It’s been nearly half a year since we first launched News Explorer. For the uninitiated, News Explorer is a Bluemix-hosted web application that uses Watson’s AlchemyData News API to allow users to explore a large collection of news stories by surfacing the topics, people, companies, organizations, and locations mentioned in those articles. The News API does this up-to-the-minute, ingesting around 300k new articles a day from around 70k sources. The resulting large volume of information returned is then simplified by our application into a series of interactive data visualizations that are far easier to comprehend and explore than text alone.


Over the past several months we have had countless discussions with people working in many domains, including finance, health, government, and journalism, learning how they use News Explorer to analyze the news, and what they would like to be able to do beyond its current capabilities. Based on that research, we have carefully built out a series of exciting new features for the application. Today we are pleased to release an updated version of News Explorer to our customers, partners, and the world at large.

Try out the application in your browser:

What’s New?

The ability to conduct advanced queries across a vast sea of news was of clear importance. So we got to work on enhancements to aid in investigation, such as querying Connections between two entities (e.g. “IBM” + “Apple”) and the ability to query by Category (e.g. “Science”). We then took querying a step further and enabled queries in the context of Categories (e.g. “Barack Obama” related to “Science”), a feature not available to users until today. We’ve also added the ability to execute a local search within query results, enhancing users’ ability to navigate the news network.


Another priority for us has been providing custom entry points into the news. While the previous version of News Explorer started up with a “Current Events” query, this time around we thought about what a front-page news experience might look like in the context of data visualization. We introduced a home page that exposed trending queries, popular subjects and topics in a variety of categories, and the big stories of the day, so that our users could get a quick overview of what was going on in the world and choose what topic, subject, or category of news to pursue further. We launch today with these first two landing visualizations:

trending-and breaking-news

The Trending & Breaking News visualization area ranks trending queries along the top, and presents the most prominent people, companies, organizations and topics in the news by category along the bottom. Clicking on any of these elements will initiate a query for visualization in News Explorer.


The Panta Rhei — River of News area displays article titles from current events in a way where users can quickly scan them. The larger the title, the higher the article prominence. The brighter the title, the more positive the article sentiment. Clicking on a title will visualize its relationship to current events in News Explorer.

Last, but not least, this launch includes an extensive overhaul to the visual design of the user interface and data visualizations. In addition to News Explorer being functional, we also strived to make it beautiful every step of the way. In the new version, we’ve gone darker with background hues, bringing out the color-coded topics and entities more than ever before.

Try out the application in your browser:

What’s Next?

Good question. We have lots of ideas about ways to make News Explorer even better, but we’d like to hear from you!


Manager: Mauro Martino Lead Developer: Steve Ross Designer / Developer: Tim Stutts Developer: Megan Monroe

The News Explorer is built by the Cognitive Visualization Lab on the IBM Watson Developer Cloud.

10 comments on"Exciting updates for News Explorer"

  1. Nice work !

    I noticed there is a location dimension in the results.
    Can I use this to get only news from this location ?

    And secondly:

    Are you considering supporting exploring news in the language for that location ?

    • Steven Ross January 05, 2016

      Thank you! You can click on the locations listed in the details section for an article and this will highlight the articles in the graph that mention that location. If you click on a topic listed for an article, it will do the same sort of thing. Clicking on a person, company, or organization listed in the article will select it in the graph, making it easy to find the connected articles which mention it. Double clicking on any of these will issue a new query for news specifically about the clicked about location, topic, person, organization, or company. Note that clicking or double clicking on a location on the map will have the same effect as clicking or double clicking on that location in an article’s details. We don’t yet have support for languages other than English. That will require support from he AlchemyData News API.

  2. May be another improvement could be to feed in only the relevant text from the original article. Sometimes news feed coming from a web page contains irrelevant stuff such as “Related articles” or “Most popular articles” which are off-context and make weird relations.

    • Yes, we are aware of this issue and are working on it. There has already been a lot of work put in on distinguishing the main article from the irrelevant text, but it is a hard problem as there is very little consistency in how this is represented from one web site to another. Thanks for the feedback!

  3. Name *arthur January 06, 2016

    Still no plans to open source the code to allow build applications on top of it?

    • We had originally hoped to open source News Explorer, giving those interested the option of taking parts of the code and using in their own application with their own Alchemy News API key. This may still be a possibility for us, but our recent update adds another API layer on top of Alchemy News, so we would need to figure out how that would work for mass adoption. If this does become a possibility, we will make users aware.

  4. What are the current data sources available to search against in this publically available instance

    • Rick,

      AlchemyData News indexes 250k to 300k English language news and blog articles every day from 75,000 sources.

  5. Paul Williams April 21, 2016

    Beautiful work. Like looking at the Matrix except sideways and easier to read. I love the ability to scan such a massive amount of information so quickly in this format. I hope you’ll add this visualization tool as an API that can be used for custom data sets.

  6. Hi Steve,

    Just wanted to check if any update on sharing the source code of the application in github. I am working on a use case for a customer and would like to re-use if possible.


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