Print newspapers are cutting staff amidst declining circulation. Online-first media is proliferating. Media companies are exploring new production techniques and business models in a landscape that is increasingly dominated by the Internet. In the midst of this upheaval, it is difficult to know how ideas spread throughout the media landscape. Beyond one-off anecdotes or painstaking manual content analysis, there are few ways to examine the emerging news ecosystem.
The idea for Media Cloud emerged through discussions between scholars at the MIT Media Lab and Harvard University’s Berkman Center. The conversations would follow a predictable pattern: one person would ask a provocative question about what was happening in the media landscape, someone else would suggest interesting follow-on inquiries, and everyone would realize that a good answer would require heavy number crunching. Nobody had the time to develop a huge infrastructure and download all the news just to answer a single question. However, there were eventually enough of these questions that we decided to build a tool for everyone to use.
Some of the early driving questions included:
- Do bloggers introduce storylines into mainstream media or the other way around? Is online media or print news more powerful in setting news agendas?
- What parts of the world are being covered or ignored by different media sources?
- Where and how do important news stories begin? How are competing terms for the same event used in different publications?
- Can we characterize the overall mix of coverage for a given source?
- How do patterns differ between local and national news coverage?
- Can we track news cycles for specific issues?
- Do online comments shape the news?
Media Cloud offers a way to quantitatively examine all of these challenging questions by collecting and analyzing the news stream of tens of thousands of online sources.
Using Media Cloud, academic researchers, journalism critics, policy advocates, media scholars, and others can examine which media sources cover which stories, what language different media outlets use in conjunction with different stories, and how stories spread from one media outlet to another.
Media Cloud is made possible by the generous support of the Ford Foundation, the Open Society Foundations, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Media Cloud is collaboration between the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University and the Center for Civic Media at MIT.