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 Front Page Story

Is the front page story a reliable indicator of influence?

Landing the front page story of a daily metropolitan newspaper used to represent the pinnacle of earned media. But in an environment where digital editions are updated hourly and social media can turn a niche story viral within minutes, can the ‘front page story’ remain a reliable indicator of influence ? 

Timing is key

Back in the golden age of the print edition newspaper, a front page story would remain in position for 24 hours until the next morning’s edition replaced it. The new online news realm operates at an entirely different pace where online editions are subject to change on a minute-by-minute basis. This constant process of curation and replacement means that some stories remain for hours at the top of online editions, whereas others are knocked off and replaced within minutes.

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Editor vs. People Powered front page. Image courtesy of NewsWhip. 

Would front pages look different if readers selected the top stories?

Web-editions would look very different if they were curated by the general public rather than a collection of editors sitting in a news conference. An experiment conducted by social signals platform NewsWhip found that stories that the general public choose to share differ greatly from the selection of news stories editors place on the front pages of their digital editions. 

Are front page mention synonymous with high social media engagement?

Not necessarily. A correlation exists between front page position and social media exposure, however it is difficult to ascertain whether social media engagement drives a front page story or a front page position drives social media engagement. To further complicate matters, a front page article is not necessarily synonymous with huge social media engagement. Articles which generate thousands of audience engagements may never make it to the front page position of an online edition, whereas ‘newsworthy’ content placed in pole position by editors may generate relatively small engagement. 

Why monitor front pages?

Streem’s front page chart helps visualise how salient a particular story was in relation to other coverage of your organisation. For example, knowing that a story about your product spent an average of 58m on the front page, or that your organisation was mentioned on 43 front pages in month would suggest high engagement, strong message cut-through or a crisis.

Streem’s ranking categorisation also helps to determine the impact of particular articles. For example, a front page story in #1 position that only fleetingly mentions your company is likely to be less salient than a feature story in #5 position which focuses entirely on your product.

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Analysis via Streem.

Social Media Monitoring vs. Social Media Listening

Back in 2010 Dan Neely proclaimed: “Monitoring finds symptoms; listening finds causes” and it appears his advice remains as relevant now as ever. The buzzword “social listening” has steadily risen in use over the last 5 years, but what does it mean and how can it change the way businesses engage with their customers?

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Social media listening (blue) vs. social media monitoring (red) between 2012-17. Data from Google Trends.

‘Social media listening’ is the more sophisticated, subtle and time consuming hybrid of regular ‘social media monitoring’. ‘Listening’ is about more than replying to complaints or queries when prompted. It’s more than watching your mentions and engaging superficially with your customers and key stakeholders.

If you’re only responding notifications as they filter into your inbox then you’re probably selling your business short- you’re likely to miss out on a huge group of people taking about you, discussing your product or dissecting your brand.

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Image courtesy of Pixabay.

Social listening requires tracking conversations around specific phrases, words or brands, and then leveraging them to discover opportunities or create content for those audiences. In its most basic form, social listening is realtime, actionable data which can be used to inform and tweak campaigns and form a broad-spectrum understanding of your business’ strengths and weaknesses. 

Its about applying a much broader lens to your monitoring: rather than just monitoring your product and customers, social listening can provide a wider snapshot of your industry, your competitors and emerging events. 

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.

What is hoax news and why you should monitor it

If you’ve been browsing the web recently, you might be surprised to discover that Pope Francis endorsed Donald Trump for President, or that Halal certified Snack Packs have been funding terror organisations in the Middle East. Although these headlines may seem implausible to an informed reader, thousands of fake and hoax news stories circulate the internet daily, leaving readers confused, frustrated and dangerously misinformed.

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A viral story published on satirical website WTOE5 News claimed that Pope Francis II had endorsed Donald Trump for President.

Facebook is the latest of many online companies to announce measures to curb the spread of false news reports. In December 2016, the company introduced a set of tools to make it easier for users to flag fake articles on their news feed as a hoax. If a story is identified as dubious, Facebook will flag it as ‘disputed by 3rd parties’ and it may appear lower in the news feed.

Although many social media platforms have begun to acknowledge the problems created by the proliferation of fake news on their platforms, most algorithms struggle to determine the authenticity of breaking news.

Fake news featured heavily in the coverage of the 2016 US presidential elections. A study by Ipsos Public Affairs revealed that in the 3 months preceding the election, 20 top-performing fake news stories on Facebook outperformed 20 top-performing factual stories from 19 major media outlets in terms of engagement. But the spread of fake news hasn’t just been limited to the US.

In Germany, rumours circulated denouncing German chancellor Angela Merkel as a member of the East German secret police, the Stasi. Australian readers also fell prey to misinformation when an incendiary fake news report linking terrorism to the halal certification industry gained coverage across genuine media outlets. Concerns over halal certification flourished on Facebook and were repeated by politicians despite a lack of evidence, eventually culminating in a Parliamentary inquiry.

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A hoax news story about the humble Halal Snack Pack became the source of a federal parliamentary inquiry

Over half of Australia’s population is connected to the internet, and more than half of that number are active on Facebook. Misinformation, dubious claims, deceitful stories, trolling and clickbait have become a fixture on social media, and determining their authenticity can be frustrating and time-consuming for those responsible for compiling and distributing news.

Fake news is particularly prevalent on social media, which is problematic for government bodies, corporations and public figures because many of these sites masquerade as legitimate news distributors. Exposure to fake news is even more pronounced amongst younger demographics, who almost exclusively gather news from online sources such as Twitter, Reddit and Facebook.

“Pretty much everything conspires against truth [online],” wrote Farhad Manjoo of The New York Times in an article on fake online news. Despite the frustration voiced by misled citizens and aggrieved public figures, news aggregators have expressed discomfort at the idea of filtering fake news from the genuine product.

“We believe in giving people a voice and that we cannot become arbiters of truth ourselves,” Facebook’s news feed vice-president Adam Mosseri said in a statement. So how can media monitors draw the line between rumour, scandal, satire and genuine breaking news? Below is a quick checklist to help you determine fact from fraud:

Fact Checking Dubious News

  1. Read beyond the headline and subtitle
  2. Check the authenticity of the news outlet
  3. Check the author
  4. Check the date and time
  5. Click through links and examine the sources used
  6. Cross reference quotations
  7. Check the authenticity of photos
  8. Are other legitimate news outlets reporting it?