6 Dec 2017

Excellent marriage between machine and human creates ‘Reuters Tracer’ lovechild


CLIENT: Thomson Reuters

WOW: Social Media News Tracer

DATE: October 2017


Las Vegas shooting, October 2017, 1:22am, 58 people dead. Earliest report on Twitter happens simultaneous to the shooting.

Every news organisation has an acute problem with fake news distorting the perception of events and there is an added pressure to break news stories as they happen.

The new system called Reuters Tracer examines 12 million tweets a day (2% of the daily total), validates news events and assigns a newsworthiness score with a confidence rating on how likely the events are true.

The algorithm  uses data mining and machine learning to pick out the most relevant events, determine the topic, rank the priority, write a headline and a summary. The human involvement comes from a list of Twitter accounts, curated by Reuters journalists.

A citizen journalist tweet at 1:22am about the shooting triggered what is called a ‘Tracer Cluster’ and, after rigorous criteria has been met, the event was included in the news feed at 1:39am

What we love most about the Tracer product is the cooperation between serious data brains in R&D and the human expertise brought in from the Reuters journalists – it’s a lot like how we work here at Mediacells!


6 Dec 2017

Artificial Intelligence-defying writing from Esquire

SECTOR: Entertainment

CLIENT: Hearst, Esquire

WOW: Power of the human word

DATE: November 2017


Progressive US magazine Mother Jones recently reported that Artificial Intelligence (AI) experts are predicting we will have ‘full human-level AI’ by 2045. Artists? Surgeons? Writers? There’s an app, well, a robot for all that in less than 30 years.

However, when you read Kevin Sintumuang’s piece, ironically about driverless cars, there’s little hope for mid-millennium robots mastering the art of magazine writing.

His article on the new Mercedes S-Class is a paean to near-future tech and evokes its benefits with the passion and skill normally reserved for the Times Literary Supplement, rather than a humble car review.

Kevin’s work is indicative of inspired editorial direction at Esquire but also to a bold approach at publisher level, elevating native content above attention-grabbing social media calls to action or the ‘10 celebrity chefs you won’t believe what they cook like now’ clickbait strategies.

Mediacells reckons that even with superior petaflops, your above-average robot won’t ever be able to conclude a car review with:

Are we ready to give up our freedom to take the wheel in exchange for self-driving pleasure pods of the future?

Does a millennial eat avocado toast?


21 Jul 2017

What is it with Austrians and diving records?

There are no two words in the English language more harmful than ‘good job’, said Terence Fletcher, the rhythm-dictating fascist drumteach in 2014 Hollywood blockbusting outlier, Whiplash.

It’s alright being good at something but being the best at something is a huge ask for the individual. Not so for countries, according to David McCandless and the infographic rockstarati over at Information is Beautiful.

The 2016 edition set about drawing on an astonishingly diverse set of public data, from the CIA to the NY Times through to freak-editions of Mental Floss and the Daily Beast, all to benchmark loads of countries around the world at being The Best at something.

Next, of course, Dave and his sexifiers of all things data, did what they do best and visualised it, serving it up delectably to the great unwashed of the world wide web.


It’s a compelling data concept and the execution is, let’s face it, ace – apart from looking fabulous, it’s almost impossible not to check out every cited country on the vector beautymap.

Kuwaitis, according to Forbes magazine, are the ‘best at Twitter’, based on the Top 10 countries per capita use. It’s a lovely way to measure it because if you ‘go missionary’ and do it by absolute number of Twitter users, it’s obviously the USA who rock the stat.

The best thing about the study is how the data creates a dialogue and challenges our own preconceptions, exposing our ignorance and sometimes prejudice. For example, who knew Hungary had the best porn stars, based on John Millward’s study of 10,00 porn stars and their careers back in 2013.

Okay, I mean Denmark being best at Wind Power was never going to surprise me, and the Swiss best at innovation? Mah, whatevs. Even the Lithuanians sporting the fastest WiFi doesn’t make me hold onto my hat and I kind of knew that Cuba had the best doctors, Brazil the best sugar, Argentina the best horse meat.

