|By||http://e27.cohttp://e27.sg/2012/09/05/rappler-social-news-network-tracks-the-role-of-emotion-in-news/||| Sep 5, 2012 | News|
News is often about the facts: the five W’s, as journalists would consider them. But Manila-based startup news organization Rappler.com is trying to figure out the role of emotions in the news. Launched in late 2011, Rappler actively uses social networking outlets like Twitter and Facebook to interact with readers. In fact, Rappler describes itself as a social news network, “where stories inspire community engagement and digitally fuelled actions for social change.”
Beyond simply letting readers pitch in with their two cents’ worth, however, Rappler is also using reader emotions as a gauge of how the news affects the citizenry.
Longtime broadcast journalist Maria Ressa, who now heads Rappler as CEO and Executive Editor, has been exploring the overlap between emotion and social interaction. In an interview with Adrienne LaFrance of the Nieman Journalism Lab, Maria explains the rationale behind Rappler’s Mood Meter and stresses that emotions spread faster than ideas.
“When you look at how terrorism spreads, you look at how emotions spread through large groups of people. You take the idea that emotions are important in decision making. And on social media, what spreads fastest, it’s actually emotions more than ideas.”
Each and every Rappler story published includes a set of options that a reader can click: happy, sad, angry, don’t care, inspired, amused, annoyed, or don’t care. These are then fed into a larger Mood Navigator, which aggregates the mood for the day and turns this into a visual representation of reader emotions.
The Mood Navigator lets users mouse-over the mood “bubbles,” which would then expand to a story and a chart of how people felt about that particular piece of news.
The purpose of the Mood Meter concept is “to crowdsource the mood for the day,” says Maria. “If you can identify how you feel, will you be more receptive to the debate that’s in front of you? I hope. That’s really the rationale, aside from the fact that it’s cool.”
News and social media are not exactly strange bedfellows. I was a fan of Digg in its early startup days, during which all the frontpage news was submitted and voted on by users. The social news concept has evolved quickly since then. Because of the fast-paced growth of social networks, submissions soon lagged behind in terms of quality, which is why the latest resurrection of Digg is basically a curated news site instead of basing news mostly on user-submissions.
I would say that Rappler has the same purpose. Because of the founders’ backgrounds in the mainstream media, the news service focuses on quality in its published news, although it adds a social aspect by actively seeking comments and inputs from the readership. As such, one of the main functions of Rappler as a social news site is to curate information and news. Factoring in emotion is certainly interesting, and could merit a second look from the likes of Facebook. Rappler does not only consider how much a user would “like” a story — as Facebook would have it — but puts emphasis on a wider set of emotions in tracking user sentiment through data analytics.