Open Source Analytics with NewsLynx

The Tow Center for Digital Journalism have launched a new open source analytics platform on Github. Designed and built by Michael Keller and Brian Abelson, NewsLynx uses the data gathered by Google Analytics and Chartbeat and further interrogates findings to place data within a wider context of understanding. An executive summary of the findings of their project and a link to their full report can be found here.

Mădălina Ciobanu of Journalism.co.uk explains how the platform works to fill in the gaps between existing analytics programs;

‘”As a workflow management tool, NewsLynx revolves around the concept of ‘recipes’,” Keller told Journalism.co.uk. “For example, if you want to monitor a Twitter list of all members of Congress for mentions of your work, you’d have a ‘recipe’ that looks for keywords and sends you an alert that you can either approve or reject.” Abelson and Keller identified patterns in how newsrooms monitor and analyse discussion around their work on social media and thought about ways to automate the process’.

NiemanLabs Laura Hazard Owen, says that NewsLynx is designed for the smaller newsroom; particularly the newsroom which might rely on funding and needs figures to explain the bigger picture and prove it’s worth to backers.

‘The tool aims to help newsrooms, particularly small investigative nonprofits, measure the quantitative and qualitative impact of their stories: What actually happens in the real world after the stories are published’?

The notion of ‘impact’ is not defined by NewsLynx but must be agreed within an organisation before it can be inputted to a search of data results using a system of ‘impact tags, levels and categories’. Keller and Abelson stress that data analytics are only useful if you know what it is you’re looking for.

‘“The newsrooms that got the most out of NewsLynx,” Keller and Abelson write, “were those that had already started with ‘notes in a spreadsheet’ and previously worked through the harder problems of what they care about. In the end, computers are better, faster, and (sometimes) more reliable notebooks; but, just as is true in the physical world, fancy pens can’t make a writer tell a good story.”’


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