Class Projects - Fall 2014


One-stop shop for online news video across the web

This is "NewsTube Screencast" by Northwestern U. Knight Lab on Vimeo, the home for high quality videos and the people who love them.
What it does

Over the past ten weeks, our team has worked to further develop and expand NewsTube, an online search engine for news video. NewsTube was originally built in the fall of 2013 and allowed users to perform basic searches of news video from around the web. Our team has further expanded the sites use and function as well as added new integral features to allow for a more seamless news searching process.

NewsTube, designed for news and media consumers, is a one-stop shop for online news video across the web. It is targeted for people who want to stay up-to-date on top news stories while also further learning about specific developing events to gain a wider understanding of a situation or conflict. The site filters top news videos from a variety of sources, including international news outlets, Twitter, advocacy groups and live broadcasts. Aside from the filters listed above, users can also search for news video either by their location such as local television affiliates, or through geolocation, allowing people to view uploaded video from specific areas most notably in the form of raw footage.

How it works

The homepage displays the top five trending news video slideshow from prominent news outlets, but if the user has a more specific news story or event they are interested in following they can choose from three different search experiences. The first allows the user to enter a specific query and then displays relevant news videos in the categories of prominent news outlets, Twitter, documentaries, advocacy groups, and live broadcasts. The second two paths the user can take focus on searching for videos based on a specific geographic location of interest. A user can either choose to view video produced by local news outlets based on broadcast market codes, or to search specifically for video that was geotagged and uploaded in a certain area. For example, if a user was interested in the escalating conflict in Ukraine, they can see both what their local television stations are reporting on it as well as see raw and locally produced videos uploaded on the ground in the Ukraine.

NewsTube uses a database to store a list of YouTube channels for prominent news outlets and local news stations. These two lists are manually curated and verified as good news sources, which can be done through the /channels page of NewsTube. Trending videos and videos found as search results, whether from national or local sources, are taken from the YouTube channels listed in the database, ensuring that the videos found are of good quality in terms of news. For YouTube channels for local news stations, the market code of where these local stations are located are stored as well, which allows the website to restrict local channel video results to the inputted location.

NewsTube also uses various APIs for the different search functions available to the user. It uses the Twitter API to find related videos that were recently tweeted. It uses the Google Maps API to translate names of locations to longitude and latitude coordinates, and passes this to the YouTube API to find geotagged videos based on where they were submitted. In addition, the YouTube API is used to pull videos from the channels listed in the database and find currently streaming live broadcasts relevant to the search topic. Finally, the Freebase API is used to find other search topics from the Freebase database that are related to the user’s inputted query.

Key Technologies:

  • Ruby 2.0.0
  • Rails 4.0.0
  • Heroku
  • HTML
  • Javascript
  • YouTube API
  • Twitter API
  • Google Maps API
  • Freebase API
  • Bootstrap

Next Steps

While our team is very proud of all that was accomplished this quarter, we hope that continued work on the project focuses on growing our video database to allow for a more robust user experience. While NewsTube currently has a wide variety of news sources, all of the video comes and is hosted on YouTube. It is important to continue to try and find videos from sources outside of YouTube as some television affiliates, international news organization and other sources use other video hosting services or host the videos themselves on their website. In the same vein, teams should focus on growing a list of television stations for each market to provide a more variety of sources at the local search level. Additionally, future developers need to better determine a strategy for finding more amateur and raw video. This feature will only continue to grow, as geotagging videos is a new feature to YouTube. New technologies will hopefully aid this problem. Finally, while the product currently uses Freebase as its database for related searches, future teams should refine Freebase queries or alternatively find a better solution to produce more accurate and helpful related search suggestions. Ultimately our team is proud of the advancements we made on the project, and looking forward to the potential this product has as it has a large potential to create a meaningful impact in the video news search market.

Figure 2: The NewsTube Architecture Diagram

Figure 1: The NewsTube homepage


Student Teams:

Jeremi De Concepcion

Summer Delaney

Samuel James Elberts

Asher Knowlton Rieck

Faculty Guidance:

Larry Birnbaum

Rich Gordon