The size of United’s PR crisis

The negative response to the latest blunder at the airline is up there with some of the biggest stories of the year. It’s not impossible to fix this, but they’ve got a tremendous hill to climb now.

Late last week I flew United from San Francisco to London. As we got on the plane one of the other passengers gave a box of chocolates to the flight staff as an act of kindness and support for the awful week they’ve had.

The staff seemed to appreciate it. Everyone who works there is truly in the media spotlight. This level of attention is not what members of the United staff who didn’t forcibly remove a passenger asked for.

It may not be totally surprising that it happened. I can imagine what it felt like on that plane that day from many years flying with them. What’s really surprising is the scale of attention this story has achieved.


Nearly 300 stories have been published by the leading news orgs in the US and UK about the incident. Unsurprisingly, our analysis shows sentiment of the coverage is almost exclusively negative.

Source: Kaleida Data, April 2017

Those stories have earned nearly 1M shares on Facebook in aggregate. That’s a lot of unwanted exposure for the company. It surpassed United’s trouble with leggings from the previous week about four times over.

By comparison, coverage of Trump’s Muslim travel ban in early February ultimately earned over 7 million shares. This story isn’t at that level, but it ranks among the biggest this year, so far.

Fox News was first to publish a story that day. One of the passengers who recorded the incident posted the video via Twitter and mentioned @FoxNews, @CNN and local ABC affiliate @WHAS11 to get their attention. It worked. Though being first didn’t seem to give Fox the edge, as several others including CNN and The Huffington Post achieved more total shares for their articles.

The biggest story was the Washington Post’s. They promoted it immediately via their Facebook page and within an hour it was getting over 30 shares per minute. After that it rolled on at a steady pace of at least 20 shares per minute for about two days. The article is up to about 65k shares in total now.

Washington Post published about 50 articles on the topic. Fox News has done about 35. CNN and HuffPo have published about 20 each.

Articles about the incident earned about 3.1k shares on average vs a recent average of about 2k shares per article for all articles by all the publishers we track.

It was a big story for everyone except the Daily Mail. They published 30 stories and only earned about 1k shares in total for all that work.

Coverage of United Airlines is shared mostly by young, educated women with left-leaning politics. That demographic may not be the same one trading their stock, but the message is clear — shareholders didn’t like it.


United Airlines posted a comment from CEO Oscar Munoz to their Facebook page a few hours later to soften the blow. Over 100k comments followed, and 140k shares. 90% of the reactions to that post are angry faces.

Suffice to say that didn’t help matters. Maybe it made things worse.

This might be one of those death spiral moments where a company’s PR efforts only amplify their troubles. As if things couldn’t get any worse (though one should never say that about airplanes) in a separate incident a United passenger apparently got stung by a scorpion on a plane.

United would be smart to use this moment to do something really bold. Free tickets for passengers on flight #3411 and apologizing on morning television isn’t going to cut it.

It seems they need a cultural change at the company. If they start by valuing their customers more that may inspire them to do things really differently.

Maybe they should get political. Everything is political in 2017.

Reversing the tide of negative stories getting shared on social media means filling the Internet with positive ones about something people care about. How about randomly offering doctors, women and Muslim passengers free flights, upgrades and airport lounge access? Doing that every day would chip away at the problem in front of them externally and change the culture internally.

They can’t swing the conversation back with one story, but if our hypothesis at Kaleida is right, that sharing of coverage about a subject has a real impact on that subject, then United has a lot of media to generate that people care enough about to share on Facebook. They better get to work soon.

How sharing patterns relate to stock price

After analysing attention metrics for publicly traded companies we began looking for meaningful correlations with other performance data. The big obvious question to ask was this:

Do sharing patterns of news about companies have a relationship to changes in stock price?

We were very surprised at how quickly we found a positive result:

Sharing of coverage about companies appears to have an inversely proportionate relationship to changes in stock price. Source: Kaleida Data, March 2017

For the first 3 months of 2017 the FTSE 100 have moved in an inverse pattern to sharing volume. It’s unclear if media coverage affects stock price, but it appears that sharing of media coverage does.

The pattern in the pattern

What we’re finding with Kaleida is the act of sharing may have more substance to it than people have understood in the past. There have been indications of this with Brexit and Trump.

When people amplify news they are affecting the subjects of those stories.

Sharing patterns for coverage of publicly traded companies have an ebb and flow to them like anything else. Sometimes attention across the media is led by the subject saying or doing something. Sometimes attention is led by journalists who uncover something. And, crucially, sometimes attention is led by people who find a story interesting.

It’s in this latter class of behaviours that something triggers changes in the other direction. Instead of activity originating from the source that people respond to, there’s activity originating from people that affects the source.

Publishers all care very much about the impact of their journalism, but finding a clear line from a story to an outcome is much harder than it might seem.

