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News Analytics Could Improve Media Targeting

There are many ways to determine the best media outlet to target for publicity. One of the most common approaches is to target publications based on the size of the audience reached. The newspaper with the largest circulation is more coveted than the local paper. Sure, you can also target by geography, demographics, or other options, but the most common approach is still one of mass communications – reach the greatest number of eyeballs in one fell swoop.

What if you could target media outlets based on which journalist has the most influence over the audience you’re trying to reach? What if you could tap into data on breaking news cycles to position your expert at exactly the right time for the most influential media outlet? What if you had instant access to data on the outlets that cover the topic you’re pitching most frequently? That’s exactly what startups like Media Cloud, a system that tracks hundreds of newspapers and thousands of websites and blogs, is working on.

I learned about Media Cloud in an interesting article in The New York Times the other day about tracking news via cyberspace. The article analyzed some of the news tracking systems that have been created, and the potential for these systems to provide all of us with a lot more data about news coverage across all outlets (traditional and new media).

While the core functionality of these systems is to analyze news coverage to determine trends, it’s obvious that these services could have applications in the practice of public relations – particularly media relations. While there are strengths and weaknesses in any of the solutions out there today, all provide some level of intelligence that could be useful for media relations professionals.

One of the most interesting questions raised in the article is whether or not the majority of online discussion represents elements of original voices, or rather is an “echo chamber” repeating news and views from other sources. Once fully developed, solutions like Media Cloud could help increase the value of media relations services for agencies, providing clients with actionable intelligence in real-time about news coverage around any issue. Sure, there are some solutions on the market today that partially deliver on this promise, but few have access to tools of this caliber.

Another interesting capability of these systems is to pinpoint the origination of a story (who wrote about it first), how quickly other news organizations picked up the story, how many organizations wrote about it, etc. You could get this data from services that have been around for years, but it could take you hours (or days) to compile this type of information. With these new intelligence systems, you have instant access to real-time data.

I think the most exciting component for a media relations professional would be having access to data on who has the most influence. It could be a long-time beat reporter from a major national daily, or it could be a Twitter user with 70,000 followers. This type of data could redefine media targeting for media relations professionals.

Want to take a look at some of the services mentioned in the article? Here they are:

  • Media Cloud – created by Ethan Zuckerman and his colleagues at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard
  • MemeTracker – developed by Cornell University researchers, MemeTracker maps the daily news cycle by grabbing repeated quotations from one million online sources
  • News Coverage Index – Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism’s news coverage index is human-powered, with a team of researchers compiling reports with data culled from 55 outlets (a useful alternative to computer-powered indexes, possibly more accurate at capturing sentiment)

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