Monthly Archives: October 2015

Data Tells a Story: the war on obfuscation; weather hunters; surviving the zombie apocalypse


We at Inform believe that data tells a story, across all industries, and every week we’ll be rounding up the most interesting ones right here. This week: the war on obfuscation; hunting for weather; surviving the zombie apocalypse.

A Mexican startup has pieced together the elusive data behind the country’s secretive drug war

The drug war in Mexico has been making headlines for the past four decades. However, what’s been lacking is consistent data that helps “Mexicans understand their country’s brutal cartels—or how effective their elected officials have been at combating them.” A start up in Mexico called Animal Político is trying to provide that data.

Animal Político has their work cut out for them. While a new transparency law was enacted in May, many documents still remain classified — 12 out of 15 million to be exact. In February the UN chided Mexico for its lack of precise statistics on kidnappings, especially significant in light of the kidnapping of 43 students.

Only two of Animal Político’s more than 12 requests for government documents were fulfilled — “several pages of blurry PDFs” — but from there the start up was able to build several interactive visualizations “detailing turf wars and cartel-affiliated armed groups.”

How Brands Are Using Data to Drive Personalized Context In-Store

Some retail stores are leveraging the ubiquity of mobile devices and the availability of data to create personalized experiences for their customers in-store and in real time. As a result, potential buyers might get hyper-relevant recommendations, in-the-moment deals, and in general another layer of context around their shopping experience.

One store tracks what products customers bring into the fitting room and recommends complementary products in real-time or as a follow up. Another retailer allows customers to check in with their PayPal apps and browse via screen, after which an associate gathers the items and texts the customer once a fitting room is available. RFID tags on the merchandise provide up-to-date inventory, and smart mirrors in the fitting rooms allow customers to request other sizes or items.

IBM Works With The Weather Company To Track Earth’s Big Data Atmosphere

IBM and The Weather Company are teaming up to offer 100% accurate meteorological predictions three days ahead of time, based on the “massive” amounts of data The Weather Channel is already collecting.

The Weather Channel’s “data space” is so huge because it goes from “the surface of the Earth all the way around the globe up to the top of the atmosphere,” which is about 100 kilometers high. Later on, social media data points might also come into play, similar to the way the US Geological Survey National Earthquake Information Center is using earthquake-related tweets to improve quake detection.

Alien hunters turn to IBM and big data tool in hunt for ET

While The Weather Channel hunts the skies for weather, the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute is looking heavenward for signs of alien life, and using big data to do so.

SETI has access to a large amount of data gathered by the Allen Telescope Array and analyzes that data to find radio signals “that differ from background astrophysical and human signals.” As a result of listening to signals for four years, the institute has a robust database of signals identified as interference from “humans and non-alien source,” which they then can compare to signals that are out of the ordinary.

Baltimore could probably survive zombie apocalypse, data show

If a virus-based zombie apocalypse should ever hit, apparently one of the best places to be is Baltimore.

CareerBuilder and Economic Modeling Specialists Intl. analyzed various data points to rank cities in terms of zombie apocalypse survivability. The companies used eight criteria, including defendability against the zombie virus, means for containing the virus, likelihood of finding a cure, and a sufficient food supply to outlast the epidemic.

How did they measure such criteria? For a city’s ability to defend against the virus, they analyzed “the percentage of the area’s population in the military, law enforcement, firefighting and security,” and “percentage of total exports coming from small arms manufacturing industries.” For likelihood of curing the virus, percentage of bio-medical research and professionals was analyzed.

Only more likely than Baltimore to survive are Boston, Salt Lake City, and Columbus. The number one least likely? New York.

Stay Informed: 7 Events in November to Maximize Engagement

Inform is here to help you prep for your event coverage with our massive library of content. From local and trending to national and breaking news –- we have it all.

On the November docket: three (count ‘em, three!) music award shows, the second Democratic Presidential Debate, and of course turkey day festivities. Check out the complete list below.

