3 Ways to Visualize Text with Infomous

Now that artsy sites like Pinterest and Instagram are reaching critical mass, even writers need a way to make their stories pop.  Recently, publishers like The Economist, The Washington Post, and Entertainment Weekly have turned to a text visualization tool called Infomous to give readers a fresh perspective on current events.

Reminiscent of comic strip dialogue and brainstorming models, Infomous turns keywords from articles and Twitter feeds into clickable bubbles that link to other content within your site. The more often a word appears, the larger it looks in the cloud. The words update in real-time and can be moderated by clicking on an “x” to delete unwanted or irrelevant words. Said Infomous president Paolo Gaudiano, “It makes it easy for you to figure out what’s relevant to you.” The clouds can also be also be monetized with a sponsored links module. Here, Gaudiano shares three ways to use the tool.

1. Navigation

In August 2011, The Washington Post asked its readers to write about their struggles with unemployment to “show the real impact of joblessness” in America. Their testimonials appeared in a navigation cloud with keywords like “money,” “months,” “job,” and “now.”

Of the people who visited the “Help Wanted: Stories of Unemployment” page, 10.5% clicked on at least one word in the cloud and 50% of engaged users clicked through to an article, staying seven times longer than other readers. The trick was to put the navigation tool above the fold, or near the top of the page, and to mark it clearly. The Post editors wrote “(Click to explore ‘Help Wanted’ diaries)” beneath the box.

2. Sentiment Analysis

The Economist uses the service to show how readers respond to current events. Comments from all across the site are fed into the same cloud, creating dialogue bubbles around people like President Obama and countries like China. When you click on the bubbles, you can read the comments and decide for yourself whether the chatter is positive or negative.

This cloud is below the fold, so only 2.7% of readers interact with it, while 2.3% click through to an article.  But people who use the cloud spend more than 15 minutes per visit, likely because of the strength of the keywords. Editors should delete the ones that don’t add value.

3. Twitter Polls

“What drives me bananas about Twitter,” said Gaudiano, is that “all you can see are the most recent tweets.” Infomous prioritizes what’s in the Twitter feed by topic so you can “see the main things people are talking about at that moment.”

For its “Comedy” issue, Entertainment Weekly asked its readers to vote for the funniest actor/comedian of all time. Participants could name anyone they liked, casting their votes on Twitter under the hashtag #EWFunniest. The more votes the comedians had, the bigger their names would appear in the navigation cloud. In the end, comedy veterans like Lucille Ball and Chevy Chase beat out current favorites like Jon Stewart, Louis C.K., and Conan O’ Brien.

Pulling keywords from one hashtag worked well for this purpose, but you can also draw from multiple feeds to help bring in a better variety of content.

Based in Cambridge, MA, Infomous spun off from the consulting firm Icosystem Corp. in 2011. The company also has offices in New York and Buenos Aires.

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