Announcing Managing News: A Pluggable News + Data Aggregator


5 min read

Managing News is a pluggable, open source news and data aggregator with visualization and workflow tools that’s highly customizable and extensible. The code is now in open beta and is available for download on

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Both a product and a platform

Managing News is both a product and a platform. Out of the box it can help your communications team manage a brand reputation, allow geographically dispersed clusters of NGOs stay on the same page, or act as a simple thematic news planet to share feeds with the world. It can also serve as a platform to build highly custom data aggregators that suck in everything from CSV to RDF to custom XML formats and that need unique workflows and visualizations. Managing News is built on Drupal and uses Features, which makes it highly extensible.

Out of the box

It takes just a few minutes to install it (read the system requirements). Once it’s installed, you can immediately add news feeds or import your OPML, and Managing News will start aggregating stories, geotagging articles, and mapping it all.

Once news is aggregated in Managing News, you can run full text searches across all sources, save searches, graph term activity, and flag stories by creating channels (which are like story buckets used to collect articles). Managing News provides full RSS feeds of each page and of each channel, so you can broadcast out saved searches.

Every page in Managing News — even the map view — can be printed in nice print reports, which are helpful if you’re doing news clippings or want to share the news in a non-digitial medium. There’s also a “share” feature that allows you to post stories directly to Twitter, Facebook, and email with integrated URL shortening, allowing you to control your online presence from one place as well as share stories with colleagues.

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Managing News ships with three maps of the world: light gray and dark purple versions from, and the classic OpenStreetMap map. Geotagging content is simple — it’s just a full text look up on all countries and the top 1,100 cities in the world, but this is highly extensible. As you can see in the examples of Managing News in use, you can add your own geo terms to the geotagging feature. I imagine it will not be long before the community works on integrating services like Yahoo! GeoPlanet or OpenCalais to extend this. We’ve worked a lot with with both systems on custom news trackers, but did not include them because, for now, we want to keep Managing News light and easy to run inside a firewall.

To get a sense of how alpha users are using Managing News, we posted a few early examples of it in action. Bill Fitzgerald, a fellow Knight Foundation grantee and alpha tester, has a nice walk through of the system in a post yesterday, “An Early Look At Managing News”, where you can see a step by step walk though of the application.

Managing News is about more than tracking breaking news like the “balloon boy”. It’s a starting point for building serious aggregation and data visualization tools. We first announced the launch of Managing News at the International Crisis Mapping Conference this past weekend because we see Managing News growing into a dynamic tool for crisis mapping, one of its many valuable use cases.

This extensibility is also why the Knight Foundation helped fund much of the mapping and aggregation portions of this project, and their foresight deserves serious credit in the open source community. The Knight Foundation knows that the future of news is about syndication and aggregation, that Drupal could be a strong platform for this, and that there needed to be more investment into key Drupal aggregation tools to make that a reality on a large scale. Their funding helped us work on the Drupal 7 aggregator (which ultimately failed, but that is a good thing), and push through the new release of Feeds, the successor to FeedAPI. The funding also let us work on powerful mapping tools, including Drupal tools like Nice Map, Mapstraction, and OpenLayers and on open source tile rendering projects using Amazon’s cloud. This was all possible because of the public private partnership model that Knight used to provide us funding so that we could do more work with aggregation and mapping technology, and good things came from that. The new Managing News package meets some key needs for their favorite user stories — helping local communities get better access to news through the map features and syndication tools. But in the end, the biggest value is the pluggability and flexibility to build custom solutions that will serve these and many other users.

As you can see, the Managing News package that’s available today is the culmination of a lot of experimentation and experience working on aggregation and data visualization tools. We are working to integrate some of the successful outcomes from this experimentation into our day to day business, and we’re also working with several different open source communities to ensure that this innovation is sustainable. In the end, everyone wins when tools are open source, and we thank the Knight Foundation for having the vision to help us make this happen. We can’t wait to see the awesome applications people build on top of Managing News, and we look forward to working together in the forums on future releases of Managing News that will create even more possibilities.

What we're doing.