Perhaps the problem is the media-centric perspective of that question. Perhaps the answer is more about what impact people are having on the subjects of the journalism they consume.


About the data

Kaleida analyses coverage from leading publishers in the US and UK. We’re looking at how they treat their stories, clustering articles from different publishers, connecting coverage to other data sources, tracking how coverage gets shared on Facebook over time, etc.

So far, we’ve collected and analysed half a million articles from about 20 news organisations, built profiles for about 100,000 subjects and tracked nearly 1 billion Facebook shares.

In our initial research on this idea we’ve only seen the correlation on aggregate data. In the same way that we’ve found that sentiment analysis works in aggregate much better than it does on a single story, we see the pattern on groups of companies but not on any single company’s stock price.

Sainsbury’s, for example, doesn’t show the pattern on its own. The FTSE 100 index, however, fluctuates inversely proportionate to the sharing patterns of all articles about FTSE 100 companies.

It’s also true that networks of things appear to rise and fall together.

In this case, where we’re looking at changes in stock price, the FTSE 100 overall seems to be affected by the sectors that get the most media coverage — supermarkets, retail, fashion, and travel. Companies in those sectors are in the news more, and the stories about them are shared more on Facebook.

This collective rise and fall is similar to the way Trump affects his daughter’s fashion businesses with the attention he draws.

The ups and downs of using Facebook like a home page

Publishers are using Facebook like a home page and getting impressive results. But the data shows what you get from Facebook depends very much on what you put into it.

Cory Haik, Chief Strategy Officer at Mic predicted a year ago that “distributed platforms and native environments will be more valuable than the traditional homepage.” *

The Guardian optimizes Facebook posts for organic sharing uplift. Source: Kaleida, 2017

Publishers are using Facebook like a homepage, and the value of doing that is becoming undeniable. At Kaleida we’ve been tracking publishers’ activities across the market, and we can see clearly that Haik was on to something.

Of course, all the big platforms are doing what they can to enable this transition and anything else that helps them control the attention economy. Emily Bell wrote about the implications of this shift in her now famous post ‘Facebook is eating the world’.

“Posting journalism directly to Facebook or other platforms will become the rule rather than the exception. Even maintaining a website could be abandoned in favor of hyperdistribution.”

Most publishers have let pragmatism drive their strategy for dealing with Facebook, and, in some cases, they’ve found real success when they’ve focused on Facebook as a distribution channel.

Without going too deep into the implications of handing more control over to powerful platforms, let’s look more closely at what publishers are actually doing there and to what benefit.

Some of the publishers we track are getting the benefit of all the work they did early on to acquire ‘likes’ to their Facebook page. BBC (39M), CNN (27M), and Fox News (15M) can trigger viral responses to their Facebook posts just by the sheer size of their reach on the platform.

But that doesn’t stop much smaller organisations from competing head-to-head with the bigger publishers.

NPR, for example, gets a lot of traction organically averaging over 4 shares per minute for their articles. They then use the strength of their 6M page likes to get spikes of 16 shares per minute by posting the URL to their brand page. The Washington Post has similar reach and achieves a lift of about 18 shares per minute after posting to their brand page.

The Washington Post increases organic sharing after posting a link to their Facebook brand page. Source: Kaleida, 2017

Fox News is even more efficient. Despite low organic activity of only 1 share per minute on average they get an astounding uplift to 28 shares per minute immediately following a post to their brand page.

That uplift figure is particularly interesting, as it shows how some publishers are making the most of their Facebook presence while others seem to have no strategy at all.

Achieving that lift is often more art than science. Sometimes it’s a matter of timing and waiting for that moment when the volume and speed of sharing are both swinging upwards. Other times it’s about not doing wasteful things like promoting a story when your audience is asleep.

One of the most fascinating discoveries for us is how much the brand page matters.

The publishers we track average about 1,500 shares per article. About 10% of the articles in our system have earned 4,000 or more shares on Facebook. 85% of those successful articles were pushed on the publisher’s brand page.

In other words, articles don’t succeed on their own. Facebook distribution only really works if the publisher makes it work.

Most articles with higher organic sharing figures have been posted to a publisher’s Facebook brand page. Source: Kaleida, Articles tracked from 20 Feb to 05 Mar, 2017

Not everyone gets this, but the ones that do have benefitted a lot from it.

Let’s look at Breitbart, an organization that is designed for speed both on social and their own channels.

Publishers we track keep the lead story on their home page in the top slot for an average of 8 hours. Breitbart rotates the lead story every 3 hours.

Breitbart has become very influential despite questionable methods. See what the data tells us about Breitbart’s publishing operation.

It’s unclear from sharing behavior whether their web site is very busy, but they do often get a strong organic push on Facebook averaging about 3 shares per minute per article.

Where Breitbart excels is their uplift after posting. They achieve a tremendous 28 shares per minute on average immediately after posting an article URL to their Facebook brand page.