What I didn’t know was that Croatia is best for kidney transplants, France is best for whiskey drinkers (though what constitutes ‘best’ is slightly dubious here, i.e. whiskey consumption per capita), Egypt has the heaviest women which may work, superlatively speaking, Sweden has the best pop music, according to the Abba-loving Financial Times, or that Ireland has the best working conditions.

Like any set of far-reaching, random public data sets, there comes a point in the egghead’s perusal when the integrity or validity of the data has to be questioned. It’s a wonderful bit of fun and I love the corrections and updates, like Canada is now best for Personal Freedom, compared to Doughnuts from whence it came.

What Mediacells can’t forgive is its estimation that Austrians are only best at Paid Time Off. For a while here at Mediacells we have been pondering what it is about the Austrians that make them absolute nutters when it comes to extreme diving.

Felix Baumgartner jumped from a frickin’ helium balloon in the stratosphere and broke skydiving records for exit altitude, vertical freefall distance (39km) and vertical speed ( 1,357.64 km/h) without drogue. At the other end of the spectrum, quite literally, is Austrian freediver Herbert Nitsch, who is the current assisted freediving world record champion and “deepest man on earth” having dove 831 feet into the deep.

It would be good to flip the supremacy metric on its head and find out which countries are the worst at stuff.

As David Brent tweets, ‘Eagles may soar, but weasels don’t get sucked into jet engines.’

14 Jul 2017

Your money or your life – what would you stand and deliver?

A mugger accosts you in the street ranting, ‘YOUR CASH OR YOUR PHONE?’ what do you give up? If you hand over your cash, there’s no recompense, you’ve lost your dosh. If you hand over your phone, chances are it has a lock on it and you can cancel it and get a replacement. There’s […]

29 May 2016

Prepare to be thunderstruck by the 2016 Champions League final

By Brad Rees As the Atlético Madrid team bus rocks up to the San Siro stadium on Saturday, the Blaupunckt stereo system will be blasting out ‘Thunderstruck’ by Ozzie MetalGods, AC/DC. It’s an Atléti tradition. Torres and chums will be chanting, ‘Thunder, thunder, thunder, thunder, I was caught in the middle of a railroad track.’ […]

19 May 2016

GEORDIE SOARS… as MTV reality show celebrates 5th birthday with record audience on TV and online

By Brad Rees Love it or hate it, MTV’s licence-to-ill DocuSoap has wiped the floor with all previous traditional ratings records and amassed a vibrant, engaged social audience in the process. An army of digital natives gorge on content, not just for the 42 minutes per episode but 24/7 – as new and old habits […]

13 May 2016

How to retain unloyal millennial audiences as media owners

Start by understanding what makes them tick at work, says Deloitte By Brad Rees We’ve all had that job that never makes it to the CV or LinkedIn halls of fame. Mine was working for Alternative Corporate Entertainment PLC or ‘ACE’, where I was tasked to sell ‘Novelty Entertainment Acts’ (NEAs) to global business monoliths from […]

6 May 2016

Can digital longform content talk to the Buzzfeed generation when under the social media influence?

By Brad Rees Last week I realised the true value of being a follower when I discovered an amazing story by Hillsborough survivor, Adrian Tempany, after it was promoted in a tweet by sportswriter David Conn.  It was 5,000 words long, which meant a lot of iPhone thumbscrolls on a Sunday afternoon when I should have been helping […]

28 Apr 2016

Is Apple on the precipice of going Nokia-wards?

Tim Cook will have woken to the news that Facebook has tripled its advertising revenues. The news has stunned Wall Street in much the same way that Apple’s revenue-drop news, 24 hours previously, had shocked the media world. The surprise came despite an apparent expectation management exercise, masterminded by mister Cook in January. Apple soothsayers […]

15 Apr 2016

Don’t be evil, try telling that to the robots!

It’s 1977. The Goblin Teasmade advert is on television screens, Punk is hitting the UK streets and Clifton Country Primary (CCP) are engaged in the dying embers of a grudge soccer match against arch pre-teen rivals, Mayfield. It’s nil-nil.  CCP have just brought on a substitute, Steven Roundtree. He’s new to the team and it […]