Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Media Cloud, MemeTracker, and PEJ

I've written here about Media Cloud before, but thought I'd revisit since the August 4 New York Times profile. To review with the assessment of NYT writer Patricia Cohen, Media Cloud "tracks hundreds of newspapers and thousand of web sites and blogs, and archives the information in a searchable form. The database at mediacloud.org will eventually enable researchers to search for key people, places and events--from Michael Jackson to the Iranian elections--and find out precisely when, where and how frequently they are covered...the findings, which can be graphed or mapped, can demonstrate the evolution of a report and variations in coverage." Harvard law professor, Yochai Benkler, sees Media Cloud as the "next generation of tools that actually look at what people are saying," as opposed to the fairly exhausted method of link analysis which can only track what sites people click on and infer influence from that.

But the main reason I bring up Media Cloud again, and this article in particular, is that the article mentions some other media trackers on the block, namely MemeTracker (from Cornell University).

MemeTracker builds maps of the daily news cycle by analyzing around 900,000 news stories and blog posts per day from 1 million online sources, ranging from mass media to personal blogs.We track the quotes and phrases that appear most frequently over time across this entire spectrum. This makes it possible to see how different stories compete for news and blog coverage each day, and how certain stories persist while others fade quickly.

Click into their website to see a colorful graph showing the frequency of the top 50 quotes in the news and blogs over time, during the U.S. presidential election. These findings come from a paper by the creators of MemeTracker that, according to the NYT, "was hailed by experts as a landmark piece of work."

J. Leskovec, L. Backstrom, J. Kleinberg. Meme-tracking and the Dynamics of the News Cycle. ACM SIGKDD Intl. Conf. on Knowledge Discovery and Data Mining, 2009.

Another news-coverage index cited in the NYT piece is the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism, which tracks leading media outlets.

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