Boolean Basics: Curating powerful queries which do the work for you

Media monitoring can often feel like pulling needles from a haystack: thousands of new stories emerge daily, making it difficult to quickly and accurately sort irrelevant mentions from breaking news. Boolean operators like AND, OR, NOT are perfect for building precise, complex queries to make sure you get exactly what you’re searching for.

Putting together complex queries may seem like a headache but it’s surprisingly easy to reap the benefits that come hand-in-hand with specific, targeted queries. A well-written query will produce accurate, relevant data, which gives you better insights, helps you to make smarter decisions and will ultimately strengthen your business.

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At Streem we are focused on enhancing flexibility, and this flexibility begins with your search terms. Creating personalised Boolean queries means you can get the exact data you want whilst having the flexibility to change these as the news agenda evolves. So let’s get started:

1. AND

“AND” requires the media item to contain both sets of terms that AND refers to e.g. Chocolate AND Milk will find news that mentions both Chocolate and Milk. An article that says ‘I love Chocolate and Milk’ will be found with this query. Remember that AND must be capitalised.

2. OR

“OR” requires the media item to contain either of two terms e.g. Chocolate OR Milk will find web sites that mention either Chocolate or Milk (a much broader search than the “AND” operator). A media item that says ‘I just went shopping and bought some Milk, bananas, etc’ will be found with this query.

You can also use OR to include variations in the way that brands can be referred to or any common spelling mistakes for brand names e.g (Macdonalds OR Macdonald’s OR MacDonalds OR Maccas or Maccy D’s or MacDs).

3. NOT

You can easily remove unwanted keywords from your search by typing in “NOT”. “Chocolate Milk” NOT Strawberry will find web sites that mention “Chocolate Milk” but not strawberry. As with AND and OR, NOT has to be capitalised.

Most Queries will require some form of exclusions, whether these be irrelevant authors or mentions, or if there are certain types of mentions about the brand you’re just not interested in.

Boolean_Generic_20151028-014. ( Parentheses )

Parentheses are used to group terms together, so that operators like AND and OR can be applied to all the terms in the brackets, e.g., “Chocolate Milk” AND (Icecream OR “ice cream” OR confectionary) will find results with phrases like “Chocolate Milk flavoured icecream” or “Chocolate milk flavoured confectionary”.

5. “Double quotes”

Double quotes finds media items where the text in the quotation marks appears in that order without any other words in the middle. For example, searching for “chocolate milk” will find a site that says ‘I love chocolate milk’ and ignore sites that mention just chocolate or just milk.

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Common mistakes to avoid

Curating queries for frequently mentioned brands or ambiguous issues can be a difficult undertaking – misuse of operators or improper testing can lead to irrelevant results, or worse, may exclude relevant results. So we’ve included some common mistakes to avoid when writing queries:

  1. Not capitalising ‘NOT’, ‘AND’, ‘OR’, etc.
  2. Forgetting to use include quotation marks for phrases, e.g. ‘Chocolate Milk” OR Choc Milk should be “Chocolate Milk” OR “Choc Milk”
  3. Forgetting to close brackets
  4. Avoid syntax errors: Even when the query is complicated, it is usually best to work off a simple structure made up of 3 parts:

[Main term] AND [context terms] NOT [excluded terms]

Happy Booleaning! Remember, if you run into any trouble, your dedicated Streem Account manager can curate bespoke boolean queries for you.

The Rise and Rise of Satirical News

Aside from a slew of tragic celebrity deaths, 2016’s legacy may well lie in the booming satirical news industry, much to the chagrin of the public figures who unwittingly find themselves under its spotlight. Masquerading as genuine mainstream news websites, satirical news platforms have become a fixture in the ever-evolving online news landscape and promise to reshape the way we conceptualise the relationship between news and political attitudes. 

Characterised by authentic headlines, caustic body text and satirical barbs, websites such as the Betoota Advocate, the Onion, the Shovel and the Chaser are dominating Australian Facebook and Instagram feeds and are increasingly finding their way into mainstream news bulletins.

The booming market for biting satirical news and social commentary represents more than a fleeting trend driven by cynical, keyboard savvy millennials. These platforms are well-organised, clearly branded and attract large followings of engaged readers.

Analysis by Streem realtime news intelligence found that the Betoota Advocate produced an average of three stories per day in January 2016. At their peak they published 10 stories in a single day, each one attracting substantial social engagement.

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Online news volumes of the Betoota Advocate, January 2017. Analysis via Streem.

In recent months the mainstream media establishment has been forced to acknowledge the influence and popularity of these disruptive news sources. In November 2016, the Betoota Advocate attended Australian journalism’s prestigious night of nights – the Walkley Awards.

So is it likely that satire will be incorporated into the mainstream media establishment anytime soon? We can safely establish that satirical news is only likely to increase, but what does it mean for media monitors and their clients? Many are grappling with the challenge of identifying and deconstructing satirical news.

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Photo: The Betoota Advocate

Satirical articles provide an insightful gauge into public sentiment. It’s vital for PR professionals and communications teams to monitor and manage these stories as they develop, because of their ability to generate intense interest and widespread repetitional damage for the politicians and public figures that come under their scrutiny.

The recent media storm triggered by Susan Ley’s political expenses scandal was peppered with biting headlines from satirical sources. “Ley Pauses Briefly During apology to buy must-have Canberra apartment”, proclaimed the Shovel.  The Betoota Advocate joined in with the headline: “‘Shhh’ Susan Ley says to party member who asks how she stays so tanned in Canberra”

Aside from obvious value in tracking crises, scandals and unrest within the political establishment, satire can also help media monitors to take stock of ongoing themes, social issues and trends in the media.

A study published in the Journal of Communication found that people select satirical news which aligns with their pre-existing attitudes, and that consuming satirical news reinforced these attitudes as much as watching mainstream news. 

“Satirical news has the same impact as serious news – it reinforces your political attitudes,” said Silvia Knobloch-Westerwick, author of the study and professor of communication at The Ohio State University. “It may be funny, but it has serious effects.”

The power of satirical news lies in its ability to subtly influence audiences and generate vast amounts of engagement. Media monitors can no longer afford to brush off satire as low-brow, trivial and insignificant, but must instead learn to read past the headlines and tap into the wider social relevance of these stories.

How long does it take for news to spread?

Analysis of Australian news reports shows a story spreads from one source to another in less than 4 minutes*. When a news story can spread across Online, TV or Radio in a matter of minutes, monitoring the media in realtime is more than convenient – it’s critical to the long-term success of a business or the reputation of a public figure.

Australia’s two 24-hour news channels and hundreds of large-scale online news sources mean that communications teams cannot afford to miss a beat when tracking media coverage. A misleading report that’s biased or missing key facts can leave the public misinformed and unreceptive; making it harder to control your message and correct the record.social_network_analysis_visualization

Analysis* of over 1 million Online and TV news reports in 2016 found a decreasing gap between the publication of a unique news story and the time taken for a competitor to repeat it. When it takes a matter of minutes for breaking news to spread, the public is being influenced with every passing minute.

But because the majority of media monitoring is delayed, delivered by email or omits stories, the job of responding becomes harder. Add to this the lack of a Mobile App to access media on the go, or Audience Trend Data to help you understand the impact an issue is having with the public, and you’re already behind the story. In a truly 24/7 news landscape it is impossible to ignore the spread of news, and potentially damaging to rely on anything other than realtime, keyword driven monitoring.

*Based on analysis conducted by Streem on 1,087,524 Online & TV reports between 2/2015-01/2016. Analysis measured the time taken for one media outlet to repeat a unique news story.