How Scoopinion's data can show journalists where else their readers are consuming content

Scoopinion is a crowdsourcing browser plug-in that helps readers to find the most relevant stories and articles to their interests.

Working as a personalised and responsive online magazine for readers, the app's creators have scooped a number of start-up awards, as well as being named in numerous "best of" lists for 2012.

And now Scoopinion is developing its platform with journalists in mind, by offering up its news reading data to journalists through an audience analysis tool.

"We felt that journalism is in a sort of transition phase," chief executive Kobra Koskinen told "Revenue is declining and the way that magazines are making money, at least in Finland, means that the quality of articles published online is significantly lower than the quality of articles printed."

These are the founding tenets behind Scoopinion, in making the quality of articles the focus, rather than just the number of hits.

Koskinen added: "We care deeply about journalism and thought we could do a system where, based on readers behaviour, we recommended them better articles.

"Then with the same data that was generated by the readers,  we helped the journalists to write better articles and introduce healthier metrics in journalism than just retweets, eyeballs and Facebook likes."

The browser plug-in tracks a user's reading habits in relation to its specific "whitelist" of websites. With over 700 sites in more than 25 languages, this whitelist is a user curated database, containing sites described by the website as the sort you would show "to your mother". This list will continue to grow in order to build up a greater picture of users' preferences and tastes.

The key with Scoopinion is that instead of simply measuring the amount of traffic an article gets it analyses how each article is read. Mouse movement is tracked, reading speed is measured and this data is used to determine how much value the reader places on different articles.

When this happens on such a large scale, with all the data cross-referencing and content matching that takes place, then the Scoopinion algorithm can build a picture of what type of articles readers like and what other articles can be recommended to them from the whitelist.

"We figured that we can provide value to the readers to find better stories and also for the writers by knowing their audience a little better," Koskinen added.

This highlights the potential for freelance journalists in helping them to gain a greater understanding of their audience, and therefore their market.

"It occurred to us that if we take a journalist," Scoopinion programmer Ville Sundberg added, "and then make an average of the fingerprints of that journalist's readers, we can provide really interesting data on what kind of people read his stories."

"So far we already know that a couple of journalists have found this helpful and have pitched stories to publications that they wouldn't have otherwise," Koskinen added.

One such journalist is Alex Chitty, who writes for a number of high-profile publications. Chitty contacted Sundberg after his appeal on Reddit for journalists to try out Scoopinion.

"It gave me an idea of the people who read my work," Chitty told "So people who had already read some of my work also read Vice, Christian Science Monitor, the Financial Times, stuff like that. It gives you ideas of who to pitch to."

For Chitty this has already led to a successful pitch to another title.

He added: "I think editors could look at the work of their freelancers and find out which is the most interesting. It's a richer set of information than just hits – a lot of stories get a lot of hits – but if people are actually reading them and spending time on them then it's a whole new set of data and way of interpreting things."

Chitty also highlighted the potential that he thinks Scoopinion could offer the business and advertising side of the industry. He said that it could highlight to a publication that readers from elsewhere, perhaps considered "high net worth", are also engaging with the content, which could be appealing for advertising purposes.

The Scoopinion team recognise this value in their own product but said they understand it is by no means the finished article.

"When we're confident that we're providing enough value the idea would be to provide some of the journalist's data as a sort of freemium model," continues Koskinen. "So you would get some basic for free and then a lot more data by monthly subscription. Probably by the end of this year. We want to make sure that our data is really valuable first."

Update: This article has been corrected to attribute several quotes to Scoopinion chief executive Kobra Koskinen, and not programmer Mikael Koponen as was previously states.

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