Their strategy clearly gets results even though their methods have been questionable. We wrote more about this in a recent Kaleida research report studying what data says about how they operate.

Publishers are very aware that there are many downsides to relinquishing so much control of a key function of the business. And there’s a lot of upside to be gained from managing a strong web site home page.

Parse.ly CEO Sachin Kamdar’s research reminds us that publishers’ home pages carry a lot of weight.

“The top online news sites receive around 2,000 views per minute (around 10 to 20 percent of total traffic) on their homepages during peak times, according to data from Parse.ly. Sites with particularly loyal audiences see as high as 50 percent of traffic coming straight to their homepage.”

Owned and operated products are always going to be important even if the reason they exist changes as distribution changes. And there are plenty of other sources of traffic besides Facebook. Don’t forget Google! But data shows that Haik was right — many publishers have found better distribution results from partners than they have through their own channels.

Facebook will never be everything to everyone. As long as publishers watch the data and focus their Facebook initiatives on what Facebook does best then they will benefit. The same principle will apply to any partner a publisher either wants to work with or has to work with.

The real challenge is how to use the things that they do control to get as much value as possible from the things that they don’t.

—

Notes on methodology

This analysis was done using data we collected, data we connected, and analysis performed on the data.

We collected all the URLs published to a publisher’s home page and data about where headlines get promoted and for how long. The editors’ promotional decisions are useful data that suggests what editors think is important. So far, we’re tracking about 20 of the world’s leading news orgs.

From there we collect more data to build a sort of map of the media landscape, including organic sharing behavior from Facebook, information about the subjects mentioned in article from Wikipedia, etc. There’s a lot of publicly available data, and by linking things together and running all that data through tools like Elasticsearch we can see who is interested in what, when and how much.

To be clear, we’re tracking link posts on Facebook, but we don’t track videos. Also, we don’t know what changes Facebook makes to its algorithm from day-to-day, but by tracking activity we can identify patterns and benchmarks.


About Kaleida

Kaleida measures the flow of information around the world. By analysing the output of news publishers and the sharing habits of consumers, we form insights into what matters most, and to whom. Contact us at matt@kaleida.com.

Graham Tackley, CTO of Kaleida, contributed to this report.



Harold Evans—Former Sunday Times editor

“Facebook has taken the revenues, making tons and tons of money, at the same time depriving the press of its traditional source of revenue from advertising. My suggestion is that Mr Zuckerberg should make a bequest of exactly half of his fortune and it should go to various organisations so we can disseminate news without having to rely on Facebook and fake news, because there’s no monitoring system there.” (The Irish Times, 4 March 2017)

Veit V. Dengler—NZZ Mediengruppe

“The way we see Facebook and other platforms is basically the same as at The Washington Post. They give us leads for the funnel, and they help us build the brand. But we’re also very much in saying that the main part of our activities: the regional papers and the NZZ, are paid-content models. So it’s all about converting.” (Wan-Ifra, 20 July 2016)

Mark Zuckerberg—Facebook

“Facebook is a new kind of platform. It’s not a traditional technology company. It’s not a traditional media company. You know, we build technology and we feel responsible for how it’s used. We don’t write the news that people read on the platform. But at the same time we also know that we do a lot more than just distribute news, and we’re an important part of the public discourse.” (Facebook, 21 December 2016)

Quotes brought to you by Storyzy


Everybody is in the media business

Donald Trump doesn’t care about the media because he has his own and maybe won the election because of that. Attention is power. It is currency. And everyone needs to learn how to manage it.

Politicians can be very good at striking a balance between feeding a story and being a story. They capture and control attention by putting themselves in the middle of an issue people care about. They become the conduit, the source and the subject of a story all at once when it works.

Of course, that sweet spot rarely lasts. People spread their attention very thinly and the media ecosystem is vast. Tracking attention big celebrities earn makes that point loud and clear. Even the super major top of the top A-listers rarely hold on to their position from month to month.

Shares of coverage about each actor from November 2016 to January 2017. Attention swings dramatically even for these guys. Source: Kaleida Data, March 2017

Big consumer brands, corporate brands, CEOs, staff and anyone in any professional function needs to consider how to play the game, too. Your company knows its competitive position in terms of customers and pricing and market size and many other factors. Why would you leave something as important as attention up for grabs?

The trick to managing it is putting some context around your position.

Let’s look at the leading UK pharma companies — GlaxoSmithKline (£83B Market cap) and AstraZeneca (£61B Market cap). They know they are subjects of attention. But what is the scale of their attention, and who is winning?

Source: Kaleida Data, March 2017

The attention scores used in this chart here are applying a combination of factors including volume of coverage from major news orgs, editorial importance derived from treatment of stories by publishers, and response to coverage by readers via social media.

