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A conversation with David Rose, little magazine veteran and publisher of Lapham’s Quarterly
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Feb. 3, 2012, 2:30 p.m.
reuterspulse

Reuters productizes social media through Social Pulse

The new effort tries to package raw social data in ways that even an exec could get into.

Think of Reuters Social Pulse as a social-media weapon for the C-suite set. That’s because the newly debuted dashboard is designed to make the world of social media less of a shiny toy and more of a daily intelligence tool.

Even as it tries to branch out to reach broader audiences through its news service, Reuters knows its core market is the business set — managers, officers, decision makers. Information is the core of Reuters’ business (even more so Thomson Reuters’) and Social Pulse is their newest attempt at creating a product that can merge their editorial vision and data proficiency. 

“We think of this as a lab. We’ll see what people are engaging with.”

Social Pulse mines things like Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, and Klout (we’ll get to that in a moment) to provide concise summaries of news, conversation and sentiment analysis as it pertains to leading companies. The proposed value proposition is in turning those social outputs — which haven’t always reached the corner office as much as the newsroom — into a refined and polished product, said Alex Leo, director of news product for Reuters Digital. “We wanted a social page that was more than trending topics, which are often ‘Rihanna nude,’ which isn’t something our audience necessary cares about,” Leo told me.

Social Pulse breaks down into three big components: the Hit List, a stock sentiment module, and the Reuters & Klout 50, a ranking of CEOs based on their social activity. The Hit List scans the followers of Reuters Twitter accounts (both official and personal) as well as their journalists to find which stories are getting the most mentions and aggregates the top news. (They use Percolate, the same company that makes Counterparties, the Felix Salmon/Ryan McCarthy joint, possible.) The stock sentiment tool, which tracks the mood around specific companies in parallel to changes in their stock price, is powered by a service called WiseWindow. Leo called WiseWindow’s approach to sentiment analysis more nuanced than most, thanks to a combination of keyword tracking, language processing, and predictive modeling. “They can tell the difference between you calling Mitt Romney mean, which is negative, and saying ‘Taylor Swift plays a mean guitar,’ which is positive,” she said.

And then there’s the Reuters & Klout 50, which resembles a yearbook of the most socially active CEOs in the country, featuring names like Twitter’s Dick Costolo, Oprah, Mark Cuban, Buzzfeed’s Jonah Peretti, and Gawker’s Nick Denton, among others. On a daily basis the rankings will shift among a pre-set list of 100 CEOs, winnowed down to 50 based on their Klout. It’s like the CEO equivalent of NFL power rankings or Mediaite’s Power Grid, but based purely on social media acumen. Reuters hopes that competitive spirit will make it catnip for business leaders. It could also be a motivator, Leo said: “There are so many people and so many executives who have their toe in Twitter,” she said. “Some of them are using the social web effectively, and some are not.” (One would hope a CEO would be motivated primarily by factors other than an urge to out-Klout Kevin Rose, but who knows.)

Just as a marketplace developed around aggregating disparate news feeds, a new one is forming for services that can coalesce the raw noise of social networks. Like any good media company, Reuters has tried to be diligent in using the likes of Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and now of course YouTube to bring its journalism to new audiences and expand their brand. Social Pulse is an experiment in finding new ways to use these systems as more than just communication channels either in reporting or as solo products, Leo said. “We think of this as a lab. We’ll see what people are engaging with,” she said. “It doesn’t end here — if things are really popular on Social Pulse they will be added elsewhere.”

It also represents a way of bringing all of the company’s various social strands together into one hub. That is, other than Reuters one-man social-media hub Anthony De Rosa. The Reuters social media editor will also have a presence on the site offering up links, liveblogs and more, because, as Leo joked, “You can’t have a social part of Reuters without having Anthony be a part of it.” The man is, after all, the “undisputed king of Tumblr” — take that, Cats with Bread! — but there’s a reason the likes of De Rosa and Salmon have risen to prominence at Reuters: They represent a kind of bridge between what the media company was and what they’d like to become. Social Pulse appears to be another step in that, a way of amplifying and enhancing Reuters journalism for both their core and new audience.

“I wanted to make the Anthonys of the world happy and the wealth managers of the world happy, and everyone else in between excited,” Leo said. 

POSTED     Feb. 3, 2012, 2:30 p.m.
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A conversation with David Rose, little magazine veteran and publisher of Lapham’s Quarterly
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