With our 24-hour news cycle and the seemingly endless pool of information sources, how's a journalist supposed to keep up with breaking news and events? Luckily for you, there are a number of handy sites that now crawl through the web and monitor trending topics in a number of social networks.
Have you ever noticed that when you're logged in to Twitter, on the right-hand side of your screen a "Trending Topics" list is available? When major news happens, people tweet about it, and that causes that particular topic to rise to the top of Twitter Search as a trend. But there are a few other ways to track popular topics on Twitter. For example, Monitter will let you search on the most recent tweets containing keywords you input. Tweetmeme will show you the most popular links on Twitter. Twitturly will help you find the top-shared URLs. And don't forget to check out Hashtags.org, which collects all of the newest and most popular hashtags being used on Twitter.
At Google Trends, you can search and compare multiple keywords - and you can also view, by country, the most popular trends. Trends isn't real-time yet, since Google is only updating hourly. But I suspect that will change soon. Here's what the Google folks have to say about Trends:
"With Hot Trends, you can see a snapshot of what’s on the public’s collective mind by viewing the fastest-rising searches for different points of time. You can see a list of today’s top 100 fastest-rising search queries... you can also select a recent date in history to see what the top rising searches were and what the search activity looked like over the course of that day."
Wikirage is one of my very favorite websites. It tracks all of the pages in Wikipedia that are receiving the most edits as well as breaking news events, popular people and other trends. You can search by hour, day, week and month. How can Wikirage be useful? As news breaks, someone in the Wikipedia community is usually on the scene - virtually - to update or even create the page related to that news. As the story grows, so will the number of people working on that page. You'll often see activity on Wikirage before traditional media newsrooms are even aware of the story!
SnapStream's TV Trends is a new search service that graphs mentions of any keyword said on U.S. television. In addition to searching keywords on your own, you can also survey "hot" and "cold" trends, or subjects that are gaining and losing popularity. While the search is not comprehensive and does not allow you to drill down by hour or day, SnapStream does offer a better broadcast video search than Yahoo and Google.
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Amy Webb is a digital media consultant and head of Webbmedia Group, LLC. She has also launched Knowledgewebb, a new website for multimedia training. You can also follow Amy on Twitter and delicious. Webbmedia Group is a vendor-neutral company. Any opinions expressed about products or services are formed after testing, research and interviews. Neither Amy Webb nor Webbmedia Group or its employees receives any financial or other benefits from vendors.