GlaxoSmithKline is winning the attention war against AstraZeneca, but the pharma category is not doing well overall. Their attention scores are an order of magnitude smaller than the average FTSE 100 company such as Shell, Rolls Royce or Vodaphone.

Source: Kaleida Data, March 2017

What’s the best way to measure success in the attention economy?

It’s worth turning to professional publishers for insights on what success looks like. They have always been in the attention business, and some are very good at it.

While a single article may on occasion break through and “go viral”, publishers generally win by leading the coverage for a major event that happens.

They get in a position to drive the coverage and lead with new information and insights repeatedly in a sustained way over time. If other publishers see value in the story and follow with similar stories then momentum builds. That’s when the publisher who kicked it off has an opportunity to influence what everyone is talking about, perhaps even what everyone thinks.

Source: Kaleida Data, March 2017

The Washington Post was quick to cover Trump’s budget plan last week and developed a huge stockpile of material around it very quickly. They published about 50 pieces – their biggest article earning 60k shares on Facebook. As a result they controlled about 30% of the attention market for the story, more than any other publisher.

Companies and people who are brands in their own right can operate in much the same way.

Where they often go wrong is staying focused on generating interest in themselves. They want to be the center of a story, while publishers try to amass interest in lots of areas and become a conduit for attention rather than the subject itself.

It’s still a nascent field, and attention doesn’t translate into value as easily as transactions and cashflow do.

However, the same principles used for managing income still apply. Not only do you need to understand things like potential market size, market share, customer growth and forecasts, you also need to understand cost.

Clearly, not all attention is good attention. But it’s also true that not all bad attention is harmful.

Our own Dan Catt did some fascinating research in October looking at negative vs positive sentiment in news about Donald Trump. The polarity of sentiment was striking, particularly in the moments right up to election eve.

Source: Kaleida Data, October 2016

Dan’s research demonstrated that polarised sentiment is a strength, and in Trump’s case he seemed to translate it into an election victory.

There are many companies that do well precisely because they know how to avoid attention. In many respects attention becomes merely a signal or an indicator of power. Operating in the dark space of social media has its advantages, too.

But the choice to use it or not is being forced on us all. Businesses can’t play dumb anymore. Just as having Internet savvy became a core competency required of all CEOs every business leader needs to have a plan for winning the attention war. Those that do know how to compete for attention have a lot to gain, perhaps at the expense of those who aren’t really trying yet.

New feature: Who’s winning the attention war today?

Client watch lists help PR and media agencies see what’s working with readers

Kaleida builds profiles over time for companies, people, places, things and all sorts of stuff. Here’s the page for Trump Tower. And the page for Manchester United. Try actors and actresses like Scarlett Johansson. Or maybe you’re interested in news about companies like Uber.

We talk to a lot of orgs that are interested in tracking how readers respond to coverage of a market or a list of things. So, we created a new lens into Kaleida data that does that.

You can track FTSE 100’s, Republican politicians, holiday destinations or any list of subjects you can think of. Below is a sample from one of the new reports.

The new email report helps PR firms and media agencies with questions like, Did your client’s story get any traction? How much? With what kinds of readers? Is your client leading the coverage of the day or did it fail to reach the people you were targeting?

Sample report

Attention rankings of Hollywood actors by amount of coverage from leading publishers, editorial promotion, and number of Facebook shares.

Give us a shout if you’d like to try it for a list of your customers or competitors or a market you care about. Send us an email: matt@kaleida.com.

Breitbart explained

What can data tell us about the new voice of the White House

The White House is narrowing the list of media sources it wants near to it and chose a select few to attend last Friday’s press briefing.

The digital newcomers Breitbart, One America News and The Washington Times were all invited. Journalists from ABC, CBS, WSJ, Bloomberg, and Fox News were there, too. Some of the traditional outlets such as The New York Times, The Washington Post and CNN were excluded from the event.

Given the President’s support of this new group of media sources we must understand what makes up that lens through which the public will see its messages. Breitbart is a good place to start.

The most successful stories published last week by Breitbart that Kaleida is tracking include:

  1. Spicer to Reporter: ‘We’re Going to Raise Our Hands Like Big Boys and Girls’ — 28,840 shares on Facebook
  2. Steve Bannon Details Trump Agenda: Deconstruction of the Administrative State — 12,370 shares
  3. Witches Unite to Cast ‘Binding Spell’ on Trump and Followers — 9,493 shares
  4. Report: NBC News Behind ‘Access Hollywood’ Video Leak to Hurt Trump — 10,595 shares
  5. Caitlyn Jenner calls Trump transgender decision ‘a disaster’ — 11,703 shares


Looking at those headlines it’s easy to see why many in the media business dismiss Breitbart as a news source. It doesn’t seem to take itself very seriously based on what resonates with their readers, or maybe it’s the readers that consider Breitbart lightly. But the President of the United States is a serious supporter of Breitbart and those numbers are very strong.

