The New York Times’ R&D team introduced a new tool that can track the lifespan of a news story. Project Cascade visualizes the way a Times story spreads through the different layers of social networking sites to pinpoint why stories gain traction or fall flat.
The core of Project Cascade focuses on bit.ly links and Twitter to track who is sharing what, when, why and how. Creators say the wealth of knowledge provided by Project Cascade is not intended to dictate editorial decisions rather to help reframe content in a more virtually accessible way. The Times believes the visualization tool could help the newsroom better present stories in a way that make them more likely to be picked up by users and shared out across other platforms.
The Times’ vice president of R&D Michael Zimbalist believes the utility of Project Cascade’s real time analysis reaches beyond the scope of the newsroom. “It’s been a theory of ours for the last year or so that the organizations that are able to make business decisions based upon large amounts of data coming in real time are going to be the winners of the 21st century,” he tells the Nieman Journalism Lab. Though creators say they may consider sharing the tool in the future, for now it remains solely with the Times, providing potentially a distinct advantage over competitors less in the know.