Semantic web and linked data in the newsroom


 The future of news could be called micromedia: contrary to the present overload of information, we will receive a flow of news strongly shaped according to our geographical location, job, relationship status, interests, contacts and even our mood at a certain moment.

It might sound a bit like science fiction, but actually some digital media outlets such as BuzzFeed or social networks are already using algorithms that produce in this way a data driven flow of information (not only news strictly speaking) based on our preferences.

Technologies able to support the birth of this new generation of news provider already exist and a key role is played by semantic web and linked data.

But a question rises considering this perspective: will it be tech or media companies to produce and deliver this flow?

Quoting Jeff Jervis, who has written extensively on journalism as a service, Paul Sparrow, senior vice president at the Newseum, says:

While technology companies have made huge strides in their effort to deliver targeted, customized ads meeting the interests of specific individuals, news/media companies must stop thinking of themselves as just content providers and fundamentally change their focus to become platforms providing critical services, as well as information.

To do it, Sparrow adds

[...]media companies must engage
in the same kind of information collection and data mining
that retailers and technology companies have been doing for years.

This change in perspective by the newsroom isn't predictable, but there are already some ongoing experiments to do so. For instance, inside the BBC News Labs, they are carrying out The News Juicer, a platform that makes it possible to associate all useful contents connected to a concept inside the broadcaster's archive thanks to linked data. Through a query, the user can link, compare and combine news and facts related to a specific topic, i.e. those about the city of Cambridge in UK but not Cambridge in Massachussets.

So, the UK European election in 2014 were reported with a 100 percent-linked-data coverage as well as the BBC is ready to do the same with General Election next year. Even new apps which will be released around Christmas will give users the chance to create thematic pages according to his own preferences.

These are probably only the first steps along the way that could bring us to the “micromedia age”. It remains to be seen who will win the challenge for realizing the most reliable but also engaging version of this service between tech and media companies. The latter, for sure, now have to close the gap.