It would be foolish to dismiss Breitbart. Instead, let’s see what it’s all about.

Kaleida data shows that Breitbart articles generally outperform the market averaging nearly 4,500 shares on Facebook. That’s three times the overall average of about 1,500 shares per article for the publishers we track. CNN is bigger averaging 6,500 shares per article. The New York Times is just over 5,000. And The Washington Post is lower averaging under 3,000 shares per article.

“Fake news” is a big topic for Breitbart. There are over 130,000 references to the term across their site compared with 42,000 for Fox News, 11,000 for CNN, and 162,000 for NYT.

They accuse competitors of producing fake new while producing a lot of it themselves. In fact, Breitbart’s most successful article clearly falls on the fake news spectrum with an intentionally misleading headline. This piece, “President Obama Awards Himself Distinguished Public Service Medal” earned a remarkable 200,000 shares on Facebook.

Yet they don’t support the core assertion. They provide quotes, a link to an AP story and several tweets which create the appearance of evidence, but those references do not backup what is stated as fact in the headline.

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates awards the medal to President George W. Bush. Photo by Tech. Sgt. Jerry Morrison, released by the US Navy.

Breitbart tapped into a strong feeling by many Trump supporters that Obama was weak on military leadership with this article. The feeling represented by the assertion may be a real feeling, but feelings are not news. It discredits Breitbart as a reliable source of information. Even the belief that the story could be real is hard to defend when records show Presidents on both the left and right received the same award in the past.

There are many examples of media on both the left and the right fueling agendas through their reporting and use of language. This example is a particularly flagrant use of a factually incorrect headline that intentionally misleads Breitbart’s own readers.

There can be no doubt the headline helped Breitbart’s advertising model given the scale of the response. By comparison NYT had only 15 stories with more shares during the same period. CNN had 5. Fox News’ biggest piece earned 166,000 shares.

Other Breitbart stories have broken the 100k shares ceiling such as this story about Ivanka Trump’s perfume (106,245 shares) and this one about Madonna’s comments about Trump (116,275 shares). Of the top 25 stories all but one are about Trump either in the form of a Trump conflict with a celebrity or group, a Trump family member’s successes, or the end of Obama’s presidency.

By contrast, of the top 25 stories for Fox News during the same period only 10 are explicitly about Trump. An equal number are news articles about military issues or sporting events. Less than 5 are opinion pieces.

Breitbart’s followers on Facebook are eager to spread the news, too. Many Breitbart articles sit on their web site mostly unseen until they promote them on their Facebook brand page.



Their biggest story right now lived on the site for 13 hours without getting noticed. Then it soared immediately after a Breitbart Facebook post, presumably driving considerable traffic to their web site, too.

According to SimilarWeb their web site traffic is experiencing some impressive numbers.

  • Total Visits 108M, up 26.26%
  • Avg. Visit Duration 00:03:28
  • Pages per Visit 2.31
  • Bounce Rate 57.86%

There’s still a lot we don’t know about Breitbart, yet.

We don’t have figures tracking more subjective things like editorial standards. We aren’t aware of an ombudsman at Breitbart. We know little about their policies around corrections, disputes, fact-checking, image verification, or many of the things professional news organizations invest in and think about.

We don’t know much about their policies around advertorial, conflicts of interest or their social media policies and their approach to comment moderation. Though Breitbart states clearly in their terms of service that they don’t permit content that is “false, misleading, libelous, slanderous, defamatory, obscene, abusive, hateful, or sexually-explicit”.

Breitbart’s Senior Editor voiced support for paedophilia on an Internet talk show recently. He has said many things that would fall into one or more of those categories and has now left the organization.

Being so close to the inner circle of the President of the United States Breitbart may require more rigorous standards for their staff as well as their commenters.

Breitbart is still very new.

In fact, it wasn’t long ago that Pew’s Research on Media Habits showed that only 15% of the news-reading population had even heard of Breitbart, and only 25% of conservatives who knew of them considered Breitbart trustworthy. That’s compared with 88% of conservatives who said Fox News was trustworthy.

Those numbers have surely changed now, though it’s unclear how much the center-right is interested in the type of coverage produced by Breitbart. Fox News is strong with that audience and has more resources to dedicate to their journalism and the challenges of providing reliable information.

Breitbart’s team appears to be very small. LinkedIn shows only 25 people employed at the company which includes mostly reporters and editors. None of the people listed are copyeditors, researchers, lawyers, marketing or sales people. The business appears to be designed for one thing — publishing content quickly.

According to Crunchbase’s startup database Breitbart raised $10M from investors in 2011, though Crunchbase does not indicate who the funders are. Funding since then is unknown.

There was a time not long ago when Buzzfeed was making similar waves across the media industry, including questions about its reliability as a news source. LinkedIn shows over 1,500 people on staff. They’ve raised about $450M from investors. And they break major political stories with serious impact.