Tuesday, 11/3

While the Presidential election isn’t until next year, you can still rock the vote in your local elections.

Wednesday, 11/4

Kick up your boots for country music’s biggest event: the Country Music Association (CMA) Awards broadcast live on ABC and hosted by Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood.

In this preview, Underwood teases her red carpet look and many dress changes throughout the show.

After hosting the Country Music Association awards for seven straight years, Carrie Underwood 's got her red carpet routine for the show down pat.

Saturday, 11/14

CBS News teams up with Twitter to host the second Democratic Presidential Debate in Des Moines, Iowa. Get your live-tweeting muscles ready.

Who do you think won the first debate? Bloomberg’s Phil Mattingly reports.

Oct. 14 -- Bloomberg's Phil Mattingly reports on CNN's Democratic presidential candidates debate

Sunday, 11/15

The Barclays ATP World Tour Finals runs through November 22 in London. This season-ending event showcases the best men’s singles players and doubles teams on the 2015 ATP World Tour.

Thursday, 11/19

The 16th annual Latin Grammy Awards will be broadcast live on Univision from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Sunday, 11/22

Join Jennifer Lopez as she hosts the American Music Awards, broadcast live on ABC from the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles.

Check out who leads the AMA noms.

Taylor Swift leads with six nominations for the 2015 American Music Awards

Thursday, 11/26

Tradition returns with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on NBC.

Take a walk down memory lane with these highlights from last year’s parade.

Millions of people braved the NYC chill to catch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on Thursday

And as always, reach out to the Inform Content Team with any questions, comments, or concerns.

Data Tells a Story: Comcast; Penn Medicine; urban bike sharing


We at Inform believe that data tells a story, across all industries, and every week we’ll be rounding up the most interesting ones right here. This week: Comcast; Penn Medicine; and urban bike sharing.

Comcast Seeks to Harness Trove of TV Data

The cable company has access to viewing data from 18 to 22 million subscribers across the much of the U.S., and is planning on licensing that data to other companies for a multitude of purposes.

Analyzing such data could help boost the TV-ad market; fill the gap in traditional TV ratings which omits data from mobile devices and on-demand and streaming services; and more narrowly target audience’s interests, whether the audience is consuming ads or programming.

Amadeus using data to help airlines tackle disruption

A technology company has partnered with an airline to develop new technology to help airlines better manage disruptions such as bad weather and air traffic congestion.

The technology uses a recommendation engine to analyze data drawn from sources including air traffic control, maintenance, and crew management systems, in order to help airlines make more efficient decisions on issues such as whether or not to delay or cancel a flight. Other possible applications include improving issues related to check-in time, airport gates, and luggage belts.

Big data for the rest of us: One UK insurance company’s success story

An insurance company in the UK is using big data to improve fraud detection and lower customer cancellation rates. As a result, they’ve been saving $7.5 million annually since implementing their data collection and analysis processes.

The company’s large volumes of data include 20 million insurance quotes a day; premiums based on these quotes; customer risk factors; and other customer information such as credit scores, identity checks, and fraud data. Processing such data has helped to identify previously unknown patterns and differences between customers; to highlight “fraud indicators earlier in the customer journey”; and to make pricing decisions based on customer behavior.

Penn Medicine’s big data system triggers early detection of life-threatening infections

Big data is helping Penn Medicine to innovate on clinical quality improvement, genomic research, diagnostic apps, and more. A team of clinicians and data scientists is using a huge volume of data “to build prototypes of new care pathways,” which are tested with patients. Those results are fed back into the algorithms “so that the computer can learn from its mistakes.”

A significant success the team has already achieved is the prediction of sepsis infections a full 24 hours earlier than before the algorithm was introduced.

Jurisdictions Gather and Use Data on Bicycles for Planning, Governance

As urban bike-sharing programs become more and more popular, some cities are taking advantage by letting their bikes gather valuable data. For instance, Portland, Oregon is harnessing the data collected by bike-counting sensors to back their increasing investment in biking culture, such as adding more “bike-friendly infrastructure” and boosting bike-share programs.

