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Digitalization has added a constantly growing flood of information, news and sources for media companies and journalists. Today, trends emerge non-stop and, thanks to the ongoing “tiktokization”, quickly become yesterday’s news again. With all the channels available, it is becoming increasingly difficult for editorial teams to identify and evaluate relevant topics in a timely manner and prepare them in a way that appeals to the target group. However, monitoring news and trends in order to develop new stories is a core task for editorial teams. They have to decide what is relevant and important for readers and society. Manually, nobody can do this alone, but can’t this process of finding topics be made more efficient? Find out how automated topic spotting and media monitoring can help journalists find content ideas, topics and keep their minds free to create.

How to find content ideas and the right topics?

The media industry faces the challenge of creating relevant and informative content that not only appeals to its target audience, but also does so at the right time. The stories must also fit into the concept and editorial planning. But how do editors find the right topics and content ideas in the abundance of news? Traditionally, finding topics is a manual and tedious task:

  • Screen and filter messages
  • Evaluate information
  • Identify relevant topics
  • Discuss topics in an editorial meeting
  • Research and develop stories

Good to know: Newsrooms are being used in more and more media companies in order to work in a story-centered manner and to work together.

What values influence the choice of topics?

Decisions on topics and content ideas at editorial meetings and the like are not made on instinct. Finding topics in editorial offices depends on different values:

1. News values

In topic spotting, the so-called news values are important criteria that editorial offices use to evaluate a topic. These values identify characteristics of an event that make them appear important or rather unimportant to journalists. These include, for example, factors such as “proximity” (did an event take place in your own city?), “attention level” (a guarantee that many consumers will show interest in the article) or “impact” (what consequences can the event have?). Even factors such as “oddity”, “prominence” or “topicality” can affect the way in which the topic is dealt with and which specific aspects the editors present or emphasize.

There are various models with different news values, which have changed over time. The first study into news values by Walter Lippmann in 1922 identified the following elements: Surprise, sensationalism, establishment, duration, structure, relevance, damage, benefit, prominence and proximity. In the late 1970s, the communication scientist Winfried Schulz spoke of: Time, proximity, status, dynamics and valence. What was first investigated by researchers almost a century ago is still relevant in today’s digital age and still plays a role – mostly unconsciously – in editorial staff’s topic selection.

2. Internal factors

If news values have an objective component, there is also a subjective one: The structure and organization of an editorial office have a significant influence on how it finds its content ideas. So although there are editorial meetings and discussions, there is also a hierarchy. Editors-in-chief, chief of staff or department heads tend to have the final say on topics rather than the editorial team. And even if there are efforts to prevent a “confirmation bias” (i.e. the tendency of people to select and interpret information in such a way that it confirms their own expectations), it is often not possible to completely prevent the topic selection process from being shaped by the perspectives of individual team members. This repeatedly leads to fundamental discussions in order to report objectively and diversely.

3. The competition

The reporting of other media can also influence how journalists and content teams find and select topics. Editorial offices often monitor what their competitors and especially leading media are reporting on to ensure that they do not overlook relevant topics and are noticed by the target group.

4. The financial side

Financial aspects can also play a role in the choice of topic. Sometimes magazine publishers prefer topics that have more traction with advertisers or sponsors because the topics bring in a lot of new users. And other times, the fact that there is not always enough money and resources such as time for independent, extensive research can be a decisive factor in the choice of topic.

5. The users

Of course, the needs of the users must not be neglected when creating content ideas. This is why the audience is increasingly influencing the way topics are chosen: Through efficient community management in journalism, media companies can actively involve readers in shaping reporting and learn from their interests. And it’s not just comments under articles or videos that provide important information: With engagement and reach datadata analytics – media companies can gain valuable insights into the behavior of the target group, their preferences and interactions with content. This data can then be used to produce new content that is better tailored to the needs of their consumers.

Why should journalists monitor trends and media?

React quickly

In hardly any other business is it as important to always be up to date as in the media industry. The news business in particular requires an immediate response to current events and developments. Those who do not stay up to date and report quickly and comprehensively on top issues for their community will lose their audience and the battle against the competition. In order not to miss any important news and to be able to react immediately, media monitoring is well worth the effort.