While it would make sense to compare Breitbart with Fox News given the conservative agenda, there might be more in common with Buzzfeed. Serious coverage happens, but their bread and butter is entertainment.

Based on the data we have available Breitbart appears to be a sort of early stage, political gossip version of Buzzfeed focused exclusively on serving Trump supporters. It is evolving quickly from unknown Los Angeles blog to White House messenger.

Their story will have many lessons to offer the rest of the industry, though it might be smart to stand back and watch how they cope when flying so close to the sun.

Trump’s declining influence on public discourse

Opponents are using his own tactics against him as his domination of the wider conversation fades.

I was reluctant to write another analysis piece on Donald Trump this week. There’s a lot of other fascinating stuff to talk about, but it’s very hard to look anywhere else at the moment.

And then I saw a Trump trend that actually seemed genuinely interesting — his falling presence in public discourse.

Source: Kaleida, Feb 2017

We’ve tracked over 25,000 articles about Donald Trump over the last three months from about 20 leading publishers in the US and UK. Trump articles average about 4,500 shares on Facebook compared with 1,700 shares on average for all other articles. That rate peaked at 6,700 shares per Trump article the last week in January.

Now that his ratings have fallen performance is running at a normal-ish level, though he will surely climb again. When they do he will have a long way to go to reach Obama’s levels. Obama coverage peaked at 9,500 shares per article and averaged 5,500 over the same 3-month period we’re looking at here. Some of that was clearly related to Trump, but Trump performance figures surely benefitted from Obama’s draw, as well.

This is where things can get really interesting.

Kaleida can identify both the subjects with high correlation and those with a noticeably significant relationship to Trump. For example, the White House, Russia and Muslim all have high correlation scores. They get mentioned together a lot. This week Shinzō Abe, Nordstrom, Saturday Night Live and now Michael Flynn are showing a significant relationship to Trump. Those subjects are outperforming the norm.

Trump seems to account for over a third of public discourse most of the time. Then by including related subjects his numbers get closer to 50%. The last week in January Trump and his network accounted for nearly two thirds of all coverage shared on Facebook.

We discussed this idea of the Trump lift before. He uses it as a weapon. Trump’s tweet about Lockheed-Martin in December cut $4bn in value off their stock.

But Twitter is a conversation, and those opposing Trump’s agenda are learning how to play Trump at his own game.


US retailer Nordstrom recently cancelled their contracts with Ivanka Trump and her fashion line, apparently due to poor sales. They may have used the opportunity to troll the President knowing that his influence might help them. And, in fact, Trump’s aggressive response to the company inspired a massive surge in Nordstrom’s stock price.

Trump knows a thing or two about trolling powerful people and using their position to garner support for his own agenda. Perhaps more people were paying attention to his antics than he realized. Kmart and Sears have both joined in the game this week.

If Trump is able to build more strength across a network it could be harder to beat him at the attention game. He is in a very powerful position. But the same tool he is using to build that position could be the one that strengthens his opponents.

The name of the game at this point is trolling. It may not last. But, then again, it may have just started.

Is terrorism underreported? Let’s look at the numbers

We were planning to launch Kaleida today with a press release. Conveniently, Trump’s latest claim gave us a reason to demonstrate the power of our data and research tools instead.

This week the President of the United States accused mainstream media of insufficiently covering terrorist attacks. Kaleida’s new analytics and insight tools which we are launching today show clearly that this is not true.

How do we know the media isn’t ignoring terrorism? Let’s look at the numbers.

The most obvious example in the list of underreported attacks provided by the White House was the December attack in Berlin at the Christmas Market. There were hundreds of stories from across all major media outlets about that event. We estimate nearly 500 articles were written about it amongst the 20 sources we track at Kaleida over the course of 2 weeks, and countless others from sources we haven’t yet begun working with.

On the day of the event the New York Times wrote at least 12 stories, The Washington Post did about 18, we counted 19 from CNN, Reuters posted 21, and Fox News published 31. Stories continued rolling out for several days afterwards.

Many sources posted liveblogs and reports as information became available. Many were talking to victims. Some were following the hunt for the suspect. And others were writing about the context of the event and the state of terrorism in the world.

Facebook provides proof that people saw all this news. There were well over 1 million shares of those stories across their platform which then appeared in news feeds for the friends of all those people who shared. Most coverage averaged about 1,500 shares per article.


CNN had the biggest story on the day with 45,530 shares, and Fox News’ story about the suspect being killed in Italy earned 41,202 shares. Our records show that Fox promoted it in their top editorial slot on their home page for over 31 hours. Everyone was leading with that story.


Trump’s comments about the attack were covered, too. The Washington Post noted that the German authorities were asking people not to spread rumors in the early moments after the event. The President seemed to know who was behind the attack before the media did and made a statement saying, “ISIS and other Islamist terrorists…regional and worldwide networks must be eradicated from the face of the earth.”

