Home News Patterns: Finding Hidden Threads in Everyday News

News Patterns: Finding Hidden Threads in Everyday News

Have you ever watched those movies with the crazy genius who has newspaper and magazine clippings pasted all over their walls with circles and lines and highlighted paragraphs to find the hidden common threads and secretly wished that you were crazy and smart enough to be that guy? Well, wish no more.

No, we don’t mean go buy a glue stick and get to clipping – a company out of New Hampshire called News Patterns has taken care of all that for you.

Using News Patterns is like hiring your own private sleuth to track a topic and let you know anything and everything important surrounding that topic. Started nearly a decade ago by Jim Andrus, the company just last year got into what it now considers its bread and butter – visually representing massive quantities of news.

We spoke with Andrus this afternoon and he explained that experiencing news visually takes advantage of our natural programming.

“Our brains and our bodies are still on the Serengeti plains and based on that basic neuroscience, we’re taking that wiring of us as humans and looking at huge volumes of news,” Andrus said. “Our brains can take in information at 10 million bits per second, but you can only read 200 bits per second.”

The basic idea here, he explained, is that you’ll notice things visually that you wouldn’t be able to even see otherwise. News Patterns’ custom algorithms, which take in thousands upon thousands of articles and process them for relationships and relevance, are handling the overwhelming task of taking in massive quantities of data. It then plots the information on a bulls-eye graph, wherein a topic’s importance is signified by its distance from the center and relationships between different topics and data points are shown by their proximity.

“We’re creating this environment where people can be exposed to things they didn’t even think of asking about in the first place,” Andrus explained, offering up Google Alerts as an opposing example.

With Google Alerts, the user simply requests that any time Google comes across a specific set of terms in its indexing of Web content, it notifies them. Andrus said that with something like Google Alerts or similar alert systems, if you wanted to know about “Google electric cars” you would often get spammed with content, because it is taken out of context. If, suddenly, Yahoo got into the electric car making business, it wouldn’t tell you because it doesn’t have the keyword Google. With News Patterns, this is the sort of information that would not only be pointed out visually on the News Radar, but potentially emailed to the user as an alert.

The News Radar offers a number of different ways to look at information, from animations over time connections between topics new and old. A number of examples are provided, from the

2012 US Presidential Candidate Identity

, which means to show the most likely Republican candidates for the 2012 Presidential election, to

a glimpse of the field of wireless technology


Although, at a starting rate of around $4,000, this isn’t likely to become your next tool for keeping up with local politics or what’s going on in the world, it looks to be a powerful addition to larger, more professional endeavors and Andrus told us that it had already been used by a number of major political campaigns and currently has BP (which surely could use some help in keeping track of what’s going on in the world and public relations) as a client.

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