In July 2008 I was asked to help the Ministry of Justice press office get to grips with monitoring online news content.
Up to that point, monitoring consisted of manually monitoring news sources, primarily using major news outlets, plus a small number of keyword searches. This was time consuming, inefficient and not revealing the full picture.
Fortunately there are free web tools that could be harnessed to make the monitoring process more productive and useful.
In order to improve access to web content, and to make the best use of the tools available, the solution needed to:
- offer real time alerting of breaking news;
- enable the categorisation of content for ease of use;
- allow for the sharing of content of interest amongst the news desk;
- allow for the sharing of content amongst the wider press office;
- be simple to use and not burden people with additional work.
We configured an iGoogle page (the ‘dashboard’) to display content from a Google Reader account. Google Reader offers categorisation and the sharing of content and iGoogle supplies a simple interface; key requirements for the solution.
Setting up the dashboard
We began by subscribing through Google Reader to a number of keyword search results from news.google.com. We set it to search UK news sources only and omitted certain keywords to tailor results (e.g., “court” -tennis).
The keywords were decided upon through consultation with the news desk team and trial and error.
The feeds were grouped by business area and placed in appropriate folders in Google Reader. Additional feeds for Ministers names and a generic corporate one were also set up.
The content of the folders that contain the feeds were then displayed in a series of ‘gadgets’ on the dashboard.
The press officer monitoring the dashboard is able to highlight items of interest by ‘starring’ them. This is basic Google Reader functionality that is available in the iGoogle gadget used to display the feeds.
Starred items appear in a separate gadget on the dashboard for quick reference. A list of the days starred items is also emailed (using Feedburner) to news desk members and other staff at the end of each day.
Was it a success?
Feedback from news desk press officers has been wholly positive. In addition to answering the requirements set out at the start of the projects, the dashboard has enabled:
- monitoring of regional news sources that don’t feature in daily cuts;
- easier observation of how press notices are interpreted by journalists;
- ability to spot inaccurate stories and rebut within a very short space of time.
Challenges & future developments
Dashboards present a huge opportunity for monitoring for business areas such as strategic communications, private office and policy teams, in addition to press offices as they can be tailored to meet specific requirements.
Please get in touch if you would like to chat about how you can use monitoring dashboards in your organisation.