Brazilian digital news outlets develop tool to foster a community of readers on Twitter

In recent months, Brazilian digital news outlets AzMina and Núcleo have created a tool to follow the debates of their readers on Twitter and promote conversations between the public and the media outlets on the social network. The idea is that, by getting to know their audience better and knowing what their interests are, the media can get closer to their readers and increase the impact of the journalism they produce. They also intend to make this tool available for use by other organizations interested in connecting with their audiences.

The two news outlets based their Amplifica project on Nucleo’s experience with network monitoring tools, such as Science Pulse, which explores trends and conversations about science on Twitter and Facebook, and Monitor Nuclear, which analyzes the engagement of Brazilian politicians' profiles on Twitter.

"The idea was to create a community-building tool. It was a joint idea [between AzMina and Núcleo]. After some meetings, we came up with this idea of how to bring people into our content," Jade Drummond, responsible for the project at Núcleo, told LatAm Journalism Review (LJR).

"By monitoring, we gather information for us, but we're not necessarily building a community. So [we think] from this tool, this monitoring, how can we bring the community into our content? How do we approach these people? How can we generate conversations and exchanges between readers? This is how this project emerged and was designed," Drummond said.

The two news outlets have been working on the development of Amplifica, selected in the Google News Initiative's Innovation Challenge 2021 and funded by the tech company since October of last year. In the first phase of the project, they counted on the participation of about 200 Twitter profiles and developed a panel through which they could follow the data and the publications of this community in the social network.

In April, the news outlets opened a simplified version of the panel to the public which their teams can access with the idea of making the tool more visible and inviting more people to be part of the community. The public panel gathers the most popular terms, hashtags, and tweets, as well as the most shared links, from the more than 300 Twitter profiles that have signed up for Amplifica so far.

Printscreen showing Amplifica's public panel

Amplifica's public panel (Screenshot)

Unlike social listening tools commonly used by media and companies to find out what topics are hot on social networks, Amplifica only follows people who have registered their Twitter profiles on the tool. This is because the idea is to know more deeply the people who are interested in the journalism produced by AzMina and Núcleo, and who are active in the social network. To do so, Amplifica collects data from the profiles, such as the tweets and their interactions, as well as demographic data such as gender and race of the readers.

"In this first stage, we are understanding how data collection works. Then, we will integrate the production of feature stories and the interaction [with the public]," Verena Paranhos, responsible for the project n'AzMina, told LJR.

According to her, in addition to the production of feature stories from themes that reverberate in the Twitter community, in the second phase of Amplifica a tool will be developed that allows the news outlet and its audience to have a conversation on social media. The intention is to automate this process, by means of a bot that captures tweets with a certain hashtag and gathers them into a thread, for example. According to Paranhos and Drummond, the details of this interactive tool are still being explored by the teams of the two news outlets and are not yet finished.

To develop this next phase of Amplifica, the tool needs to have at least 500 people registered. This is the reason the two news outlets are currently inviting readers to register their profiles in the project.

"According to previous experiences of network analysis, monitoring at least 500 profiles generates an interesting volume of data to allow for testing and analysis," Drummond said. "If the monitored community were much smaller than that, the data volume would be low and the automated analyses, which are used to filter out noise from excess content spread on social media and make sense of what is being published by our readers, would have little effect.”

Also, according to Drummond, the development of the next phase of Amplifica "has already started internally, with the development of the bots and conversations with Twitter. But we depend on building up this community of at least 500 profiles to understand the behavior and interests of the people who are part of Amplifica. Then, we would have more ideas and clarity of what will work best when connecting this community.

Both AzMina and Núcleo have an open source policy, Paranhos and Drummond said, mentioning tools such as Elas no Congresso, developed by AzMina, whose code is available on GitHub. Amplifica will also be open source and may be used by other organizations, journalistic or not, to follow and interact with their audiences on Twitter.

"The goal is for it to be a tool that other news outlets could also use in the future, after we finish the development and creation of the full project," Drummond said. “The idea is that other news outlets will be able to replicate [the tool] and create their own communities, and for Amplifica to be a tool used by other news media outlets in general.”

It is expected that Amplifica's interactive section will be developed over the next few months and that the tool will be fully operational around October of this year.