The purpose of this report is to introduce Trendsmap, a new Twitter-based tool, to 21st century media journalists. This report will aim to investigate how Trendsmap can assist journalists in finding and creating the news that people want to hear about. Concepts of social media news and citizen journalism, which are core components of Trendsmap, will be discussed to address the issue of the changing nature of journalism and journalism practices in this new century for media professionals.
What is Trendsmap?
Parr (2009) describes Trendsmap as an online tool that is the combination of Twitter, Google Maps, and What the Trend. Trendsmap gathers the topics that are trending from Twitter and places them on a map according to the geographic region of the Twitter users involved with constructing the trend. Like most social media tools, Trendsmap is constantly changing and updating, particularly in terms of incorporating more languages, locations and tweets (Barratt, 2012). This will aid Trendsmap in becoming a greater universal tool, so that more tweets can be processed to give a fairer representation of what is trending around the world.
In relation to media professionals and the news industry, Trendsmap offers opportunities in assisting in the journalistic practices of topic and information selection and gathering. Marshall (2011) states that as Trendsmap organises tweets according to their geographic area, the tool can assist journalists in searching for stories in their region, which would otherwise be problematic and highly time-consuming via Twitter or other social media sites. LaMothe (2009) believes it can also serve journalists in judging whether a particular story will be well-received or not. Here Weaver and Dehghan (2009) present a screen cap of Trendsmap in the news piece to reveal how prominent the student protest in Tehran is trending on twitter. In this case, the journalists have utilised Trendsmap as a means of communicating the magnitude of the event, although Trendsmap also has the resources to help construct the article itself through information gathering.
How Trendsmap Works
Trendsmap is an easily accessible and simple tool to use, which allows basic navigation around the page and quick word searches to learn what is trending around world. This section provides a brief outline and instruction of these and other features of Trendsmap.
Figure 1: The world map can be zoomed in or zoomed out, and scrolled (just like Google Maps) to explore what is trending in different locations. The icons next to the scroll allows the user to view their city, region or the world view.
Figure 2: Trending topics vary in terms of their popularity (i.e. how many people are tweeting about it, or how often the topic is being tweeted), which is given by the shade and size of the trend on the map. The popular trends are indicated by the darker and bigger banners, pushed in front of other trends.
Figure 3: A location or current topic can be selected in the search bar which will focus on a particular location, to learn what is trending in that area, or a certain trend, to learn where the topic is trending, and what is being said.
Figure 4: If a city or country is searched, Trendsmap reports all the trends in that location, including the highest trending links, videos, images and people, to a single web page.
Figure 5: If searching a particular trend, Trendsmap shows you where exactly in the world it is trending, and also provides images, links and the latest tweets related to the trend in a sidebar right of the screen.
Why should journalists know what’s trending?
In a time when it is often more common for people to discover news from Twitter and Facebook before reading about it in a published article or through a news broadcast, citizen journalism is often viewed as an opponent to media organisations (Goode, 2009). However, Goode insists that media organisations must accept that the growing prominence of online social media, and the significant role is has to play in the transforming field of journalism.
Goode (2009) argues that citizen participation in creating and spreading news through social media should not be considered independent and separate to the traditional form of journalism. He states that social media user-generated content should be incorporated in journalism practices in constructing news stories, especially in the case of agenda setting. In traditional news-making, the journalist and other media professionals, as gatekeepers, have the power in deciding what events should or shouldn’t be reported and what details should or shouldn’t be given (Shoemaker & Vos, 2009). However, media organisations must now focus on reporting what is making news in social media if they want to retain their news audience (Lee-Wright, Philips & Witschge, 2011).
It may appear to some that the increase of user-generated content is diminishing the value of professional journalists, as this information is just as accessible to anyone online as it is for professional journalists. However, Lee-Wright, Philips and Witschge (2011) state that this growing user-generated content does not ease the journalist’s custom duties associated with news-writing. Traditional journalism practices, such as finding sources, gathering information and selecting the important information, are all still essential practices when social media and user generated content are brought into the mix, given the endless amount of information that is continuously being published online. The public may have the ability to search news through social media, but it is the journalist’s filtering of information in presenting the important details and adding a new perspective to the story that justifies the value of media professionals for news creation.
Trendsmap Affordances and Constraints
In this section, the affordances and constraints, defined as the properties that enable and limit action, respectively (Hutchby, 2001), will be discussed and analysed according to Trendsmap’s core purpose, it’s functioning and operation, and its role to the field of journalism.
The most apparent affordance of Trendsmap is in its capability to allow the user to view trends according to geographic regions. This allows users to search for what is trending in their local area, and journalists to learn what is of concern or interest to their news audience. Twitter may allow the user to view what is trending, but it does not tell you where it is trending, and with over 140 million monthly users, it would be impractical for journalists to attempt to locate local trends. However, Trendsmap bases its geographic categorisation of trends on the locations specified in Twitter user profiles, and not on the actual physical location of the person. This would result in inaccuracies of the location of trends in cases where the person is tweeting while on holidays or, for any other reason, in a different location than the said profile location. And, presumably, Twitter users that have not disclosed their location on Twitter, due to privacy reasons, would not be accounted for by Trendsmap, resulting in further inaccuracies.