Chicago’s bicycles record basic demographic data from yearlong pass holders, as well as where they’re going and where they’ve been. The Windy City goes a little further by publishing the data and letting the public create visualizations based on it. One showed which was faster, biking or using public transit, depending on the route. Another displayed the amount of bike traffic in each neighborhood as well as those that needed more bike lanes, while another created a dating application specifically bikers.

Dublin fitted 30 of their bikes with air sensors to measure the city’s air quality. The sensors gather data on levels of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, smoke, and particulates, and from there the city can determine the cleanest routes for bikers as well as problem spots where air pollution needs to be improved.

How To: Fall Video Inspiration

PicMonkey Collage

Fall and the start of the holiday season can inspire everything from fun pumpkin-related crafts to trying out new apple and cinnamon recipes. Almost as fun as creating that perfect fall centerpiece is posting, tweeting, or Instagram-ing your creation — to share all that hard work with the world.

Need some autumn inspiration? Look no further because Inform has you covered. Check out the videos below from our top lifestyle partners for some of the most current and fun fall ideas. Let us know what you think or what you try in the comment section below.

Happy fall!

There’s nothing better than setting the crock-pot on low and coming home to a delicious meal. Find the perfect recipe here from Country Living.
Soup's on! These hearty, hands-off recipesall prepared in your trusty slow-cookerare the culinary equivalent of slipping on your favorite fall sweater. Enjoy!

Love the taste of roasted pumpkin seeds but hate it when you burn them? Me too! Here’s a foolproof way from Martha Stewart to make your seeds delicious.
The next time you carve a jack-o'-lantern, dont throw out the seeds! Roast them instead. Not only do they make a healthy snack, theyre great sprinkled over salads and roasted vegetables. But instead of wasting time with the messy task of removing the pu

Gilded pumpkin? Yes please! If you’re tired of the same old orange pumpkin, try some of these fun ideas from Country Living to dress up the fall staple.
Hit the road, Jack! Check out our best ideas for painting, decorating, carving, and displaying your Halloween pumpkin.

Sticky, crunchy and (semi)healthy apple treats. I promise you will not be disappointed with this candy apple from the Rachael Ray Show. It’s also the perfect party favor for an autumn celebration.
Caramel Apple Nachos?! Yep, this recipe is as delicious as it sounds. Check it out now.

Your front door isn’t the only place to display your pumpkins. Show them off with these fun and festive centerpiece ideas from Country Living.
Let the colors of fall transform your dining room table.

Need a Halloween get-up for your little one (or you)? All you need are paper and scissors for this easy DIY costume from Martha Stewart.
Your child can create a roar on Halloween in this cute yet fierce lion costume made from paper products and a hooded sweatshirt.

Want to get your fall video featured with Inform? Here’s what we love:

  • New and fresh fall-themed ideas
  • Tutorials that shows the whole craft/recipe in fewer than two minutes
  • A different spin on a common fall project or food item

Want even more fall inspiration? The Inform “Happy Fall” playlist is updated daily with fresh videos full of fun ideas. You can also just click here or email our Entertainment Content Manager at

Get Informed: 2016 Presidential Debates

The next Presidential election is still a ways off but campaign 2016 coverage is in full swing.

Last week’s Democratic debate introduced the nation to several new candidates, as well as informing the voters on where many of the hopefuls stood.

Here some of the most notable moments of the event, as well as some tips on how you can best take advantage of events such as these in order to amplify your content.

Democratic Sen. Bernie Sanders comes to defense of Hillary Clinton on email controversy saying "let's talk about real issues." Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
Democratic Sen. Bernie Sanders comes to defense of Hillary Clinton on email controversy saying “let’s talk about real issues.”

Hillary Clinton discusses the Benghazi attacks in Libya.
Hillary Clinton discusses the Benghazi attacks in Libya.

Morality takes center stage at Dem debate
Chafee zings Clinton as morality takes center stage.