That story was promoted from the top editorial position on washingtonpost.com for an hour. CNN ran a story quoting Trump, too, “President-elect Donald Trump said Wednesday the rampage in Berlin was an ‘attack on humanity.’”

Despite all that Trump’s voice in the coverage of the Berlin attack was not very loud. His voice was included in the coverage, but it’s likely that his fans didn’t hear him.

Our research shows that middle-aged men who don’t trust the news, who have right-leaning politics and lower education levels were not very interested in coverage about Trump and the Berlin attack.


We have more data about media coverage of the terror-related events on Trump’s list — the Minnesota Mall stabbings, the Ohio State shootings, the ISIS attack in Jordan, and the Tunisian beach attack.

Many of the events on Trump’s list happened before Kaleida began tracking what’s happening in the world and who is interested in what and when. However, there’s nothing in our data to suggest that the leading publishers on both the left and right sides of the political spectrum only began covering terror events in September 2016. So it’s very likely all the mainstream news orgs have been covering terror attacks in earnest during the time period in Trump’s claim.

News orgs often cover terrorism at great cost with little or no obvious commercial benefit.

Curiously, the media’s coverage of Quebec City’s terror attack by a white supremacist wasn’t on the President’s list. We tracked nearly 100 articles about that attack. And the December attack on the Russian Ambassador to Turkey in Ankara is not on the list, either. There were hundreds of articles about that attack, too.

It’s not clear why Trump believes those attacks were sufficiently covered versus the others that weren’t covered well enough. Did he want the media to look away from those attacks? Or were they omitted by mistake?

The President of the United States may have spoken from the heart before doing any thoughtful analysis.

Our data says the opposite of his claim that terrorism and terrorist attacks in the United States and Europe have “gotten to a point where it’s not even being reported.”

Politifact rates Trump’s statement “Pants on Fire”:

“We found no support for the idea that the media is hushing up terrorist attacks on U.S. or European soil. The media may sometimes be cautious about assigning religious motivation to a terrorist attack when the facts are unclear or still being investigated. But that’s not the same as covering them up through lack of coverage. There is plenty of coverage of in the American media of terrorist attacks.”

We would agree with that.

Many of the assertions Trump makes about the media seem more like feelings than thoughts or insights. After seeing the data a reasonable person would come to a different conclusion.

Equally, we appreciate that people see the world through different perspectives. It’s not wrong to feel that media is failing to do the best it can do. We feel that way, too, which is why we founded Kaleida.

Our hope is that Kaleida can make our differences and our similarities much easier to see and to help us all create a healthier media ecosystem that fuels diverse perspectives. Today’s launch is a big step toward that goal.

Quantifying Trump’s share of attention

Trump’s circle of influence drives more than half of social sharing of coverage from leading media sources.

Source: Kaleida Data, January 2017

There have been many attempts to profit from attention economics through digital channels and platforms. But a systematic approach to owning and controlling it has been elusive.

And then Donald Trump happened.

We can see Trump’s impact at Kaleida because we are mapping the flow of subjects every day, and the data shows quite clearly how dominant his position has become.

At least one third of the total shares we track come via articles that are about Donald Trump.

The next closest subject is typically about 5% of total shares, and that subject is either Barack Obama or another subject Trump is pushing for or fighting against.

It’s not all positive coverage circling around him, but swings of sentiment and trust don’t seem to matter much at this stage in the media’s relationship between political leaders and the public.

The control of attention is even higher than 33% amongst certain demographics.

Over the last week, articles about Donald Trump are being shared 10% more by men than by women. And it’s clearly younger men with right-leaning politics who are leading the charge.

We didn’t find a particularly big difference when comparing education levels in our initial research.

But there was one surprise.

Donald Trump articles seem to be relatively less important to older, politically right-leaning women with lower education levels than any other group. Even in that case he still drives 29% of the shares. Interestingly, that demographic over-indexes on Brexit which is particularly surprising given this data includes both US and UK activity.

Back to the politically right-leaning young men supporting Trump, the most important subject to them other than Trump this last week was Toby Keith, one of the few performers signed up to play at Trump’s inauguration. Steve Harvey is another subject ranking high amongst this group, a black comedian who recently met with Donald Trump and got into some trouble for mocking Asian men.

If you take into account all the closely related subjects in Trump’s circle of influence it appears that he drives over half of the shares of media coverage across our data.

There are many questions about the value of the attention Trump is acquiring. How much of it can be traded and reinvested in other subjects? What is the value of this attention in other areas outside of the media? What are the tipping points where either positive or negative attention convert to action either for or against him and the things associated with him?

Given this kind of dominance over public discourse it’s worth asking if it is possible to form a monopoly on attention.