Another affordance is visible in Trendsmap’s operation in real time. Tweets are processed as soon as they occur anywhere in the world, and are classified to a certain region and trend. This proves a beneficial feature to journalists, as breaking news is often revealed through Twitter. Thus, when large events occur, journalists will be informed from Trendsmap immediately. The con to this affordance, however, will become visible to journalists that wish to store and save particular tweets, as Trendsmap never pauses due to the constant barrage of tweets that are processed every minute. Trendsmap only presents very recent tweets to a trend, so to gather more information and history on a topic, one must visit Twitter or another source to gather this information.
A purposive constraint of Trendsmap is the visual design of overlapping trends on the map, as the popular trends are positioned in front and above the other less popular trending topics. It is evident that higher trending topics are pushed to the front of the screen because the creators of Trendsmap propose that these trends are more likely to be of interest to more people. However, quite frequently what is highly trending on Twitter, is not of any real relation to real world news , and significant events that are affecting real people are trending much lower and are nearly invisible to the user. Consequently, the dominance of the highly trending topics on the map that overlap the less popular trends may lead to journalists overlooking significant events and information. Particularly in cases of events that affect fewer people, or in smaller regions or cities, this would definitely be the case, and many newsworthy events would go unreported.
Another constraint of Trendsmap is its lack of personalisation with each user, because unlike many social media sites, Trendsmap gives no such consideration to the user’s interests or history. This is supported by the fact that there is no sign-up account or Twitter account necessary to access the tool, so no data or memory can be saved. Thus, the trends that appear on Trendsmap are the same on every computer screen, as they are purely presented according to the popularity of the trend in the Twitter world. The pro to this constraint, in regards to journalism practices, is that news audiences are given a greater role in setting the news agenda. However, this constraint can also prove an inconvenience to journalists that are assigned to report for specific news sections (e.g. sport), as filtering of news would have to be done manually.
Example: Trendsmap & The Guardian
It should be noted that Trendsmap can offer more to journalists than just the background information and sources, as Weaver (2010) reveals in his real-time blog published in The Guardian. The blog presents numerous images, videos, breaking news stories and more on a timeline scale in reporting the UK cold snap, including a screen cap of Trendsmap featuring highly trending topics related to the snow storm covering the country. The Trendsmap image is used as an indicator of how wide-spread the event is, and its domination in the trending topics from the UK is revealing the high concern by individuals. The news piece benefits from the use of Trendsmap in delivering information that is of a high interest to the local news audience. Additionally, the live blog is well suited to Trendsmap, which too is working in real time in presenting the latest news updates.
Trendsmap and the news creation process
In conclusion, the Trendsmap is undoubtedly a unique and valuable tool for media professionals in their transforming news industry. With so much information spilling online continuously, and with the challenge of handling social media, journalists must recognise the growing importance of social media tools, like Trendsmap, if they wish to keep their news audiences and news industry alive.
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Robson another crushed dream as Stosur advances
Samantha Stosur will continue her journey to defend her US Open title after defeating young British hopeful, Laura Robson, in straight sets (6-4, 6-4) in the fourth round of the tournament earlier today.
The scorecard at the end of match did not give 18 year old Robson enough credit for her performance, having spoiled 8 of Stosur’s match points before finally falling in the ninth.
Robson’s performance was of a high standard throughout most of the match, and she fought valiantly to keep the game alive during Stosur’s numerous match points.
But in the end Stosur’s great form that has been visible all week helped her conquer yet another round in the Open as she makes her move to win her second US open grand slam.
For those unfamiliar with Robson’s journey in the US open, Stosur was yet another giant hurdle for the teenager in the tournament, after conquering former world no1, Kim Clijsters in the second round, and battling China’s Li Na in a tight match in the third round.
These unexpected wins had gained Robson much attention back home in England, with the country’s hopes for a grand slam win mounting once again.
But as it turned out, Robson’s loss against Stosur ended yet another one of Britain’s hopes in securing a Grand Slam win since the last female British champion in 1977.
“I think Laura is a very good player. She’s very young and she’s got a lot of years ahead of her”, said Stosur after the match.
“She hits the ball great and thinks things through. She’s one to watch.”
On the other hand, Stosur’s entry to the US open was much quieter, as the defending champion skimmed through her early rounds of the tournament without losing a set.
However, despite her quiet and comfortable entry into the Open, Stosur has been creating a buzz on social media sites, as the Trendsmap image reveals below, the twitter world is definitely awake with tennis supporters giving their commentary and support on Stosur’s performance.
Stosur’s real challenge is yet to come, as she is set to come up against world No1, Victoria Azarenka, in the quarter final.
Despite not having beaten any one of their previous 6 matches, Stosur’s untarnished journey in the US Open has placed her in the best position to take on Azarenka, and to take one step closer to winning the grand slam for the second time.