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders vigorously outlining competing visions for a party seeking to keep the White House for a third straight term. AP's Haven Daley has more from the first Democratic presidential debate. (Oct. 14)
Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders vigorously outlining competing visions for a party seeking to keep the White House for a third straight term.

(Oct. 13) -- A tourism video for an audience of one on the day of the first Democratic presidential debate in Las Vegas, which Vice President Joe Biden won't (or will he?) attend. By Griffin Hammond and Matt Negrin.
A tourism video for an audience of one on the day of the first Democratic presidential debate in Las Vegas, which Vice President Joe Biden won’t (or will he?) attend.

The Republican party continues to dominate the election cycle and candidates will reconvene Wednesday October 28 for its third debate.

Want to get your video featured on Inform? Here are some top tips:

  • Timing: the sooner the better when it comes to getting your video on the Inform platform.The sooner we have the video the faster we can get it featured and on distribution sites.
  • Length: 1 to 2 minutes is prime video length time.
  • Actual video: a photo with anchor voiceover of a candidate’s quote doesn’t quite compare to the real thing. Whenever possible use the raw clip.
How we are featuring your video:
  • Featured playlists in the Inform Control Room: Partners have a pre-organized playlist with the best video offering curated by the Inform Content Managers.
  • The Inform “Politics Top Trending” is a personalized email we send out the night/day of big events such as debates. This goes out to our distribution partners and features the best video around the event.
Inform has coverage of every political happening, from floor speeches to inaugurations. Look to us for the video you need for your site and the moments you do not want to miss. Inform will keep you informed.

If you have any questions or for more information on Inform content, reach out to, or me directly at

Data Tells a Story: the Internet of farm things; understanding epilepsy; earthquake?


We at Inform believe that data tells a story across all industries, and so every week we round up the most interesting ones right here. The latest: the Internet of farm things; helping patients with epilepsy; earthquake?

Denver firm, John Deere to help farmers use data to boost yields

The agriculture industry is no stranger to technology. Since the 1990s, farmers have collected data via GPS and USB ports on farm equipment. The issue was taking the time to download and analyze that data.

Thanks to John Deere, the Internet of Things now includes tractors and other farm equipment, and thanks to a data collection firm, precious data will be available via the cloud. Farmers can use such data in a practice called precision agriculture, in which information collected by GPS and sensors can be analyzed “to find better ways to irrigate, discover new seed varieties or target areas of their acreage that need more fertilizer.”

In other words, farmers will be able to more easily use big data to help make “growing crops more efficient and productive.”

T-Mobile Mines Big Data and Continues to Progress

Using a big data approach to customer and campaign management, T-Mobile has succeeded in a 50% reduction in churn rate, that is, the annual percentage rate that customers stop service.

The telecomm industry has access to “thousands of data points across millions of customers,” but only T-Mobile has leveraged such data to achieve measurable success, staying abreast of “trends by region, customer service inquiry patterns, purchases by location and customer lifetime value.”

From the data, T-Mobile understands which customers are potential influencers, and which might not be having a “top of shelf experience,” and to be able to remedy those situations sooner rather than later.

Big Data attempts to find meaning in 40 years of UK political debate

Based on a “dataset of speeches and debates in the UK’s House of Commons in the years from 1975-2015,” researchers in Europe and the U.S. are looking to determine “trends and indicators for political cohesion.”

This is only “an initial foray,” but it’s already revealing interesting patterns, such as “the fact that both Labour and Conservative speakers have a historical tendency” to promote topics they, and no one else, are interested in, and “that topics tended to stop clustering during periods of political certainty.”

The analysis also shows the rise and fall of certain topics. For example, health care “decreased dramatically throughout the 1980s and early 1990s,” while welfare rose to take its place, and education fluctuates but otherwise remains consistent for the entirety of the 40 years of the data set.

Johns Hopkins researchers to use Apple Watch data to study epilepsy

Using an open source framework from Apple, researchers at Johns Hopkins have created an Apple Watch app “to collect data from patients with epilepsy before, during, and after their seizures.”

