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Crimson Hexagon has amassed a library of over 250 billion posts from social media websites and believes the contents offer a wealth of sources for journalists, as well as commercial interests.

The library, which is growing by 500 million posts a day, includes people's public comments from Twitter, Facebook, blogs, forums, online news sites and comments from Youtube as well as consumer review data from Amazon, Epinion and others which have been collected since 2008.

More recently, the company has added data sources such as the Chinese micro blog site Sina Weibo.

"We're collecting the news itself," Wayne St Amand, vice president of Crimson Hexagon, told Journalism.co.uk, "as well as certain comments related to those news stories online. So we're getting the professional journalists and the citizen journalists."

St Amand believes the database is just as important for journalists and news outlets as it is for business, adding that MSNBC, CNN, The Wall Street Journal, Al-Jazeera and the Pew research group The Project for Excellence in Journalism have all used the platform for stories.

"For example, Pew Research studies how journalists cover news," St Armand said. "So with the US presidential election, PEJ did extensive research and coverage using our platform on how the media was covering the topic, on what themes were emerging across many thousands of stories."

NBC used the technology to gauge public opinion in a three day window before last year's State of the Union address by President Obama, viewing 18,737 posts on Twitter and Facebook across 50 states.

In another example of the platform's use by journalists and news agencies, Al-Jazeera created a map of the US in which states were highlighted according to where the economic crisis was most being discussed.

St Amand believes the the Crimson Hexagon database is especially useful for studying reactions to political news stories as the public give their opinions and comments on social media in response to developments.

"In many respects social media has democratised the ability to publish," he said, "we can all be self-publishers. There's no regulation, there's no sense of quality or editing but everybody has the ability to express themselves and be published.

"So Pew have the ability, using our platform, to extend their research into the citizen journalist and all the tens or hundreds of thousands of them that are talking about topics online. They can measure and compare these traditional sources against online sources and all the regular public posters in social media."

The most recent use of this data came as the Project for Excellence in Journalism analysed the social media response to the Newtown shootings and calls for stricter gun laws.

Crimson Hexagon's data analysis tool, ForSight, is based on technology developed at Harvard University's Institute for Qualitative Social Science and is available on a subscription basis.

Update: The scale of Crimson Hexagon's ForSight platform is tailored for large organisations and therefore the annual subscription fee starts at $40,000.

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