Blog Post

Track that bias: New app visualizes cable news topics live

CNN spends a lot more time reporting about the Murdoch phone hacking scandal than News Corp.-owned Fox News.
Ever wanted to know how biased Fox News (s NWS) and CNN (s TWX) really are? A new OS X app called News Mapper helps you to find out by making the program of both cable news networks real-time searchable. Users can, for example, search for uses of politically charged vocabulary like Obamacare or mentions of embattled media mogul Rupert Murdoch, and the app displays the frequency with which each word was mentioned in a graph that gets updated in real time as the news coverage continues.

Popular words used on Fox News.
Users can then click on the time line and browse small snippets of transcripts from each network, revealing the context in which a word was used. News Mapper even generates tag clouds for the most commonly mentioned words on CNN and Fox News. The app, which was recently launched as an experimental alpha by Bay Area-based, is a great toy for any news junkie — but it’s also a good demonstration of the power of data for the future of TV.

We’ve previously covered’s attempt to kill the TV news ticker by offloading contextual information from the TV to the second screen. Essentially, it aims to empower third-party developers to build smarter second-screen apps by telling them what exactly is happening on the TV screen at any given moment. A first demo app for this enabled users of GetGlue to check in automatically into shows running on their TiVo. News Mapper takes this one step further, demonstrating what the startup’s context API is capable of. Not only does know which show you are watching, but it actually knows what’s being talked about on that very show right then and there.

That’s a very compelling proposition. Second-screen apps could take this kind of information to serve up contextual information on your iPad, or even utilize it for Adsense-like advertising that is reflective of the content you’re watching on TV at any given time. founder Erik Schwartz told me via email that his company’s Context API is available in closed beta to developers starting this week, and that he is looking for “adventurous developers” that want to build second-screen apps based on this kind of data. isn’t the only company looking at utilizing this kind of data to turn TV programming itself into a platform to build applications on. The BBC recently launched the experimental semantic programming guide Chanelography, making it possible to search across close to 170,000 TV show episodes, movies and newscasts for mentions of people and places. Want to know how often Barack Obama was mentioned on the BBC since his election? Chanelography has the answer.

Chanelography focuses mostly on catalog content, whereas the News Mapper app puts an emphasis on things airing right now, but both approaches have one thing in common: They put an emphasis on data analysis. Americans watch close to five hours of TV every day. Making sense of all that data that is associated with that programming could open up a whole range of new possibilities for developers, regardless of whether their apps live on connected TVs, second screen devices or in the cloud.