The purpose of collecting data such as “physiological changes, altered responsiveness, and other characteristics of recurrent seizures,” is to gain a better understanding of the neurological disorder, and “to develop new methods for (and determine the role of technology in) monitoring and managing the disorder.”

Doctors often ask patients with epilepsy to record their seizures. But because patients often lose consciousness during a seizure, this can be a challenge. The Johns Hopkins app would automatically capture that episode and other useful data as well.

The US is using Twitter to detect earthquakes

While the US Geological Survey (USGS) National Earthquake Information Center has access to about 2,000 earthquake sensors, those sensors are mostly in the US. As a result, much of the rest of the world isn’t covered. To compensate, the USGS has started using Twitter data.

Using Twitter’s public API, USGS was able to apply filters to shake out earthquake-related tweets, finding “that users tweeting about real earthquakes tend to keep their posts short — seven words or fewer,” and that “users who are actually experiencing earthquakes don’t includes links or details about magnitude in their tweets.”

USGS discovered that Twitter data can indeed be “an effective way of detecting earthquakes, typically delivering alerts in under two minutes.” A year ago they were able to use tweets to detect an earthquake in Napa, California in less than 30 seconds.

Float On for More Views


IAB standardized auto-start embedding is an important tool for growing video views and revenue, but it’s been highly debated in newsrooms about the “politeness” to users and the impact to the viewing experience.

However, with unprecedented demand for video from premium advertisers, and video frequently becoming a critical element to storytelling, we are witnessing a move to auto-start video across many major news organizations.

More recently, auto-start has come under scrutiny for the impact to viewability, a key metric for advertisers. Despite being front and center on many story pages — embedded at the top of the content well, for example — auto-start by itself has traditionally performed poorly on viewability reports. But that’s no longer the case. With a simple change to player behavior, publishers are now scoring better than ever on viewability and other marketer KPIs.

Two years ago, our partners at Journal Broadcast Group (now part of EW Scripps) created an innovative enhancement to the Inform player to make autostart more polite and solve the viewabilty issue.

First, they offered users a toggle. Want to turn off autostart? No problem. They presented a choice under the player and remembered the user’s preference.

And to solve for viewability, they created a “floating player.” As the viewer scrolls down the page, and the margins of the player move out of view, a smaller version of the player snaps to side of the browser and stays with the user as they continue to scroll.

In April, Inform was fortunate to welcome Michael Gay from Journal Broadcast to the team as a Vice President overseeing our local broadcast and content strategy. Earlier this year, Michael won an Edward R Murrow award for best large market television website ( – Journal’s marquee property). The presentation of video and the floating player was among the winning distinctions.

Journal’s floating player concept was quickly adapted by Inform and now we’re rolling it out platform-wide as an available feature for publishers.

As we look around the industry, we’re seeing many of our peers develop a similar tool. Go to story pages at CNN, ABC News, and CBS News, and you’ll watch the player float as you move it out of view.

Our early results show a 2x-3x improvement to viewability. Concerned about the impact to user experience? Our version of the floating player gives users a choice about autostart, and allows them to move the floating unit around their screen or close it altogether.

Embedding single videos inside highly trafficked story pages is the single most critical element to growing viewership. Auto-starting those videos with a floating player will take viewership and revenue to the next level.

Check out an example of the floating player here. Interested in trying it out? Contact your account manager or

Data Tells a Story: NFL, Disney, Volkswagen


We at Inform believe that data tells a story. It can tell you what content your audience is and isn’t consuming, how long and how deeply they’re being engaged, and when they’re the most, and least, engaged. We believe data tells other stories too, across all industries, and every week we’ll be rounding up the most interesting ones right here.

This week: data and football; the ultimate Disney experience; and the numbers around Dieselgate.

How the NFL is Using Big Data

Through RFID data sensors embedded in players’ shoulder pads, some NFL teams will be collecting “detailed location data on each player” so that statistics such as player acceleration and speed can be analyzed with the ultimate goal of improving performance.

