By Kristian Andersen
With more than 500 million daily tweets, Twitter has become an irreplaceable source for real-time eyewitness accounts of unfolding events all over the world. An American company, Dataminr, has found a way for transforming all that information into trustworthy news. In 2014 the company launched a product, Dataminr for News, which by using an algorithm verifies the overwhelming amount of data that emerges on Twitter day in and day out. The news product has seen unexpected success and is today an established part of more than 200 newsrooms across the world. This raises the question whether we are seeing the future of news gathering, where aggregated content takes the place of established news agencies?
Verifying through Twitter
The key to Dataminr’s success actually lies within Twitter itself. On Twitter the sources are often regular people (with Twitter accounts, of course), who by accident find themselves at the centre of a breaking event. Critics often claim that information from the social media platform is too unreliable to use as source for respected news outlets. However, this is not always true. In fact, Twitter already has access to the data necessary to verify the information from its users. This step-by-step infographic from The Wall Street Journal shows how Dataminr verifies tweets by analysing the user’s influence and reputation and by seeing whether the tweet helps form a pattern from a specific geographical location.
— Wall Street Journal (@WSJ) November 20, 2014
Based on all this information, Dataminr sends out a customized alert to its clients – usually news organizations – based on their topical preferences.
First news source
So far, Dataminr for News has taken the media world by storm. According to a conference paper by KBCP, a venture capital firm working with entrepreneurial companies, Internet users are now the first source for news – and Dataminr has repeatedly beaten old-fashioned major news sources in the battle of news breaking.
— Dataminr (@Dataminr) May 27, 2015
In addition, this year Dataminr announced an influx of $130m from investors, which makes the company even better equipped for the future.
News agencies still matter
Does this mean that the days of the traditional news agencies are over? Not quite. A reporter from the Danish 24-hour news channel, TV2 News, revealed to Newsnext that even though Dataminr is an essential part of their daily routines, they still do not rely solely on it for information. In fact, on the night of the Paris attacks in November the news channel was notified by Dataminr about the events, but still waited to go live with any information until it was confirmed by the major news agencies.
It is probably a matter of time and adaptation among journalists and editors before Dataminr becomes an independent source for news at least as a starting point for breaking news. Until then, the traditional news agencies should probably consider which role is left for them in the future.