ITN.co.uk has started using Google Maps technology to pinpoint news stories for users based on their current location.
The mashup is the result of a partnership between ITN and Google, using Google's 'Gears Location API' which pinpoints a user's mobile or wi-fi access point and serves news based on that location.
A version of the service is on the ITN website now. It's pretty basic at the moment, and needs plenty of work to make it more usable. For instance, you can search by location or postcode but there aren't enough stories on the map to make this worthwhile.
This is the case for most areas, London excepted. When ITN has plotted more stories on the map, as well as making the interface more aesthetically pleasing, this could be a service worth using.
A better method of finding local news can be found on other news websites, particularly Gazettelive.co.uk, which covers the North East area.
The Gazette Communities area of the site is an ultra-local news section which provides news and blogs at postcode level so you can find out about events in the immediate area.
The local level of coverage also provides advertising opportunities for small businesses alongside articles. It's an excellent feature which deservedly won an AOP award in 2007.
Trinity Mirror, which launched Gazette Communities, is also trying a Google Maps / news mashup in beta on its Liverpool Echo website:
This may only be a beta version, but in terms of looks and functionality, it works much better than ITN's map. It can be manipulated more easily and the search function works better, though loading times need to be speeded up a little.
More importantly, while ITN's mashup was let down by the scarcity of news stories on offer, there are plenty of local items on here.