Stay relevant

Media consumption has changed dramatically in recent years. Target groups increasingly expect personalized content that is tailored to their individual interests and needs. By monitoring trends and analyzing media content, journalists can better understand what interests and moves their target group. Insights make it possible to produce content that is more relevant and appealing to readers. An audience-oriented approach creates reach and customer loyalty.

The challenge in dealing with trends and personalization: the balancing act between meeting the needs of the target group and maintaining journalistic integrity. Media companies will have to ensure that they do not fall into a so-called filter bubble and only provide content that corresponds to their own values.

Stay inspired

Trends and media monitoring offer a valuable source of inspiration for journalists. New ideas and story approaches can emerge from media monitoring and analysis of current topics and events. Observing trends can help editors to think outside the box and discover unusual but relevant stories that they might otherwise have overlooked.

What does the status quo look like in media monitoring?

Although digitalization is advancing, there are still many manual processes in editorial offices when it comes to finding topics and media monitoring. Given the enormous flood of information that hits media companies every day, it is almost impossible to keep track of relevant topics and trends. And once it is sighted, it must also be evaluated and contextualized. This approach is time-consuming and leads to valuable resources being tied up in research instead of in the creation of new content.

Automate the process of finding topics? Is that possible?

A key question that arises from this is: how can media companies make their topic spotting and research processes more efficient and effective? This is where automatic topic spotting comes into play: AI and automation integrated into the editorial system to automate and optimize the process of media monitoring.

The use of this type of technology brings media companies decisive advantages such as

  • a real-time overview of numerous sources,
  • faster workflows and being faster than the competition,
  • personalized content by recognizing preferences and interests,
  • automatic identification of emerging topics and trends,
  • faster response times for news and
  • more time for targeted development of relevant content ideas.

How does AI take media monitoring to the next level?

As AI continues to develop, new opportunities arise to optimize the traditional processes of topic spotting and (social) media monitoring. AI-based software solutions are not only able to monitor countless channels in real time, they can also analyse the collected messages and data and identify, cluster and prioritize relevant topics and trends in a matter of seconds. The AI thus creates comprehensible, summarized subject areas for editorial offices.

These systems identify potential content ideas even more precisely by using defined search terms and social media profiles. The specific interests and preferences of certain target groups or even individual editors and readers can also be learned and taken into account.

How editorial teams use Automated Topic Spotting? Read the article by Convit CEO Jochen Schon for Horizont (German)

And media monitoring with AI is also possible in another way: The newsroom software Newsmind Stories for example, also integrates a „Related News“-feature:Once an editorial team prepares a topic, the software analyzes the input and shows with one click which publications on this topic have already been published by other media – without the editorial team having to do anything. This offers a holistic view of the coverage and the diverse perspectives surrounding a topic.

Successful topic selection also requires the human factor

Of course, an AI-based solution only serves as a supporting tool for an editorial team in their day-to-day work: it relieves them of work by monitoring topics and news in real time and pre-filtering and clearly presenting subject areas. In the best-case scenario, there is seamless integration of AI solutions, resulting in smooth collaboration between the editor and AI. This is also important because AI cannot and should not handle everything. This is where journalists still need to take action:

Brainstorming

with colleagues to compile topics in a non-judgmental way and to obtain feedback.

Requesting

and conducting expert interviews and research outside the online world.

Taking account

of guidelines and objectives in the editorial process, but also of diverse perspectives in order to be able to report holistically.

Conclusion

Today’s media landscape presents media companies and their editorial teams with a multitude of challenges. Digitalization and the abundance of information require an efficient and intelligent approach to topic identification and media monitoring. Artificial intelligence offers valuable solutions here. Automated trend monitoring and the evaluation of a wide variety of sources, clearly displayed in dashboards, enable media companies to monitor content and its developments in real time and thus play out relevant content promptly – a clear advantage in today’s highly competitive market.

Here, the right editorial software holds the potential to react more quickly to news and to increase reach with carefully selected, relevant topics. While AI-based solutions enable efficient workflows and a comprehensive overview, the expertise and creativity of journalists bring authenticity and depth to reporting. A balanced use of AI and human talent leads to successful content ideas and topic research that will keep media companies competitive in the future.

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Jochen Schon

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