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Published on November 28th, 2012 | by EJC


Topsy Pro Analytics: Harnessing The Firehose In An Emergency

In the last few weeks we have featured digital tools that can help journalists better understand the social dimensions of crises and disasters. This week we take a look at Topsy Pro Analytics, a social analytics platform that could help journalists be first on scene during events such as uprisings or outbreaks of violence.

According to a whitepaper by Topsy Labs, it is possible to pinpoint “accurate predictive signals for events about to occur” by monitoring activity surrounding specific keywords on the social web. The only catch is that you have to know where to look.

Once you have a hashtag or topic though, the platform can not only graph how many times it has been mentioned and by whom, it also reveals “what people are most commonly saying about it,” said Wired’s Mat Honan. Using the related keywords produced by responses to measure ‘share of voice’, the user can see the impact of communication around these keywords over time and thus determine the likelihood of something occurring within the group of terms.

“Knowing what’s happening on the social web is important for all organizations and can have particular importance for media organizations who need to stay on top of breaking events. With Topsy Pro Analytics, users can instantly identify, quantify and understand what people are saying on the public social web. Media organizations get an edge by quantifying trends, optimizing content and being able to anticipate breaking events.” - Jamie de Guerre, VP of Products, Topsy

The platform can also assist in the critical phase of verifying information or content and assessing the credibility of those at the centre of the online conversation. In the context of covering a crisis or disaster this is particularly important for two reasons: to dispel false rumours and to identify potential sources of reliable information. Using the ‘Discovery’ tab the user can  find ‘Experts’, defined as “Authors who talk about the current topic, sorted by frequency of tweets and the author’s influence level.” For example, a search for the most influential twitter users using the term ‘earthquake’ in Japan in the last year bring up @newearthquake, @earthquake_jp and @zishin3255 (an early warning bot).


Screenshot: Topsy Analytics Pro

Another way to quickly find out more about a piece of content is input its URL into the search bar. This will bring up the timeline of sharing activity, including when it was first tweeted, how many times it was re-tweeted and by whom. Knowing the  origin of the information, image or video may help the journalist to decide whether it is worth pursuing.


Screenshot: Topsy Analytics Pro

According to a business developer at Topsy Labs, one of the features that journalists already using the platform find particularly useful is ‘Topics’. This allows the user to save a specific search and keep track of issues that may become newsworthy in the future. It is also possible to set an alert to inform the user when a particular topic is trending above a certain level. While some have raised concerns about journalists becoming too dependent on such tools to find stories, it is important to remember that this is not an end in itself but more of a digital supplement for the traditional ‘nose for news’. Journalists whose responsibilities include covering a volatile or disaster-prone beat may be thankful for the extra warning this platform can provide.

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