Saturday, January 03, 2015

INSIDER UPDATE: Tracking the growth of BadBlue News in 2014

For the six readers who might be interested in the topic, I thought I'd recap some of BadBlue's highlights for 2014.

A little bit of history: years ago I came to the realization that there were thousands of high quality websites that were worth visiting, but I had no effective way of doing so in any reasonable timeframe. Whether the topic was technology or politics -- two particular areas of interest for me -- the sheer volume of stories and sites overwhelmed any ability for me to keep up.

And I needed a way to bypass the media censors. Generic news sites, Google News for instance, are limited by the overt government censorship that's endemic to traditional media outlets. Major scandals that would have devastated a Republican administration -- Operation Fast and Furious, the weaponization of the IRS, and Benghazi, to name but a few -- are routinely hushed up by The New York Times, The Washington Post, and other influential elements of Democrat media.

Not only were generic news sites unsuitable, but RSS readers proved -- to me, at least -- wholly ineffective at managing thousands of websites and tens of thousands of news stories over any given day.

I needed a system to curate stories using automation. That's when the first idea hit me.

Social media mentions struck me as a possible way to algorithmically curate news stories. A story that got a few hundred retweets or Facebook "likes" might be onto something big.

What if I canvassed thousands of websites and created a list of their stories ranked by social media mentions?

I wrote some headline-scraping software to experiment with this notion. It was rudimentary, to say the least. It created a simple text file -- with just a headline and a link -- ranked by mentions.

This was mildly helpful, but suffered from several major problems.

Consider a lightly trafficked, but exquisitely written blog, for example. In the tech world, I consider Robert X. Cringely's blog routinely outstanding, but its traffic pales in comparison to, say, Engadget.

My concern: a superb article from Cringely's site would likely never warrant the number of mentions achieved by a mediocre piece at Engadget!

How to rectify this situation? How could we level the playing field among small, medium and large sites?

The answer was to incorporate website traffic into the calculation of story popularity.

Page Views: 32% Increase
Dec. 2013: 381,979 pageviews
Dec. 2014: 502,678 pageviews
Sessions: 58% Increase
Dec. 2013: 112,529 sessions
Dec. 2014: 178,180 sessions
Users: 32% Increase
Dec. 2013: 32,090 users
Dec. 2014: 42,428 users
More specifically, the solution revolves around a formula that compensates both for social mentions and traffic.

For example, a Cringely article with 100 retweets might be more important than an Engadget story with 2,000! Thus, the algorithm needed to be refined to incorporate both traffic and social mentions into its ranking formula.

And that is how BadBlue was born.

It may be small potatoes compared to the major sites, but growth of BadBlue's completely automated news service has been surprisingly positive. Remember: there are no human editors, not a single human involved in arranging the content of the sites.

October saw the introduction of the BadBlue Sports channel, an idea from longtime reader Jack. It became the eighth channel, following Tech, Money, Guns, Cars, Prepper and Fame (a TMZ-like aggregator).

Therefore a modest bleg: if you are so inclined, I could use your help continuing to grow BadBlue.

Any social media mentions are especially appreciated. Click here to tweet out a mention or just below to Like on Facebook:

Or, if you're not a big social networker, just email your list.

Any shout-outs are truly appreciated.

We need more uncensored news in this country, not less.


Witt's End said...

I'd love to follow Bad Blue News via RSS (which is how I aggregate stuff), but the feed is broken. Could you fix it?

I've enjoyed your site for years - keep up the good work!

Gunnar Grey said...

Tweeted. Thanks for all your hard work, Mr. Ross.

Anonymous said...

Fascinating, actually. Proud to be one of the six, and a fan of your genius. As a conservative news junkie, your site is a must and a necessary resource in defeating the MSM. I had no idea about the sports page, and am excited to share with my husband and friends!
While neither he, nor they share my passion for politics, they do share a passion for sporting news, and if it helps you by them clicking on BadBlue Sports several times a day, then we all win in the end!
Happy New Year Mr. Ross!

D Lo

Anonymous said...

I love you, I read and tweet everyday!

Anonymous said...

I really like the idea of BadBlue, and read it for a while but eventually got tired of blind redirection. I am fairly particular about what sites I'm willing to visit, and having no idea where I'll end up keeps me from using BadBlue. Fix that, and I'm back with you. Thank you for your consideration.

Doom said...

Wow! You did this and BadBlue? I have been following BB for a while now, a year or two?, but had no clue it was your... well... baby. I even gave it a review, and endorsement, on my blog (a little hellhole in the wall, but some read).


directorblue said...

All, thanks for the kind remarks.

@Anon 3:51 - not sure what you mean about blind redirection. Each story indicates where you should go after clicking.

The only known anomaly is a site called "linkis" that sometimes wraps the original story in its own package, which I find irritating.

I haven't had time to address that yet, but I intend to.

That said, if you have some other example of blind redirection, let me know what you mean. Thanks