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Web 3.0 promises to bring context to vast quantities of news and views

Photo courtesy of Docklandsboy via Flickr

Photo courtesy of Docklandsboy via Flickr

In Idiocracy, the 2006 film in which human evolution has turned its favor towards stupidity 500 years into the future, and Gatorade has replaced water with a devastating effect on agriculture due to the public’s blind faith in the power of electrolytes, there’s a prescient prediction about media as well. Television sets show a dozen programs at once, with one centered inside a border of picture-in-picture displays. This is how people have long sought to use the Web, dating back to the portal sites of the ’90s: totally customizable and designed to enable you to consume everything at once.

One manifestation of this desire that became popular several years ago was Web mashup tools: interfaces like Yahoo Pipes and now-defunct Microsoft Popfly, which gave users with no software coding or technical capabilities the chance to create custom feeds of articles, posts and photos to be viewed in lists, galleries or maps. Want to mash together a few blog RSS feeds, Flickr photos and Yahoo search results? Done and done.

The shortcoming is that these tools offer few options for organizing the information they collect. While they do offer some sorting options, they can’t sort on the most important types of information. Generally they aren’t capable of extracting article bylines, for example, or other pieces of information that can be useful for looking at patterns in news coverage. Semantic search technologies on the horizon, which we’ve covered here before, enable the extraction and identification of entities such as people, places and things, and offer them up for categorization and placement into hierarchies that can be cross referenced for precise search results. I recently discussed the current struggle PR pros face to find context in ever-growing quantities of news articles, blog posts, tweets, reviews and forums with Exec Digital.

Now employed in sites like Financial Times’ Newssift and News TinDBPedia, which performs this kind of parsing on the contents of Wikipedia; and Thomson Reuters’ OpenCalais, Semantic search technologies lay the groundwork for the next-generation Web of “linked data”. Here at Cision, we’ve employed a structured information approach to the monitoring content available in our CisionPoint platform with the ability to view the news of the day on a particular topic sorted by the person who wrote it, media type, media outlet or country.

Bringing context to vast quantities of information is at the heart of the Web 3.0 movement. For PR professionals, it could mean discovering new patterns in news coverage, and new strategies for influencing it.

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