The Time Warner-owned cable outlet said it had partnered with Dataminr, a New York-based company that uses technology to identify potential news breaks on Twitter, provide context, determine whether they are gaining momentum on the popular social-media site and then alert newsroom users to the availability and relative importance of the information.
Already, said CNN executives, Dataminr-identified tweets have begun to lead to about two stories per day at the news outlet.
CNN and Dataminr have been working together for about six months, said KC Estenson, senior veep and general manger of CNN.com. As part of the pact, CNN gains a window of exclusivity with the Dataminr technology and Dataminr gains feedback on its technology, which it expects to turn into a service that can be used by journalists from various news outlets, said Ted Bailey, founder and chief executive of the technology concern.
The agreement, said Estenson, could give CNN “a first-mover advantage” over time.
At the heart of the service, said Bailey, is its ability to identify when specific tweets begin to spill forth about something happening. Dataminr then works to determine whether subsequent tweets reinforce the verity of the initial break, and to find out whether other tweets are coming from the geographic area in which an event appears to be happening. Beat and feature reporters can use the service to see whether certain stories are gathering steam on Twitter.
The service could develop into “an essential tool,” said Meredith Artley, vice president and managing editor of CNN Digital.
CNN executives cautioned that news personnel were still required to verify information found on Twitter independently, but said the Dataminr service would allow producers and reporters to understand what details were being corroborated and what seemed inaccurate.
The company has no plans at present to create TV programming around the service, Estenson said.
The move comes as CNN has been more vocal about developing its abilities in the digital and mobile realms. The media outlet invested at least $15 million in 2013 on reworking its digital infrastructure to make the placement of news content and advertising across different digital outlets easier.
The efforts illustrate a new challenge facing TV-news outlets: Viewers want to get the content they produce in a different way. Smartphones alone are expected to be used by more than 50% of mobile phone users in the U.S. and Canada by the end of 2013, according to eMarketer, a market-research firm.
“The rapid growth of mobile is a key factor driving the move to digital news,” according to Pew Research Center’s 2013 edition of its “State of the News Media” report. “Indeed, the proliferation of devices is giving rise to a new multiplatform news consumer, one who accesses news through a combination of different devices and traditional sources.”
According to Pew, “fully 64% of tablet owners say they get news on their devices weekly and 37% report they do so daily.” As things turn out, the trend is quite similar for people who own smartphones. Pew found 62% get news on their device weekly and 36% do so daily.