Nobody can answer that. At least not yet. But I suspect the people and orgs within that circle or those who are competing with it can feel its impact. For the rest of us, we’ve got a lot of data at Kaleida and some nice charting tools (coming soon) to help everyone understand what it all means.

AI needs the open Internet and other things we learned because of Brexit

Sir Tim Berners-Lee has championed a major upgrade to the World Wide Web for several years now. He calls it the Semantic Web. It’s a design standard for connecting data, not just web pages.

Most people have never heard of the Semantic Web. I kind of thought it was dead, too, but as we’ve been linking data at Kaleida to understand how things impact each other in the news it appears Sir Tim’s idea may have actually happened while nobody was looking.

It started to appear for us when we linked concepts together and charted them over time, like Google Trends focused more on news data.

Last week was a good if not horrifying example as Syria reentered the news cycle. On Monday reports of ISIS taking control of Palmyra hit. Then reports emerged that the Syrian army is going from house to house and executing residents on the spot.

These stories resonated with readers in a way that other horrors in Syria have failed to have impact in the past.

Number of articles about Syria vs number shares of those articles, Sept to Dec 2016. Source: Kaleida Data

This graph shows the number of stories about Syria produced by leading publishers compared with the number of shares of those stories on Facebook.

It says publishers have been covering Syria for a while, as they should, but people haven’t shared those stories very much. It’s good to see publishers committed to coverage of an important issue that has little direct benefit to them as a business. But now we can finally see signs of impact.


It’s hard to tell precisely where the source of the change occurred, but there can be no doubt that The Telegraph’s piece by Julie Lenarz and Huffington Post UK’s piece by Sarah Ann Harris both had a huge impact in turning up the volume. Those two articles account for nearly 1 million shares on Facebook.

We don’t yet understand the relationship between the news and search trends, but we see similar activity for the term “Aleppo” in Google.

Source: Google Trends

While we’re primarily focused on the stories in the data, the stories about the data are pretty interesting, too.

Charting this kind of impact is possible not just because data visualization tools have grown up, which they have. This is possible because machines can tell us when lots of different things share common meanings.

When we started deconstructing and then connecting articles to data that has shared meaning we discovered some surprising terms.

The most obvious example is Brexit. The official term for “Brexit”, according to Wikipedia, is “United Kingdom European Union membership referendum, 2016”.

The reoccurrence of this bizarre term in multiple APIs reminded me how map providers sometimes insert a nonexistent street into their data. It acts almost like a watermark so they can track uses of their data. When you see that nonexistent street you know where the data came from.

Brexit has become a sort of watermark for Wikipedia. The longer, more technically accurate, rolls-off-your-tongue-like-peanut-butter official term appears in Google APIs, Facebook APIs, and in many other major data sets that make the Internet work.

Wikipedia is already connecting tons of things on the Internet much in the way the Semantic Web promised. It can even connect different languages.

It makes perfect sense, actually. Why shouldn’t Wikipedia serve as connective tissue for the Internet? There is no better, more reliable, more comprehensive source of knowledge in the world…at least not yet. And even when it’s wrong the self-healing capabilities of Wikipedia’s data are incredible. Mind-boggling really.

As machine learning and AI infiltrates every digital service we engage with Natural Language Processing becomes more and more important. All those technologies need to understand what words mean and what we intended when people said them. Guess what data those services use to learn about words and what they mean? Wikipedia.

Our preferred NLP service at Kaleida is Aylien, but many of the others also use Wikipedia to train their algorithms.

It makes me wonder if the incredible advances in machine learning and AI over the last 3–5 years would have even been possible without Wikipedia.

Now, Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s idea for the Semantic Web is more clever than simply identifying words. It has a structure to it that maps nicely to the way we think, human language and the relationships word combinations form together. He’s trying to make the Internet into a global brain.

“The brain has no knowledge until connections are made between neurons. All that we know, all that we are, comes from the way our neurons are connected.” — Sir Tim Berners-Lee


The full Semantic Web is indeed much further out than what we have now. I’m not convinced we’ll get there using the standards that have been proposed (see the incomprehensible chart on the left here from the team behind the standard titled, “The Semantic Web Made Easy”). People are messy creatures. And even when we thrive on organizing things in certain ways the practicalities of achieving goals and making money will generally beat out the formation of perfect structures.

But the idea was right, and it’s actually happening.

The inventor of the Web is well placed to see where the value lies within the Internet’s nervous system. He was probably right about linked data. And just like the World Wide Web before it the Semantic Web probably grew far beyond the scope of his imagination.


PS — This post wasn’t meant to be an appeal for Wikipedia donations. I have no affiliation with Wikipedia. It’s just that I realized recently that I’ve misjudged how important it is and how deeply woven it is into the world’s conscience.

Take a moment to imagine the world without Wikipedia. Securing its future is a small thing all of us can do to combat forces that wish to control public opinion or, worse, shut down independent voices.