Having trouble uncovering insight when volume is high? Use 3-D!

Most organizations know that tracking media mentions is a must for developing effective communications and marketing programs. In fact, figuring out what is being said, who is saying it, and how the conversations are flowing is so important that media monitoring and analysis is being deployed in corporations, governments, and institutions in ways well beyond the expected “communications and PR” uses.

High volume can present challenges. There can be many reasons for high volume—sometimes, it’s just a flash in the pan, such as a wildly successful product launch (on the positive side) or a crisis of some sort (on the negative side). Or, high volume might just be the standard, normal volume for a monitored organization or topic.

For the uninitiated, being suddenly faced with very high volumes of content can be paralyzing. If one is accustomed to reviewing 50 news items a day and there’s suddenly 5,000 in the daily tally, panic comes in the form of a question: “how on earth am I ever going to get through all of this?”

The answer is to break things down into manageable parts, and one way to do so is to use 3-D—which in this case means taking a look at density, duration, and direction.


The dictionary defines dense as “having the component parts closely compacted together, crowded.” This is essentially what you’ll be looking for in your media coverage: how compacted together is the news you are reviewing?

There are a few quick ways to determine this, and one of the fastest is to sort your results by headline.

With media consolidation continuing, more and more news outlets are being pulled together under new ownership, with shared resources. As a result, you’ll likely see a range of local papers carrying the exact same headline, as these papers have a common owner. The same or similar headlines is true for content that is syndicated as well, so you can very quickly see how a single story has penetrated in a region or country.

Another means of determining story density is to conduct a keyword search within your results. Try to make sure that the keyword you’re looking for is closely connected to the topic—for example, if your business has been impacted by bad weather and you’re attempting to determine how much of your total news coverage relates specifically to the service disruption, make sure that the search terms include the weather event, such as [Company Name] + [Typhoon Name], or [Company Name] + [flooding].

Sorting by headline will give you a strong indication of how much a single topic or story is dominating your coverage, and searching within results using specific terms will provide similar information—even if the headlines vary.

Some services offer the capability of grouping by similar stories, providing an “at a glance” understanding of news items with similar content and themes. When sifting through large volumes of results, the ability to quickly review which topic areas are garnering the most coverage can be a real timesaver.


Reviewing thousands of news items in a day is a challenge, but doing so for a week or more—or day-in and day-out—can be absolutely draining. Duration looks at the “stickiness” of the news story over time.

The most direct route to examining the duration of a topic is to examine daily volume charts, to determine where spikes occur versus consistently high discussion.

To gain insight on a story that has caused a spike in volume, you’ll need to start with a comparative analysis. If you have the option to select a date range within your monitoring tool, select a time period that shows volume prior to the story hitting the news, up through the current date. If you observe a sudden spike followed by a fast return to more standard volume, that indicates the news hit and spread fast, but the story ran its course quickly.

Conversely, if you see a series of small increases that build, go to the coverage and review headlines. Did the story build slowly and then spread fast? Examining the coverage may show where the tipping point occurred. How long did volume remain above normal boundaries? If you observe dips and rises in volume, these too can lead to insight: how did the story change over time?


Direction can mean multiple things when it comes to news coverage. First, there’s the spread of a story from one region to another—say, if a local story makes national (or international) news. Second, direction can mean changes in tone or sentiment.

Both of these forms of direction can offer important insight, and your measurement tool should provide you with a means to track both of these aspects of coverage. Sentiment is a standard offering, but if sentiment is automated, make certain you understand how the monitoring tool makes this determination, so you can adjust for it in your analysis.

What causes a story to move from a regional topic to a national one? Human interest and the number of people affected are two logical reasons, but are there others? Examining this in detail—how and why a story spreads—can provide you with an understanding of how to approach messaging going forward.

The same holds true for sentiment. By examining changes in sentiment, you can see if your messaging was effective in turning the tide of news coverage (or not). This in turn provides lessons for the future.

Density, duration, and direction provide a 3-D view. Close examination of these three areas can quickly unlock key insights, even when volume is high.

Speak with one of our experienced consultants about your media monitoring and communications evaluation today.