelt from Gothenburg, Sweden.
"We call ourselves Great Name. In June 2010 we came up with an idea of an app with easy access to all newspaper sources in the world.
All news is local news. We would like to give people quick and easy access to these."