University spinout set to serve up breaking news with social media data mining

Phil McParlane
Phil McParlane

A spin out from the University of Glasgow has unveiled a new service which aims to harness the power of social media to provide journalists, financiers and sports fans with an invaluable ‘glimpse into the future’.

Scoop Analytics offers subscribers access to the outputs from their custom-built newsgathering algorithm, which scours social media to identify breaking news before it’s reported through official news channels.

The advance warning that Scoop provides could help journalists to get the inside track on news from around the world; financial traders to access market information before it reaches the wider public; and sports fans to find out about leaked manager or player transfer news ahead of bookmakers.

One recent Scoop from the service identified social media chatter about the Central Italy earthquake on August 24, which hit at 2:39 in the morning. Scoop’s algorithm identified numerous social media posts from local people on the scene, and Scoop informed subscribers about the event at 2:44am.

By contrast, the first news sources to tweet about the earthquake were Russia Today and BBC News, which tweeted at 3am and 3:01am respectively.

Scoop Analytics is the creation of Dr Phil McParlane and James McMinn, both of whom studied at postgraduate level at the University of Glasgow’s School of Computing Science, and the University’s Professor Joemon Jose.

Scoop, incorporated in January 2015 and supported by the University and venture capital firm IP Group plc, has already attracted acclaim from the Converge Challenge competition and Scottish Enterprise, via an RSE Enterprise Fellowship for Dr McParlane.

Dr McParlane said: “The increasing ubiquity of social media and the rise of citizen journalism has helped breaking news attract attention around the world faster than any other time in human history. For journalists, this means that only a few minutes’ head start on a story can make the difference between filing a scoop or being forced to follow the lead of others.”

James added: “The technology underpinning Scoop Analytics allows subscribers to get a glimpse of the future by automatically detecting news from the millions of social media streams around the world. Our sophisticated algorithm, which is the basis of my PhD, gives users the power to find breaking news before it breaks. We’ve already enjoyed significant success, with Scoops on King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia’s death and Riyad Mahrez signing of a new contract with Leicester City FC, and we’re excited to be bringing the service to new subscribers from today.”

Professor Jose said: “In addition to the benefit of getting advance warning on breaking news, the online dashboard we’ve designed allows subscribers to improve their productivity. Instead of scouring their Twitter feeds looking for news themselves, they can tailor their Scoop search to bring them notifications on news as it happens.”

Scoop Analytics currently employs five members of staff based at the University of Glasgow.