Breaking Tags – A Common Taxonomy For Breaking News

What the world needs are common tags for breaking news. I want to be able use a single keyword to follow all the content about a particular news story.

Crowdsourcing works well for everyday content where there are obvious keywords that describe the content you want to tag. People generally agree.

But crowdsourcing doesn’t work so well for breaking news, especially local breaking news.

First, by its very nature, because it is breaking news, a database of tags generally does not yet exist from which you can determine the most popular keywords. There is no way to determine commonly accepted tags.

Second, because news stories can have several different topics, can be about or quote multiple people, take place in a specific geographic place but may have a bearing on wider geographic area, the complexity of the content defies simple categorization.

Take the 35W bridge collapse as an example.

It was a local story that was reported world wide. It immediately effected Twin Cities residents but was an aspect of a larger national story about our nation’s crumbling infrastructure. There was a lot of content produce about the event. In addition to traditional media coverage, there was citizen journalism in the form of formal reports to citizen journalism outlets, blog posts, Twitter tweets, photographs, and video.

Content saved to helps illustrate the problem:

The most popular tag set, "bridge+collapse," is not entirely accurate because the content includes bridge collapse information that isn’t specifically about the 35W bridge collapse. Still, you can see the different tags and tag variations people applied to the content.

It seems to me there is a need for a tagging convention or a place to go to to determine the common tag(2) to apply to a given news story.

Might it be a collection of tags that are common to every possible news story that are strung together with plus signs, as del.icio.us allows? Such tags could include:

  • Date the story broke – The tag for today would be 061208, for example
  • City
  • State
  • Region
  • Country
  • Subject
  • Topic

So my tag concatenation would look something like: 061208+minneapolis+minnesota+midwest+us+news+tags.  I don’t know if it’d work because there could be many exceptions to a standard protocol that it just may not work.

How bout a wiki devoted to common breaking news tags? Perhaps Wikipedia could build in a place for content tags into its breaking news pages?

This may be a problem newspapers could seize to reclaim some ground as community center, somewhere people could go to to both get that river of news as well as to find out what tags to use.

Is there some technological answer that I haven’t thought of sitting in the infrastructure of del.icio.us or Google?

I don’t pretend to have the answer. I just know that I’d love to be able to have a keyword or set of keywords I could depend upon that would aggregate all the content on a given breaking news story.

I’d love to see a discussion of it, at the very least.

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About David Erickson

David Erickson is principal of e-Strategy Media, a digital marketing consultancy based in Minnesota. David has extensive experience in digital marketing and is often used as an expert source by media and asked to speak on the topic before organizations and to sit on panel discussions.

1 Comment

  1. Ken Kadet on June 13, 2008 at 11:04 35 am CDT

    I think this is a case where despite the fact that it seems like automation or crowdsourcing will work, you need a human to help you find what you want … if only because people will do what is easiest for them and what’s easiest is usually not remembering how to use a common tag template.

    That may mean bloggers or media organizations doing the heavy lifting that you did here to pull together the links people would need into one one place, and turning that into a new tagged link or feed.

    That said, I find Google News to be a strong aggregator on breaking news stories — it would be interesting to see them incorporate crowd-sourcing and blogs into their algorithm.