As visual communications tools are at last coming into their own on the Web, it is sometimes the simplest implementations of technology that can make the greatest impact.
Take, for example, Newsmap, a useful tool for measuring the balance of news coverage (www.marumushi.com).
Newsmap uses an algorithm from Google News to visually display how news is being covered at that very moment. The bigger the story, the bigger the space allotted to it on Newsmap. The tool allows the user to select different categories or to walk back through the archives to see how a news story has played out.
It might not sound like much of an improvement on Google News itself, but Newsmap is an example of using visual communications in a more powerful way than simply changing text size, says Brett Posten, creative principal at Ideocore, a brand launch consultancy firm.
"The simple truth is, I love to see what the media is making [of] a story," he says. "That kind of gives me insight into what news is getting covered and what isn't. I don't necessarily use it on my business every day, but when advising clients, I might have a better sense of whether we're giving them an angle that may be cold by now."
In an industry where media impressions retain their importance, the tool makes it simpler to see exactly how those impressions are coming through - over what length of time and in what frequency - making it easier to see if the story had legs.
Mark Sylvester, founder of the visual social networking site introNetworks, says sites like Newsmap and Thinkmap Visual Thesaurus (www.visualthesaurus.com) have begun to harness the power of visual communications tools in a new era.
"If you are going to present something to someone, you have to be cognizant of the fact that you have milliseconds to capture their eyes, or they're off," he says. There are plenty of potential ways to use Newsmap, Sylvester adds, noting that he'd like to hook the technology to PR Newswire to understand trends better.
Visual communications tools are becoming more effective and applicable to everyday use
Newsmap helps PR pros understand media trends
The technology allows pros to capture audience attention very quickly