Coaches might leverage such data to make more informed decisions rather than relying “solely on instinct.” For instance, they can use numbers to learn how well certain plays worked, as well as to gauge individual players’ performance.

This data will also be available to fans for a fee. It’s hoped that “statistics-mad fans” and fantasy football aficionados will “jump at the chance to consume more data about their favorite players and teams.”

How Uber Uses Big Data to Optimize Customer Experience

With an army of more than 100,000 drivers, Uber has access to a wealth of data. While there are privacy concerns as well as the fact that Uber uses such data to determine “surge pricing,” the company is also leveraging this information to help drivers avoid accidents and is partnering with cities like Boston to help improve traffic conditions.

You can learn more about how Uber is using platforms like Spark and Hadoop to optimize customer experience.

Variable pricing may be a new theme at Disneyland

Uber isn’t the only company using data to determine variable pricing. Walt Disney Co. is leveraging user surveys and attendance data to explore matching prices with demand, a practice long-used by the hotel and airline industries.

The hope is that different pricing tiers would “spread out the attendance [and] ease frustration from regular visitors about long lines and shoulder-to-shoulder crowds.”

Data shows emissions cheating cost 5 to 20 lives a year

According to a recent Associated Press statistical analysis, Volkswagen’s “pollution-control chicanery” has “killed between five and 20 people in the United States annually.” In Europe, where “more VW diesels were sold,” engineers said, the death toll “could be as high as hundreds each year,” although they “caution that it is hard to take American health and air-quality computer models and translate them to a more densely populated Europe.”

How big data helps first responders

Big data is helping police officers and firefighters “do their jobs more efficiently and more accurately.”

The FCC estimates that “more than 70 percent of 240 million annual 911 calls come from cellphones and 60 percent of those callers could not be accurately located.” An app that accesses GPS information is helping law enforcement more accurately and quickly access locations, and “even references crime history and escalation risks to help an officer better judge the most appropriate response.”

Another app provides information such as the quickest traffic routes, building floor plans, and easily accessible fire hydrants, while a communications platform allows different arms of law enforcement and rescue teams to share “radio, voice, text, video, data files and telephone communications in a secure environment.”

A “handheld library” helps first responders quickly detect and manage chemical and biological threats by providing indexed information that identifies “hazardous substances via physical characteristics” and provides “best practices for containment.”

Getting Informed: A First-Timer’s Experience at ONA

As a first-time attendee of the annual conference of the Online News Association (ONA), I was excited and proud to represent Inform and spread the news of our newly enhanced platform to our existing publishers, and to the inquiring minds who visited our booth.

Some of my Inform colleagues at our booth.

Guests who stopped by the booth were impressed by our content providers, including our partnerships with local broadcast stations throughout the United States, as well as our suite of technology products.

Also in particular interest were our ability to scale to mobile, and how through a recent acquisition, Inform will be able to offer personalized content recommendations for audiences, thereby enhancing engagement and keeping readers on the page.

Some partners also expressed appreciation of our personal dedication and support. One stopped by to laud her Account Manager, her positive attitude, and 24/7 responsiveness, letting us know that she makes it a point to tell everyone how awesome her Account Manager is, and how much she loves working with Inform because of that.

After speaking with guests and existing partners at the conference, it became clear to me that our rich, expansive content offerings is unique to Inform, valued by our partners and coveted by those publishers who do not yet have access to our video library, our technology products, or our personal dedication.

My experience at ONA reminded me that publishers appreciate our ability to keep their audiences engaged and Informed, no matter where a breaking news story occurs, or where or how their content is consumed.

ONA was the perfect forum to launch Inform because the event itself encompasses what Inform is all about: shaping the future of digital media, whether it’s using data to let publishers know what content is truly resonating with audiences; optimizing the monetization of content; the increase in mobile; or the personalization of content.

Journalists, editors, developers and digital designers travel from all over the world to attend ONA each year to learn about the future of media consumption. Inform is part of that future.