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Mine the Web Like a Journalist
Posted On October 3, 2011
I recently had the opportunity to sit in on two webinars aimed at journalists. One was sponsored by the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism, titled “Beyond Google: Mining the Web for Company Intelligence.” The other was a “LinkedIn for Journalists” training session, which is offered frequently by Krista Canfield, senior manager of corporate communications at LinkedIn. Both proved to be well worth my time. I thought I might share some of the best suggestions I picked up that are applicable for many researchers, journalists or not.

Company Intelligence

Competitive intelligence expert Sean Campbell, and member of Investigative Reporters & Editors (IRE), presented the Reynolds Center webinar. This webinar is posted on the site and available to anyone for self-guided training.

The goal of web mining, he says, is to uncover “actionable insights.” He covered mining social media such as Twitter for insights on a company’s recent missteps, successes, and future intentions. He noted that many people in a company tweet things that perhaps they shouldn’t, especially product managers or directors (CEOs or VPs may stick to the party line in their communications). He mentioned organizational tools, such as TweetDeck and HootSuite, and directory/search tools, such as Listorius and WeFollow. One particularly helpful tip for finding problems is to search #companyname fail.

A useful site for website information is QuarkBase. It provides the details on people, traffic data, similar sites, social comments, description, and social popularity. For the historical website record on a company, check the WayBack Machine from the Internet Archive.

SlideShare is a site I’ve used on numerous occasions to retrieve a specific presentation. Campbell says it’s his favorite tool and now it will be one that I will check more routinely. He says that many companies inadvertently give away details of their roadmaps by not taking the time to delete key slides before posting a PowerPoint deck. Presentation pitches from companies can frame their solutions well and provide industry/analyst data, product comparisons, and a wealth of information on partners, tradeshows, etc.

Campbell recommends mining HR-oriented sources for company intelligence, such as job postings aggregated on (check postings to see where a company is going with its products) and the reviews, interview commentary, and salary information posted by participants on For company financials, he reminded me to use for transcripts of earnings calls.

LinkedIn Tools

Professional journalists can join the official LinkedIn for Journalists group. The group discussions consist of LinkedIn news announcements and also tips on how members of the press can use LinkedIn to find story ideas, scoops, and sources. The training session was limited to journalists, but anyone can put some of the LinkedIn features mentioned by Canfield to good use. Campbell also covered several LinkedIn features that he particularly liked, including its data-driven company profiles and LinkedIn Signal.

LinkedIn Company Profiles have become very robust and are an increasingly helpful source of information. A Company Page is a place for companies to provide more information about their products and services, job opportunities, and company culture. Any LinkedIn member can follow a company that has set up a Company Page to get updates on key developments, such as hiring, promotions, departures, and job listings. Information like the company description, industry, website URL, and Twitter ID can be updated by authorized employees. The other information you see in the company pages comes from three sources: Capital IQ, Yahoo!, and LinkedIn user data. Capital IQ provides the basic company data such as company overview, revenue, etc. Yahoo! provides company news. All of the relevant people and aggregated company statistics are based on LinkedIn network data. Check out the interesting statistics generated from the data, such as job function, years of experience, educational degrees, etc.

LinkedIn Signal is one of the company’s products that aims to help professionals “make sense of the noise that surrounds them.” It lets you see and filter updates and tweets from LinkedIn professionals who choose to make their updates visible to anyone. From the Updates section of your home page, click the Search Updates link to use some of the following Signal features:

  • Browse real-time updates with content summaries and direct links to the full content
  • Filter updates to show only those that you care about
  • Search for keywords, topics, companies, or people across the updates stream
  • Save your search and check for updates later
  • Find trending links and industry top headlines

Use Signal to see what people in one company are saying about another company. Use Signal to see what the buzz is in an industry and locate sources to contact. And, use Signal to check employees’ comments before going on a job interview. There are endless possibilities for this tool.

LinkedIn Skills is a feature still in Beta that lets you search for a particular skill. It will then surface key people within that community, show you the top locations, related companies, relevant jobs, and groups where you can interact with like minded professionals. You’ll also be able to explore similar skills and compare their growth relative to each other.

InMaps is an interactive visualization tool that maps your entire social network, color coded by associations. The idea is that the maps will allow you to see the prime connectors in your network—and how your connections are related to each other.

Last spring, LinkedIn introduced LinkedIn Today, a feature that surfaces the top headlines and stories being shared the most across multiple industries by LinkedIn’s network of professionals. Members can access news by their connections, industry, or the broader global professional network. It has been an easy way for me to follow what’s important among my connections and it has frequently proven to be an early news alert source.


WayBack Machine:

Video “Search updates on LinkedIn with Signal”:

Paula J. Hane is a freelance writer and editor covering the library and information industries. She was formerly Information Today, Inc.’s news bureau chief and editor of NewsBreaks.

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Comments Add A Comment
Posted By Miriam Thalesir10/28/2011 8:05:28 AM also provides reviews from current employees -- a good insight into some of the UK's biggest employers
Posted By Jason Katz10/20/2011 1:56:42 PM

Great article. Can I add to this list - since private company financial data is SO hard to find - the major private company financial data platform

Extremely helpful and recommended for getting hard to find revenues, ownership, employee size, major events, venture capital backers on major privately-held companies.

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